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I Think My Dog Has Autism: 3 Major Signs (But Stop Worrying)

Canine autism has become one of the dog world’s more intriguing debates in recent years. Some camps acknowledge it as a bona fide condition. Others are reluctant to label autistic behavior as autism. While the semantics are up for debate, there is every reason to believe dog autism does exist.

The Scientific Case for Autism

Current scientific study on dogs’ brains has concluded that autism can exist on a canine level. They believe the condition is due to a lack of mirroring neurons in the canine mind. It is also thought that the condition is rare, which may be why most veterinarians prefer to refer to the condition as a canine dysfunctional behavior as opposed to straight-up autism.

Studies also conclude that the condition is idiopathic, meaning its cause is unknown. It has also been determined that the condition is congenital, meaning that dogs are born with it and cannot develop it over time. This latter determination fuels the belief that the condition is something that a dog can inherit from a parent or other relative.

Furthermore, there have been studies that indicate that a dog can inherit autism if their parents have been exposed to different toxins. Studies also point to parents that received unnecessary vaccinations as a potential cause of the condition. These particular studies tie in with the prevailing notion that over-vaccinating a dog can be a dangerous practice.

How do I Know if My Dog is Autistic?

It could be a difficult challenge to figure out if your four-legged friend has autism. The symptoms of the condition are primarily behavioral, including actions that may look obsessive/compulsive in nature. For instance, you may see intricate, ritualistic behavior from your pooch that repeats itself as a daily routine.

Behavioral Issues that Could Be Signs of Dog Autism

Some of the other indicators behind canine autism are remarkably similar to the symptoms that traditionally mark autism in human beings. These symptoms are present at birth - not surprising since the condition is congenital. However, they may not be recognizable or pronounced until the dog gets older.

Awkward social interaction may be a prime indicator of canine autism. This sense of discomfort and unease can manifest itself with other dogs or even with their owner. Warning signs associated with this symptom include withdrawing from social interactions and a lack of willingness to come to you.

A dog failing to adequately express emotion could also be a prevailing sign of autism. This is not a universal trait of autistic dogs, but some pooches that have the condition won’t be able to succinctly communicate with you whether or not they are happy, sad, frightened, or excited. In some cases, they could just remain stoic and emotion-free.

An autistic pooch may also struggle with showing any signs of enthusiasm or energy for long periods of time. While all dogs do get tired, dogs that have autism may not “bounce back” with a measure of energy after a round of noticeable down time. This may be somewhat easier for owners to detect in breeds that are typically marked by high energy levels.

Is There Anything I Can Do For My Dog if He Has Autism?

Autistic Dog 2

As of right now, there is no cure for autism. However, if you suspect that your dog suffers from canine autism, you’ll want to take your pooch to the vet for an examination. While your vet may be reluctant to refer to the condition as autism, he or she may be able to recommend various therapies or treatments that could help your dog live at ease with his condition.

And even if your dog cannot express emotions all that well, it’s important that you still shower him with plenty of love and attention. They may not be able to return the favor per se, but rest assured that your affection will make them feel safe and secure, which is of the utmost of importance to a dog with canine autism. You should also keep any changes to your dog's life or routine to a minimum as they may be able to cope sufficiently with alterations.

It’s Tough, but Noble

Owning an autistic dog can be difficult and ripe with unique challenges. However, it is also a rather noble act of canine-centric kindness. Above all of the challenges that crop up in this situation, know that you are providing love to a dog that needs affection, something that makes owning such a special pooch worthwhile.

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Melanie - August 11, 2017

My 8 month old schnauzer is fun and loving around anyone and most everyone except today.
My brother came over with his daughter who has a form of autism she is functional but knows no boundaries. My pup growled before the truck stopped and wouldn’t quit and only towards her. She was real kind and super sweet to him and he didn’t care. He seemed bothered by her being here yet afraid at the same time. She is 8 and my nephew is 5 and he is fine with him. Both kids are real rowdy but this was the most unusual behavior besides his constant need to warn me of the trash cans by the road on pick up day. Any suggestions?

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Courtney - June 19, 2018

I think my 3 year old pug has autism, but I’m not too sure. She is different than any other dog I’ve ever had and seems to be stuck in the puppy phase. She has habits of nibbling on her paws, licking my other dog’s ears, going through the trash, and chewing on things. I trained her exactly like my other dogs and they have always been obedient and the opposite of troublesome. I always tell her that her behavior is bad in a stern voice but she just doesn’t seem to get it. She is great off leash though, and I have taken her to dog beach since she was old enough. She never leaves my side and when dogs go up to her she becomes timid and starts to act quite strange. Other times she will try to pursue a dog but turn around and come back to me when she gets close. I’ve tried teaching her to play fetch and play chase, but she just doesn’t understand. I have done everything to make the dog have an enjoyable life but she doesnt want to act like a normal dog. Is she autistic?

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KA Gordon - April 13, 2019

My dog has autism and luckily a vet actually diagnosed it..but from the beginning..two stray dogs had four puppies and I was able to catch two …than one….then the last one was stuck in a chain link fence..harder to do that then not do that. It was the strangest little dog..no emotion and if I hadnt known better I would have thought she had parvo. I went into Petsmart with her and her sister…everyone commented on how cute her sister was…and said…what is wrong with that one. They looked identical. I shortly got kicked out of Petsmart because people were complaining that my dog was sick.When she got extremely ill I took her to my vet and they said her liver is bad and she needs to be put down…they said cant you tell by the way she is acting? I said she has autism and they asked me what that was. I then drove to another city and the vet looked at her and said…she has autism and Im betting her spleen is twisted.It was removed and that was five years ago. She has bitten four vets due to the fact she shows no aggression..she never has and when she gets her shot she just bites them to the point she draws blood and then goes back to sitting down staring at the wall. I was in the presence of all four bites and I didnt believe the first three. She just sat looking at the wall or floor and all of a sudden the vet claims she was bitten. No bark no growl..nothing. When she bit the vet at tractor supply getting her shots this year not one person who was in line including me saw her bite the vet. She ripped the scrubs and drew blood but no aggression. She just laid on the floor. She has gotten better now…she comes to her name if she is in the room. If she is outside she wont respond. She also responds to food when I feed her. She doesnt seem to notice cats except when they sleep between her front paws and rub their butt in her face..she doesnt like that. She is also the only dog I can leave with my old pitt bull because the pitt is so old she is grouchy and might attack. She wont attack the autistic dog…it would be like attacking a statue.

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