Autism has become more recognized generally, and as more resources have been allocated to research and education—as a consequence, we’re learning more about this prevalent disorder and how to better help people on the spectrum.
Is it, however, only people on the autistic spectrum? Is it possible for dogs to develop autism as well? As we get a better knowledge of autism, experts are beginning to wonder if the diagnosis is only applicable to humans or if it is also applicable to canines.
What is autism?
Let’s define autism for a second before we get into whether or not dogs can have it.
An autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) is defined by two key characteristics, according to WebMD: social communication difficulties and confined repetitive activities. Many persons with autism also have sensory difficulties, making them hypersensitive to various sensory stimuli such as light, sound, and touch. A kid must exhibit chronic symptoms in one or more of these areas that interfere with their everyday lives in order to be diagnosed.
Autism is a spectrum condition, which means that persons with it might have a wide range of symptoms with varying degrees of severity. However, autism is highly prevalent; according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP), one out of every fifty-nine children in the United States has autism.
Can dogs have autism or down syndrome?
Given the prevalence of autism spectrum diseases in people, it’s only natural to question if canines may be affected as well.
While promising studies on dog autism symptoms have been conducted (such as this 2011 study, which found significant likenesses between repetitive tail-chasing behaviour in Bull Terriers and autism spectrum disorders in humans), no conclusive or definitive evidence that autism exists in dogs has been found.
However, there is strong evidence that dogs may display behaviours and have chronic diseases that are comparable to autism in people, so if you see characteristics that make you wonder, “Is my dog autistic?” it’s worth looking into treatment options.
What are dog autism symptoms?
While there is no “official” dog autism diagnosis, some behaviours may indicate an autistic-like disease. Symptoms of autism in dogs include:
- Tail-chasing and walking in circles (repetitive behaviour).
- Distress at the prospect of breaking one’s customary routine
- Adapting to new conditions is a difficult task.
- Sensory reactions that are unusual (like extreme sensitivity to light or petting)
- When dealing with other dogs or humans, they may experience social anxiety, fear, or hostility.
How dog autism is diagnosed?
It’s critical to arrange an appointment with your veterinarian if you observe your pet displaying symptoms. While there is no “dog autism test” or a definite way to diagnose autism in dogs, your vet can help you understand what’s going on with your pet and, more importantly, how to treat their symptoms and keep them happy and healthy.
Give your veterinarian a detailed account of your dog’s everyday activities, challenges, and any symptoms or concerning behaviours you’ve observed. Once your vet has gotten a clear picture of the many symptoms your dog is experiencing, they may help you devise a strategy for better managing those symptoms and ensuring that your dog is as calm, stress-free, and happy as possible.
If your dog, for example, has trouble with repeated habits, your veterinarian can assist you in devising techniques to redirect their behaviour (like engaging in a game or taking them for a walk). If your dog is afraid of people or other dogs, you should avoid going to the dog park and instead take them on walks in less congested places. While there is no “cure” for dog autism symptoms, you can help your dog manage their interactions with the world by minimizing potential triggers in its environment. This will not only help your dog manage their interactions with the world but will also keep their stress levels low.
Autism in dogs is still being researched to see how it may be identified precisely. The scientific horizon, on the other hand, appears to be bright; one planned study, Kids, Canines, and Autism: Decoding Autism in Children and Obsessive Behaviours in Canines, is being hailed as a game-changer in the diagnosis of canine autism.
Dealing with the symptoms of canine autism until more information is available can be difficult for both you and your pet—but with the correct support, training, and behaviour intervention, it’s a struggle you can overcome together.