Is Your Dog Autistic? Possible Symptoms and Treatment

With the rise of autism in current times, do you find yourself wondering whether your dog could have autism?

Does it make you worry when you notice your canine companion unwilling to play, cuddle, or reluctant to do just about anything?

Veterinarians have been trying to figure out the occurrence of autism-like symptoms in puppies since 1966. In 2015, the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists presented a report on tail chasing behavior investigation in Bull Terriers and the possible link to autism in dogs.

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Are you wondering if your pup is exhibiting signs and symptoms of autism? First thing you need to do is have him checked out by a vet.

In the study, 132 Bull Terries were observed for DNA analysis and specific traits; 77 control (non-tail-chasing) and 55 tail chasing.

While not entirely definitive, the study indicated that tail chasing could represent a form of autism in dogs. Hence the research subtly suggests that autism could possibly occur in pups.

However, it’s crucial to acknowledge that our understanding of atypical and typical canine behavior is too limited to give us a definitive diagnosis in individual dogs. Hence, before proceeding to treat your dog for autism, make sure to rule out other conditions first.

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For your canine companion to be cautiously diagnosed with autism, he should have exhibited some degree of impaired social interaction with people and other dogs and atypical repetitive behaviors.


What Does This Mean?

Well, this means that the best dog lovers, owners, and vets can do for now is to assume that a mutt might have autism.

For your canine companion to be cautiously diagnosed with autism, he should have exhibited some degree of impaired social interaction with people and other dogs and atypical repetitive behaviors.

It also means that a vet needs first to rule out other canine conditions that could be responsible for some of the observed clinical signs.

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Let your vet examine your dog when you start to observe clinical signs before resulting to any forms of treatment. 

Canine Dysfunctional Behavior

Veterinarians prefer to refer to autism in dogs as canine dysfunctional behavior because the science behind canine autism is still in diapers, and the medical community is still trying to understand it fully.

In a Brooklyn Paper addressing an anti-vax movement was prompting to withhold vaccinations from their dogs, Dr. Stephanie Liff of Clinton Hill’s Pure Paws Veterinary Care told the paper, “We’ve never diagnosed autism in a dog. I don’t think you could.”

Significant Symptoms that Could Mirror Possible Autism in Your Canine Companion

Poor Social Interactions

If you notice that your pup is having trouble interacting with people or other dogs, or he ignores you when you call, not happy, or generally feels weird around other breeds, this could be a cause for concern.

If he doesn’t engage in activities like playing, going for a walk, or even eating or doesn’t show any sign of character, you should have the vet check him out.

Peculiar Behaviors

If your pup is displaying strange behaviors such as avoiding everything including objects near him, continually staring at things, running around or sitting still for no reason, or he is irrationally afraid of new things, toys, and other pets, plan a visit to the vet.

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Dogs that appear to be avoidant of any activity or too lazy could be showing austic symptoms. 


Pet owners will assume their dogs are ill when the dog is avoidant of any activity or is just too lazy. You may even consider it depressing when your pup shows no interest in anything you try to engage him in.

If people have often tagged your pooch as lazy because they hardly ever play or do anything fun, this could be a symptom of autism in your canine companion.

Emotional Unpredictability

Pets are more fun when you can tell what their thinking or feeling. However, when you don’t know any of this with your canine companion, this could mean that he or she doesn’t show these emotions correctly.

Dogs with emotional unpredictability tend to randomly get scared, avoid people and places that don’t present any particular threat to them and may hide or retreat unexplainably.

He could also be engaging in pointless and repetitive actions. As a pet owner, be on the lookout for routines that prove repetitiveness like tail chasing or if your mutt keeps getting sad or mad when you put his food bowl four inches to his right. It could be just about anything.

Sensorial Difference

Like kids, dogs also feel things differently. Hence if you notice that your pup tends to link sensorial and physical stimuli to wrong emotions, this could be a cause for concern.

