Can Dogs Have Autism? Symptoms and Possible Treatments

Autism isn’t just a human disorder, as it can also be found in animals. Hence, can dogs have autism? Yes, dogs can have autism. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is associated with antisocial behavior both in humans and animals. 

Dogs having ASD are unresponsive to other animals, and humans, withdrawn, aggressive, destructive, and hyperactive. There’s no particular cure for such animals, however, there are various therapies for dogs with autism. After the therapy, the quality of their life gets better. 

How Does Autism Affect Animals?

How Does Autism Affect Animals?

Autism is a psychological disorder in which the cognitive (thinking) abilities of an animal or a human are affected. Patients with this disorder usually feel uncomfortable in social gatherings, depict respective behaviors, and are unable to communicate properly.  

Autism research is being carried out on humans. Although, there’s much to unravel yet in this field, however, recently dogs were also diagnosed with this psychological disorder. Can dogs have autism has been in question for years. 

In 2015, a research study asserted that both humans and dogs show some identical symptoms including;

  • Social withdrawal
  • Unresponsive to people 
  • Lesser reactions to the surroundings 
  • Hyperactivity 
  • Destructive demeanor 

As there’s no permanent treatment of ASD in dogs, hence, they undergo various therapies including behavioral therapy, canine assistive technology, medication, and environmental enrichment.

If one observes autism symptoms in their dogs, they’re advised to take their pets to a veterinarian or canine behaviorist instantly. With proper treatment, the digs can live normal, happy, and healthy lives just like other animals. 

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Can Dogs Have Autism or High-functioning ASD?

Can Dogs Have Autism or High-functioning ASD?

ASD in dogs is a canine dysfunctional behavior or idiopathic condition, indicating that its cause can’t be identified. ASD is a congenital condition, the dogs exhibiting its symptoms are born with this disorder. In their brains, they might lack some specific neurons that are responsible for social norms. 

The neurons are termed “mirror neurons,” these neurons help the young dogs to mirror what their parents or older generation does in a social setting. Without mirror neurons, a dog wouldn’t be able to develop skills for building social relationships. 

Dogs can have high-functioning autism or ASD that doesn’t affect their cognitive abilities but its symptoms vary from one case to another. Some dogs having high-functioning autism may exhibit unsocial, hyperactive, and destructive behavior. 

In contrast to them, some might depict normal communication and social behavior at times. This makes it difficult for canine behaviorists to determine whether they’re facing any difficulty or not while communicating. 

In the 1960s, veterinarians observed autism-like symptoms in dogs and wondered can dogs have autism like humans. In 2015, the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists submitted a study on the tail-chasing nature of Bull Terriers and an apparent link to autism. 

The study presented 132 Bull Terriers, of which 55 of them chased their tails. However, 77 of them didn’t chase their tails. The tails-chasing attribute was much more prevalent in males, they showed occasional aggressive, explosive, and trance-like behavior. These results suggested that autism can be found in dogs. 

Hence, the answer to can dogs have autism became apparent, though not definite. 

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How is Autism Diagnosed in Dogs?

A dog is diagnosed with ASD when it shows repetitive or anti-social behaviors. The canine behaviorists behavioral and medical tests before reaching a particular diagnosis. The behavioral tests are not concrete as dogs might respond similarly to different disorders.

In canine anxiety disorder, dogs display autism-like symptoms, which makes it hard to detect a definite diagnosis. Unlike human autism, canine dysfunctional behavior doesn’t have a spectrum. 

Hence, veterinarians have to rely on behavioral cues and compare them to the mannerisms of the dogs to consider what’s the normal behavior for them. The symptoms are inherent, hence, a puppy will exhibit these symptoms rather than a grown dog due to the influence of vaccines or environmental factors. 

If one observes these symptoms in their dogs, they must contact their local veterinarian. 

How to Manage Autism in Dogs?

Veterinary experts along with pet owners observe various triggers the pet exhibits in certain situations. For instance, a dog can flare up and show explosive behaviors when the pet is feeling fearful and aggressive. While going on a walk on a leash in a crowded place, the dog might feel fearful of the leash or the crowd. 

