Can dogs have autism? Things you need to know

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Autism has become more common, and many assumptions revolve around it. However, not many people think of autism beyond humans. Autism can also occur in animals, especially domestic pets like dogs.

Can dogs have autism? Here are the things you need to know about dogs and autism.

What is autism?

Autism is a condition that affects the nervous system of a human or animal. The signs and symptoms that autism shows may vary from one person to another.

Most people recognize autism as having issues with communication and showing repetitive behaviors and obsessive interests.

Autistic individuals have a difficult time expressing their views and emotions.

Can dogs have autism?

Dogs have also been found to have autism. Dogs show similar behavioral symptoms, known as “canine dysfunctional behavior” in veterinary medicine.

Therefore, you may not hear autism being spoken of in dogs because it is given a separate name. Autism is commonly used to refer to the same condition in humans.

However, this post refers to the condition in dogs as "autism."

What causes autism in dogs?

Autism is an idiopathic condition, which means the cause is unknown. One thing is for sure: it’s congenital, and dogs that display such behavior are born with this condition.

These dogs lack specific mirror neurons in the brain that help them learn social norms. These neurons help your dog 'mirror’ older dogs and learn how to function in a social setting.

Therefore, without these mirror neurons, dogs don’t develop the skills to build social relationships.

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How can autism be diagnosed in dogs?

The diagnosis of autism in dogs could be challenging at times because there isn’t a lot of evidence available. However, the dog may display some of the most apparent behaviors, like repetitive behavior and impaired social interaction.

There are several tests that veterinarians conduct to determine autism in dogs. However, these tests are not always accurate, as an anxious dog may display similar symptoms.

What are the symptoms of canine dysfunctional behavior in dogs?

Below are some common symptoms that dogs with autism may display.

1. Communication problems

Dogs are very good at communicating and displaying their mood. They usually wag their tails to show they are happy or to greet you at the door.

It is not the same with dogs with autism. They will not display their happiness or sadness this way and will look blank.

They may enter trance-like states by staring at one place for an extended period. They will also avoid eye contact with people and other dogs.

2. Antisocial behaviors

Dogs are very social animals and love to play with people, other dogs, and other animals. An autistic dog will not want to interact with any person, dog, or animal. They will stay on their own and not interact with anyone.

Other signs include your dog not paying attention during playtime or feeding time. All these are signs to be concerned about, and you should address them with your vet.

3. Inappropriate reactions to stimuli

Autistic dogs may show inappropriate reactions to stimuli. For example, they may bark or yelp at the slightest touch. They are hypersensitive to many types of stimuli. Even a gentle pat on the head might frighten them.

Sudden sounds and physical touches are all things that may make autistic dogs react in a different way than ordinary dogs.

4. Obsessive compulsive behaviors

Another significant sign that autistic dogs show is repetitive motion. Repetitive actions may include circling the room several times. Other symptoms include obsessive tooth grinding and chronic tail-chasing.

Autistic dogs may even do things like obsessive chewing and lining up toys or other objects.

It's hard to spot these symptoms when you spend a large part of your day at work. In this case, it's a good idea to use a Barkio dog monitoring app to alert you to any activity your dog is doing. You can show the video footage to your veterinarian and consult with him or her to see if it may be a sign of autism.


5. Reduced physical activity

Autistic dogs avoid engaging in high-energy activities. They are sedentary with reduced physical activity. They avoid playing with other dogs, animals, and people.

If a dog is showing signs of being lethargic, you need to take it to a vet, as it could be for different reasons. You must rule out any medical issues, as not only autistic dogs show signs of lethargy.

How to treat autism in dogs?

A veterinarian should make a diagnosis of any medical condition. Any medical condition should be diagnosed and carefully monitored by a vet.

Here’s how to treat autism in dogs.

1. Medication

There is no single treatment for autism. However, your vet may prescribe medications to relieve the symptoms.

Your vet may even prescribe other medications to calm your dog.

2. Regular exercise

Regular exercise helps reduce stress and anxiety in dogs. It helps keep your dog’s mind busy, which acts as a distraction from obsessive-compulsive behaviors.

Sometimes, your dog may be reluctant to do anything. However, you must make your dog engage in physical activity, like exercising.

Your dog may not do anything you say or run away from you. It is one of the reasons to get your dog a GPS tracker. It will help you keep track of your dog.

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3. A stress-free, safe, and secure place

You need to avoid situations that cause anxiety and stress in autistic dogs. Don’t force your dog to do something it doesn’t like. Don’t force it to do so if it dislikes meeting other people and dogs.

Forcing your dog to do things he doesn’t like can cause stress.

4. A well-balanced diet

A well-balanced diet will help with most health conditions; the same applies to autism. Ensure that you feed your dog a healthy and nutritious meal with high-quality dog food.

Your vet will recommend a diet that is ideal for your autistic dog.

5. Positive reinforcement

Positive reinforcement always works in favor of dogs, whether they are autistic or not. An autistic dog will greatly benefit from positive reinforcement training.

Ensure to use a good trainer who is an expert in training dogs with behavioral issues.


1. How do autistic dogs act?

Autistic dogs may show repetitive behavior, such as circling the room repeatedly. They may also show issues with communication and be hypersensitive to any stimuli.

2. How common is autism in dogs?

Autism is rare in dogs. It’s congenital; dogs typically inherit it from a parent or relative.


Dogs can have autism, and it will show in their behavior. Dogs with autism have communication issues, will show repetitive behavior, and are hypersensitive to almost any stimuli.

If you identify your dog is autistic, you must take it to a vet. The vet will prescribe the required medication for your dog.

You must work toward keeping your dog stress-free, as stress and anxiety can aggravate the situation.

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