If you also don’t know the cause of his sad reactions all the time, it’s crucial to realize that he isn’t okay and that it’s not your fault and have him checked out by a vet.

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If your pooch seems to be sad all the time, realize it isn’t well and it’s not your fault.

Treating and Managing Autism in Dogs

Avoid Triggers

If you or the vet thinks your canine companion might be suffering from autism, the first thing you need to do is determine what his triggers are.

Pay attention to atypical behavior he may be displaying and notice what triggers that and avoid those things. For example, if your pooch becomes aggressive or fearful when strangers or other dogs at a dog park approach him, then avoid going to the dog park and just opt for a quiet trail.

Physical Activity

The same way exercise or physical activity alleviates stress and anxiety in human beings, it has the same benefits for dogs. Even if one of the symptoms your canine companion is displaying is laziness or lack of interest in any activity, try and indulge him in some sort of physical activity and mental stimulation.

You could also train your dog to do “heavy work” like carrying a doggy backpack or pulling a loaded wagon full of soft weight.

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Physical activity and mental stimulation could help alleviate austic symptoms in dogs. 


Once you notice some of the symptoms above in your pooch, your vet may recommend possible changes in your pup’s food regime.

The same way autistic kids and adults need to change their diet, it’s no surprise that you would have to do the same for your dog.

Remove Any Stressors

If you suspect your mutt could be autistic, avoid any situations that could cause him any stress or anxiety. If you notice that your canine companion doesn’t like it when you pet him, then don’t pet him.

If he doesn’t like to socialize, meeting, or to be around people and other dogs, let that be and keep where he feels most comfortable.

The same way being gentle to your friend who suffers from anxiety helps him calm down, it will be the same for your dog.

Create a Secure and Safe Environment

Dogs presumed to be autistic are often afraid of almost anything and tend to have weird reactions. If your dog is suffering from this, you may have to request your vet to visit at home to keep your mutt from getting nervous and anxious around other dogs, people, and unknown environments.

Create a quiet, safe space just for your dog so that he can have a secure place to hide each time he needs to. Stress in dogs gets enhanced when they have no place to retreat.

This safe space could be a kennel, a crate, a solitary or reserved spot for him in the house, or he could pick his own place, and all you need to do is respect his space.

Try “Special Needs” Techniques

People diagnosed with autism have some “special needs” techniques that have proven to be useful. The same methods could also prove helpful for your canine companion.

For instance, you could use some of the commercially available wraps to give your pooch reassuring pressure to his body when you can’t avoid the triggers.

What’s The Future of Canine Autism Research?

Well, with more and more pet lovers asking the question, “Can dogs have autism?” The American Humane Association, Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center, Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), the University of Massachusetts Medical School, and Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine are collaborating on the Canines, Kids, and Autism; Decoding Obsessive Behaviors in Canines and Autism in Children study.

The study is meant to look at causes of OCD commonly found in purebred dogs like Bull Terriers, Jack Russel, and Doberman Pinschers.

With the help of state-of-the-art technology, the TGen scientists are meant to conduct whole-genome sequencing that will help them analyze the genomes of these purebred dogs in hopes that they can pinpoint the genes that could be responsible for atypical behavior.

The success of this study will mean that there will be a significant improvement in the diagnosis as well as the treatment of autism in dogs, and people as well.

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It can be very challenging to take care of a dog exhibiting autistic symptoms, however, it helps to be patient.


It can be quite challenging to take care of an autistic kid, well, it’s the same case when your dog is suffering from autism. In which case, happiness for both you and your dog is to be patient.

With the right kind of treatment and sufficient love, canine companions with autism can still have a high-quality life.

However, it is advisable to have your pet checked out by a vet before making any inconclusive assumptions about the symptoms your pooch is exhibiting.

The symptoms, as mentioned above, are not limited to autism but could also be as a result of other conditions. The veterinarian should rule out other conditions that could be the cause of these observed clinical signs.

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