Although therapy dogs are known to help people with autism, dogs can have autism themselves. The process of diagnosing autism in a dog is complex, and because the condition is so rare, some medical experts doubt that dogs can have autism at all. In addition, autism may be confused with other disorders, including anxiety and/or physical pain.
Diagnosing autism in dogs is difficult because comparing typical and atypical behavior in a canine is a tricky process. For instance, how do we know whether a dog is chasing its tail like a normal dog or like a dog with autism?
What is Dog Autism?
Veterinarians first started talking about dog autism in the mid 1960s. More recently, behaviors such as repetitive tail-chasing in certain breeds have caused a resurgence in the investigations. The studies focused on DNA and the following findings:
- autism is more prevalent in males.
- the dog acts as though in a trance.
- the dog shows explosive aggression.
- the dog has phobias.
- the dog repeatedly chases its tail.
Dog autism is a condition, not a disease. And while these particular dogs may seem aloof, they will still reap the benefits of love and affection from you. If you find you’re having a difficult time managing your dog’s condition, we recommend visiting a pet counselor. Yes, they exist!
According to petmd.com, there is no current cure for dog autism. However, research is always advancing and offers hope. Every day, we are becoming more familiar with dog autism, and how to manage life with our afflicted fur babies. In addition, we know that canines have similar experiences and reactions to the world around them, which helps us become more aware of odd behaviors and notice when a dog does have autism.
What Causes Canine Autism?
Experts who believe in canine autism claim it can be caused by the deficit of mirroring neurons. Dog autism is more often than not a genetic condition, inherited from a relative, but it can also occur suddenly with no real reason. However, the lack of mirroring neurons is hereditary, so that means the dog was born with autism. Some studies posit that dogs
born with autism may have come from parents exposed to unnecessary vaccinations and toxins.
What Symptoms Should I Watch For?
Unfortunately, canine autism may show no symptoms or symptoms so subtle they may go unnoticed. However, when a dog does show symptoms, they may manifest themselves in the following ways:
- poor interactions with the owner and, often, other dogs.
- unwillingness to perform a range of games or moves.
- sticking to one routine, showing repetitive behavior.
- aloof behavior, apathy, trouble communicating emotions, including fear or joy.
- lethargic behavior, especially with a energetic breed.
Although this may sound unbelievable, some dog owners with autistic dogs claim their pets organize their toys according to shape, size, and color. Symptoms of dog autism tend to appear when the dogs are still puppies, and can include poor interactions with parents or siblings or a simple lack of interest in anything.
How Do I Handle Having a Dog with Autism?
As mentioned, some dogs with autism may not show any odd behavior, making it difficult to diagnose. Of course, if you do notice your dog showing any of the symptoms we mentioned, please visit your vet and see how you might be able to help.
Similar to humans with autism, dogs with autism need time and patience, so they can better adapt to new situations. Keeping a stable home, regular schedule, and a private familiar space, i.e., dog crate or bed, will help your dog feel comfortable and calm.
When you have a dog that might have autism, keep a close eye on his or her behavior. Note the “triggers” that cause negative reactions and try to avoid those. For example, if your dog becomes fearful and aggressive while walking with you on a noisy street, take her for walks on a secluded trail instead.
If your dog has an overabundance of nervous energy, give him a job, such as pulling a wagon or toting a backpack. Also, pet stores sell special items like harnesses and wraps that ease anxiety in canines. Lavender oil sprayed on a handkerchief and tied around your dog’s neck can also be calming.
Where is Canine Autism Research Headed?
According to petmd.com the following organizations are working together on a study focusing on children and dogs with autism: the American Humane Association, Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center, Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, and the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
For now, the study will focus on Bull Terriers, Dobermans, and Jack Russell Terriers. Researchers hope to gain a better understanding when analyzing atypical behaviors in canines. Consequently, advances in this type of research should help in the diagnoses of autism in dogs.