In such a condition, avoid a leash while walking your dog, and don’t move towards crowded locations. Likewise, the dog might feel extremely aggressive at a dog park. Hence, avoid dog parks to keep your pet comfortable. 

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What are the Symptoms of Canine Dysfunctional Behavior or Autism? 

After learning about can dogs have autism, the next step is to observe their symptoms. The symptoms of dogs having ASD condition are;

Antisocial Behavior

Antisocial Behavior

Dogs are social animals who love playing with other dogs, humans, cats, and even horses. If your dog doesn’t pay attention to you while you’re feeding it or taking it on a walk or doesn’t like to interact with other animals, this could be a sign of autism, and one should consult a veterinarian immediately. 

Communication Issues

Dogs easily communicate their mood and feelings by showing some specific behaviors. If dogs are feeling well or happy, they would wag their tails and welcome you when you enter the home at the entrance. 

However, when they’re being reprimanded about something, they may put their ears back, show their bellies by rolling on the floor, or wag their tails. If a dog doesn’t make eye contact with you or doesn’t express any emotions, but remains flat, this could be a sign of autism. 

Obsessive-compulsive Behavior 

ASD disorder makes the patient show a pattern of repetitive behaviors like isolating themselves, looking in a direction for hours without moving, circling a room over and over again, tail chasing, obsessive teeth grinding, lining up objects or toys, and compulsive chewing.  

Inappropriate Reaction to Stimuli

Dogs with autism are hyper-sensitive, minor to chew or sounds, and new situations, and environments can induce reactions of pain, fear, and aggression in them. Even a small pet on their head can make them yelp or bark, showing this discomfort.

Likewise, in a new environment, they feel uncertain and find familiar objects or places. Moreover, their lack of ability to cope with new situations can cause numerous uncanny reactions, that can be lessened by doing therapy for them while working with the vet. 

Lethargy or Tiredness 

Dogs having autism often seem tired and lethargic, they avoid going out to play or walk. If a dog is a high-energy breed and they start showing no enthusiasm with anything around them, it may be concerning. 

Reduced Physical Activity 

As mentioned earlier, dogs with ASD often are sedentary and don’t like to play with humans and animals. Additionally, they also tend to avoid high-energy activities and spend much of their time in a single location. 

How to Treat Autism in Dogs?

Diagnosis of canine behavioral problems must be done by a licensed veterinary and medical conditions should be ruled out first, rather than underlying emotional issues. The veterinary may recommend some of the following treatments;


There’s no particular medicine for treating autism in dogs. Nonetheless, the veterinarian might prescribe certain medications to provide relief for compulsive behavior and curb symptoms. 

Fluoxetine (Prozac) is used to treat OCD and autism in humans, and veterinarians might prescribe it with other medications to calm the aggressive behavior of your dog.

Safe and Secure Zone for the Pet 

Dogs with ASD feel anxious most of the time. They get uncomfortable and fearful in crowded places, with other dogs, and animals, in unknown settings, and in new or unfamiliar places. Keep your dog in places where it feels safe and secure like a dog kennel or a dog bed. 

Regular Exercises

Regular exercises can keep the dogs busy and reduce anxiety or stress. Hence, often make them exercise or play with them to distract them from compulsive behavior. 

Stress-free Environment

Avoid situations in which your pet feels anxious like meeting new people, new animals, or dogs. Don’t force your pet to do things it doesn’t like. For instance, if your pet doesn’t like to be petted on its head, don’t pet it. 

Well balanced Diet

Ask the veterinarian to recommend diets and feeding regimens for your pet, this also helps in alleviating their temperament. 

Positive Reinforcement 

Working with trainers or therapists who specialize in positive reinforcement also helps the pet. Particularly find a trainer who specializes in training dogs with autism or other anti-social behavior disorders. 

Hope all the confusion regarding can dogs have autism is cleared after reading this article on Can dogs have autism? Symptoms and possible treatments.

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