We all have undoubtedly heard about kids with autism. They are unique and require special care from us. Because of this, people typically associate autism with humans. But can dogs have autism? Can your dog be autistic without you knowing it?
Let’s start with the basics. What is autism? According to this article, autism is a condition or neurological disorder characterized by difficulties with social skills. This condition affects verbal and non-verbal communication, and those who suffer might display repetitive behavior.
Can Dogs Be Autistic?
Officially, autism is not a behavioral disorder recognized in dogs. At the moment, there hasn’t been enough research into the unusual behaviors on dogs for that kind of diagnosis to be given. Dr. Valli Parthasarathy, the co-founder of Synergy Behavior, explains this might change in the future, and we could see a diagnosis of autism in dogs.
Canine Autism Symptoms
If you believe your dog might have autism, you are not alone. There are a series of symptoms a dog owner may interpret as a form of autism. Some of these signs include:
Canines with autism can present OCD symptoms, like doing over and over again pointless or repetitive actions, like chasing their tail for long periods. If your dog gets upset because you didn’t put the food bowl in the same place, as usual, you may be witnessing OCD symptoms in your pet.
Withdrawn or limited behavior
My dog, June, is like my shadow. And she always gets enthusiastic when I come home. Autistic dogs are not capable of communicating their feelings as normal dogs do. Typically, each dog is unique in its way. We can say they possess their very own personality. But dogs with autism are not like that. Their behavior is significantly limited and sometimes seems odd.
Lack of activity in breeds known for being energetic
Most dogs are incredibly active, especially when they are puppies or very young. Though there are breeds more vigorous than others, constant laziness is not very common among canines. If your dog appears to be lazy all the time and he avoids going out with you for a walk, then your dog might be displaying signs of autism.
Unable to express happiness and fear
Canines are incredibly expressive, and for dog owners is easy to read their dog’s body language. But dogs with autism are incapable of expressing their emotions correctly. Therefore, an autistic dog can get frightened without reason, making them fear places or persons that are no threat to them.
Poor socialization skills
Dogs are very social, and curiosity is in their nature. Autistic dogs might have problems at the moment to interact with other dogs or humans. A dog with autism could ignore you for long periods. He may even act strange when he is around other dogs. Moreover, if you notice your dog doesn’t engage in typical situations like playing with you, you may be dealing with an autistic canine.
Other mild symptoms are hard to detect, like not responding to their name, persistent tail chasing, or walking in circles, unusual responses to sensorial stimulation, obsessive licking, etc.
If you believe your dog may have autism, take them to the veterinarian for diagnosis.
How Can Dog Autism Be Diagnosed?
If your dog exhibits one or several of the symptoms listed above, you must schedule an appointment with your vet.
Autism is a condition diagnosed based on the behavior of the animal. Therefore, you must give your veterinarian a comprehensive insight of your dog’s daily routine, and anomalies in their habitual behavior you may have noticed. With this information, your vet will have a clear idea of what could be happening with your dog. Then he will come up with an action plan to aid you in managing the symptoms of this condition, so your dog can enjoy a serene and happy life
How to Help Dogs with Autism?
There is no medical treatment nor cure, but there are some cares you as an owner can do to help your dog:
- Exercise: OCD and autism symptoms are usually triggered by stress. And the most appropriate medicine against stress is exercise. If your dog gets enough exercise, he will suffer less anxiety and, therefore, less stress.
- Diet: habitually, autistic humans require a change in their traditional diet to lessen the symptoms. Hence, your veterinarian could suggest a change in your dog’s diet to aid him in reducing the symptoms.
- Medicine: although medication will not cure autism in your dog, it will alleviate the symptoms. Your animal doctor might prescribe Fluoxetine, a drug used to treat OCD symptoms in humans. This treatment might tranquilize your canine and prevent OCD related behaviors.
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Every dog is unique, no matter if he is autistic or not. But, have you ever wonder if dogs are smarter than cats? If so, check this out:
At the moment of writing this article, the scientific community doesn’t recognize canine autism as a neurological condition. But undoubtedly, there are dogs with behavioral symptoms as those present in human autism. Therefore, soon canine autism may get officially recognized as a condition in dogs.
Meantime, it would be best if you remember autism is not a disease. It’s a condition. And we all need to love our dogs no matter what.