I Think My Dog Has Autism

By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. August 2, 2020
I Think My Dog Has Autism

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Can dogs have autism? Although autism in dogs has been studied since 1966, there isn't a lot of evidence in this subject. Nevertheless, studies have shown that dogs can experience autism. If your dog has been diagnosed with autism or “canine dysfunctional behaviour”, this is the article for you.

In this AnimalWised article we will go through how to know if your dog has autism, what it means to have a dog with autism, caring for a dog with autism and more.

You may also be interested in: My Dog Has an Anal Gland Infection

What is autism in dogs?

Can a dog be autistic?

Yes, a study carried out in 1966 demonstrated that dogs can experience autism. Newer studies have also been performed since then to further analyse this condition in dogs.

Autism in dogs

Autism refers to a a broad range of conditions including challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors and nonverbal communication.

According to early research, these syndromes in dogs can be linked to a genetic condition called fragile X syndrome. Fragile X syndrome. This syndrome is a genetic disorder characterised by mild intellectual disability. This can be found, not only in humans, but dogs too.

Symptoms of autism in dogs

It's very difficult to recognise that a dog has autism. Usually it will display itself as a behavioural issue, although autism usually includes certain behavioural conditions where a dog will have a hard time socializing with others or displays repetitive behaviour (however, not always the case). Here we will include some signs so that you can know if your dog may experience autism.

How to know if your dog is autistic:

  • Tends to avoid socializing with other dogs or humans
  • Prefers to be alone rather than with other people
  • Has repetitive behavior or compulsive behavior
  • Has difficulty understanding your emotions or communication
  • Failure or difficulty making eye contact
  • Lack of enthusiasm in social interactions
  • Sensitive to loud sounds (more than normal)

Diagnosing autism in dogs

Diagnosing a dog with autism is anything but straightforward as our knowledge of typical and atypical behaviour in dogs is limited. Many of the common symptoms with autism can also lead veterinarians to consider other conditions such as anxiety, depression, etc. That's why in almost all cases, veterinarians will use the term “canine dysfunctional behaviour” or say that the dog might have autism.

For a dog to be diagnosed with autism, they will need to exhibit abnormal repetitive behaviour and experience challenges in social interactions. Before considering autism, your veterinarian will need to first rule out other possibilities which symptoms overlap with autism.

I Think My Dog Has Autism - Diagnosing autism in dogs

How to care for a dog with autism

When caring for a dog with autism you will need to pay extra attention to their special needs and behaviour. One thing you can do is try to determine what triggers their anxiety or aggression.

Perhaps it's walking through a busy street with many people, or perhaps it's going to the dog park at a busy hour. In these cases, you should opt for quieter settings as dogs with autism usually have difficulties in social environments as well as when there are loud noises.

Other than a safe, quiet and secure environment we need to be able to help our dog live a stress-free life. Learn more about calming down your dog with our article on how to calm a dog down. Try to observe what triggers their nervousness and avoid that in future situations.

Exercise is another important factor that can help them. Take them out on walks when there's not too many people out. Play with them at home and try to incorporate intelligence games for mental stimulation.

Training them to do simple tricks through positive reinforcement is also be very beneficial for dogs in general and dogs with autism. In some cases, changing up their diet can be good for them. Ask your veterinarian if this would be the case for your dog.

We must remember that these are simply conditions. Dogs with autism can live a happy and healthy life, we must simply pay more attention so as to adapt to our dog's condition. If you have any other questions about their behaviour, feel free to consult a canine behaviourist or your local veterinarian.

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to I Think My Dog Has Autism, we recommend you visit our Other health problems category.

  • Fox MW. A syndrome in the dog resembling human infantile autism. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 1966;148(11):1387-1390.
  • Burrows KE, Adams CL, Spiers J. Sentinels of safety: service dogs ensure safety and enhance freedom and well-being for families with autistic children. Qual Health Res. 2008;18(12):1642-1649. doi:10.1177/1049732308327088

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