Can Dogs Be Autistic?

Autism is very rare in dogs and some scientists even doubt that the condition exists in canines. On the other hand, canine autism is thought to be caused by the lack of mirroring neurons in the dog’s brain.

Causes Of Autism In Dogs

Dog autism is not yet very well understood, but it has been suggested by some that it could very well be a genetic condition inherited from a parent or relative. Some researchers are working on a theory according to which dog autism may be caused by the lack of mirroring neurons in the brain. However, this type of condition is actually congenital, meaning that dogs cannot suddenly become autistic, they can however be born with autism. There have been other studies that have associated the occurrence of autism in dogs with parents that were exposed to different toxins and unnecessary vaccinations.

Symptoms Of Canine Autism

It can be hard to tell if your dog may be autistic. First of all because it is still debated on whether or not it even technically exists. Second of all because there is very little understood on the matter. Last but not least, because dogs with autism may not display any symptoms or their symptoms could be so subtle that they may not be recognized at all.

However, other dogs with autism may show some of the following symptoms:

  • Repetitive actions. With this type of symptom dogs tend to have a routine that they like to stick to.
  • Dysfunctional interaction with other dogs or owner
  • Restricted behavior – limiting themselves to performing only a few actions and/or avoiding new actions, games etc.
  • Apathy
  • Inability to communicate joy, fear, and other feelings
  • Lack of activity. This is especially noticeable in breeds that are a high-energy dog as the lack of activity can be quite surprising.
  • Keen organization. While it may sound crazy, some owners have claimed that their autistic dogs organize toys according to size, shape, and/or color.

Typically, symptoms of autism are present from early puppyhood and the puppy may not be able to interact properly with the rest of his siblings or parents. A puppy suffering from autism may also show lack of interest in food and/or games.

Helping Dogs With Autism

If you suspect that your dog may be autistic you should pay special attention to him or her. In addition, you should also help him or her adapt to new situations and should try to be as accommodating as possible when it comes to not introducing lots of change to your dog’s routine etc. as it will only further upset him or her. It is crucial to maintain your dog’s schedule and to try not and alter it if possible. This can include even simple things like changing furniture around. Your pup will feel most comfortable in places that he or she is familiar with. It is for this reason that your dog shouldn’t change owners or homes frequently.

There is no known cure for canine autism. The best thing you can do for your pet, is make him feel comfortable and safe. He or she may also benefit from affection, routine, and lots of attention. Different types of pet therapy are also available. Setting up an appointment to talk to your veterinarian can be beneficial in learning more about how to cope with your dog’s autism.


  1. Sue says

    I adopted an Airedale from a kill shelter because the Airedale rescue group with whom I work told me no one wanted her because she was so shy. She and a brother were dropped off and he was adopted but she was not. She had not been groomed and she cowered and stayed under the bed. O worked with a mobile groomer to get her cleaned up and we found evidence of a prior bad skin infection as well as ulceration around her moth and a torn ear. The vet treated everything but she was still almost paralyzed with fear. For over a year, I had to climb under the bed three times a day and blockade her through the house and into the yard. She was afraid of wind, leaves falling, noise, and branches moving in the trees. I talked to the vet and tried obedience training but nothing helped. She chewed bedroom furniture and dry wall. I got pretty good at repairing walls.

    Her regular groomer finally talked me into getting another stray, part Lab, to bring home. Buddy, the stray, has changed her life for the better. It’s been slow but steady progress for Sadie Bug. She still prefers to stay in my bedroom or the laundry room when inside but she races to go out when I tell her the door is open. She runs in the yard, chases birds and squirrels, digs holes, and barks. The groomer knew another dog (the right type of dog) could teach her how to be a dog, I think. I was seriously considering putting her to sleep because neither one of us had quality of life. What a difference Buddy made in our lives! Your comments about routine are very true. I have company a few times a year for 5-7 day stays. As long as I keep to her meal and outside time routines, she does OK with the company and seems to get bolder after they leave. My intuition is that she realizes that I will keep her safe so she can relax a bit more. She will never be a “normal” dog but she can enjoy her yard, her Buddy, her meals and her bedtime. No more wall chewing although a shoe left on the floor at night is free game.

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