Autism is a commonly diagnosed human condition that causes difficulties with socializing and communicating. The understanding we have of autism today has only come about in recent years. This improved understanding means that more children are being diagnosed with autism than ever before and gaining access to the support they need.
This has left many people wondering whether similar conditions are present in animals. Can dogs have autism? Or is this an intrinsically human condition? In this article, we look at dog autism in more detail and teach you how to tell if your dog is special needs.
Before we get onto dogs with autism, we need to properly define the human condition. According to the Autism Society, autism is a developmental disability that usually appears during childhood. It is characterized by issues with social skills, communication, and relationships.
The true word for autism is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), as there are varying degrees of severity for the condition. Some autistic people have minor symptoms and need little or no support when dealing with their condition. On the other hand, some autistic people struggle to live a normal life without help. They can find situations overwhelming, suffer from severe social phobia, and be unable to cope with even the tiniest changes to their routine.
Humans can have autism, but can dogs be autistic? This is a question many researchers have been trying to answer since the 1960s. The challenge with answering this question is that human autism is defined as social and communication issues, and it is usually diagnosed by looking at autism symptoms. This includes failure to keep eye contact, fear of social situations, body rocking or circling, and being unable to cope with change.
Drawing comparisons between human and canine social standards and communication is very difficult. We are different species with very different social habits – two people meeting might shake hands, but two dogs meet by sniffing each other’s butts! Although we know dogs can indeed struggle socially with other dogs, whether or not this is autism is a different story.
However, more and more research indicates that dogs with autism do exist. One great example is a study from 2011 that found similarities between tail-chasing behaviors in Bull Terriers and human ASD. Therefore, it is possible that dogs can have autism. But more research is needed to be sure!
With that said, it has been proven that dogs can inherit a condition that causes social issues known as canine dysfunctional behavior (CDB). The cause of this condition is unknown, but it is believed to be congenital just like autism in people. Dogs with this condition lack certain neurons in their brains that they need to “mirror” behaviors from other dogs. Without these neurons, dogs struggle to learn social cues and struggle to communicate.
There is no “autism test” and no clear biological markers that can be used to identify autism in people. Human autism is instead diagnosed by assessing symptoms and behaviors. Yet as there is a lack of evidence on autism in dogs, it is even harder to diagnose. Dog autism symptoms are not well-documented or properly understood at this stage.
With that said, some dogs do show symptoms of social and communication issues which are considered autistic traits. If you want to know how to tell if your dog is special needs, these traits are the secret! However, rather than receiving an autism diagnosis, your vet will usually diagnose your dog with cognitive dysfunctional behavior. Below are the signs to look out for:
Knowing you have a dog with autism or CDB can be worrying. However, your vet will discuss a range of different treatment options, behavioral methods, and environmental changes. Combined, these three core methods make symptoms manageable and ensure your dog lives a happy and fulfilling life.
Below are some of the treatment options your vet may recommend:
The question “Can dogs have autism?” is something that veterinary professionals and researchers are still looking to answer. Current research indicates that yes, dogs can be autistic. However, there is no concrete evidence supporting this and no clear autism diagnostic tests. As such, many signs of autism in dogs are attributed to CDB, rather than autism itself.
Regardless of your vet’s official diagnosis, having a dog with special needs can be a daunting task. Rather than worrying, know that your dog is in the best hands possible. With veterinary advice, you’ll be able to manage the autistic dog symptoms and behavioral issues, build a great relationship with your pet, and give your dog a happy life.
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Quickly polish your pet’s nails with a coarse grinding head. It’s ideal for large dogs with thick nails.