Can Dogs Have Autism?

Large dog biting / chasing tail in a circular motion


In humans, the term autism or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), refers to a broad range of issues characterized by challenges with social skills such as speech, verbal communication and repetitive behaviors. scientists know there are many different forms of autism in humans most influenced by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Because autism is a spectrum disorder, not everyone's' experience will be the same and each presents a set of challenges and strengths. You can expect the same to apply with dogs.



As autism research advances, vets and dog owners all around the world are becoming more aware with how Autism affects people and their pets’ relationships. The question of whether dogs can truly have autism is being raised by many with increasing frequency. Old fashion scientists continue to assert that dogs cannot have autism, however, current research shows that there are dogs who exhibit similar behaviors as humans who have been diagnosed with autism. The most obvious sign; repetitive behavior and could be a major indication that your dog may be autistic.

Veterinarians and scientists were talking about the occurrence of autism-like symptoms in dogs as early as 1966. American College of Veterinary Behaviorists reported in 2015 repetitive tail chasing behavior in Bull Terriers and the possible link to autism. The study was performed in order to find the specific gene responsible for debilitating behaviors in the breed such as compulsively chasing their tails to the point at which they chew their own tails. The study observed specific DNA in addition to traits analysis of 132 Bull Terriers; 55 tail chasing and 77 non tail-chasing. The researchers concluded that tail chasing is occurring mostly in males, associated with trance like behavior and associated with aggression episodes. In addition to the repetitive tail-chasing behavior certain dogs exhibited a tendency for phobias. This led this study to conclude that tail chasing could represent a canine form of autism.

After the findings were drawn researchers began tracking neurological markers in dogs that were remarkably similar with autism in humans. This study also led to the use of certain serotonin reuptake inhibitors in order to help and reduce compulsive behaviors in both humans and pets. It has also led to the development of a new OCD drug that can be used for both human beings and dogs.

Some researchers believe that autism could have resulted by a lack of mirror neurons in the dogs brain. Since this condition is considered congenital dogs cannot suddenly "get" Autism, it is something they carry from birth. Recent studies found that puppies may be born with autism if their parents have been exposed to unnecessary vaccinations and or a variety of chemicals.



Majority of dogs who are suffering from autism will exhibit repetitive behaviors for instance tail chasing may be one of the more dominant symptoms. Some dogs become aggressive during an episode, some become withdrawn. Some dogs exhibit such mild symptoms you don't even notice them.



There are many similarities in which autism in dogs is similar to that found in humans including but not limited to:

  • Repetitive behavior
  • Both humans and dogs display significant social interaction issues.
  • Unwillingness to adapt to any type of change.
  • Inability to show emotions



There seems to be very little differences in a behavioral standpoint. The major difference is that human Autism is widely accepted with a set of symptoms called the autism spectrum which allows a medical professional make a proper diagnosis. No such spectrum exists to help a vet diagnose autism in dogs and it is still a debate whether canines can truly have autism.



You should take your dog to your veterinarian for diagnosis if you suspect your dog may have autism or any other condition. Your vet will examine your dog and most likely run a number of tests. Besides running tests tell your vet if your dog is experiencing any of the following symptoms:

  • Dysfunctional interactions with you or other pets.
  • Repetition of actions/behaviors.
  • Lethargy.
  • Unwillingness to adapt to any type of change.
  • Inability to show emotions.

Diagnosis is the hardest aspect of Autism in dogs due to a very limited amount of research and awareness. Until substantial research is performed, diagnosing dogs with this condition is not an easy process. Our understanding of typical and atypical behavior in dogs is extremely limited. It is also important to mention that many of the symptoms of autism can resemble other physical and emotional conditions. For a definitive Autism diagnosis, your dog must exhibit some of the major signs like repetitive behavior and social interaction difficulties with people or dogs.



  • Accept the reality - Accept the fact your dog will have this condition for the rest of his or her life, know that there is no known cure for it and work on ways to minimize symptoms and help your dog. 
  • Keep a journal -  It is very helpful if you keep a journal of when and what your dog does to establish patterns and repetitive behaviors. A journal will also help figuring out triggers to certain behaviors. What happened prior & after the behavior? What seems to make the behavior worse or better? 
  • Vet evaluation - take your dog to your vet and relay the concerns you have. You need to be as detailed as possible. This is where the journal will really come in handy. Your vet may know of a therapist who can work with your dog to minimize symptoms. They might also prescribe medications.
  • Adapt your life to your dogs’ needs -  For instance if going outside when it is busy with lots of people makes your dogs behavior to flare up, take your dog when it is not busy, use a stroller until you get to a remote area with less people etc.
  • Avoid major changes - even if the change seems small like rearranging furniture, or changing daily routines.
  • Love hard, love unconditionally - Your dog may not show you the same affection, regardless give your dog plenty of love every single day. Loving is the best cure and can make your dog feel secure and safe.

If you have read this guide and still have your questions about Autism in canines please write us a comment or a question and we will do our best to answer your concerns.




1 Response

Claudia velasco
Claudia velasco

August 04, 2020

Hola… tengo un cachorro de 6 meses . Y creo que tiene autismo mi familia se ríe de mi pero yo se bien que mi perro no es un perro normal, come echado puede peinarse echado y no le incomoda quedar entre orines , mueve la cola muy rara vez y tiene carita de ido toma agua dentro de una tina para bañar bebés se mete y empieza a beber agua termina y se queda adentro echado y su mirada perdida…. le dicen flojo le ofrezco comida y tengo que casi meterla al hocico no hace por arrebatarle si se la avienta le pega en la cara y el como si nada tienen que pasar segundos para que se de cuenta que es algo rico para comer…. con estos comportamientos puede tener autismo?

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