Autism in Dogs – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Autism in Dogs

Autism in dogs is an issue that’s been debated by scientists for decades, with some still claiming that such a thing doesn’t exist. However, there are scientists currently studying the mirroring neurons in the brains of canines, or rather the lack of them and concluding that these missing neurons are what causes autism in dogs. Diagnosing and treating the condition in dogs is very difficult. Both rely on the pet’s owner to be very mindful and watchful of the dog’s behavior, and know how to deal with it appropriately.

Causes of autism in dogs


As stated, the most probably cause of autism in canines is the lack of mirroring neurons in their brains.

This is a type of condition known as “congenital,” meaning that a dog cannot become autistic, but rather they must be born with the condition. This helps further the belief of many scientists that autism is something that a dog inherits from a parent or other relative. It’s also believed that a dog is more likely to become autistic if their parent had vaccinations that they didn’t need, or if they were exposed to certain toxins.

Symptoms of autism in dogs

For dog owners, figuring out that their dog is autistic can be a very difficult process.

Here’s an example of autistic dog eating:

The symptoms are mostly behavioral, and with dogs being much like humans in the way that they might act different ways on different days, it can be hard to determine if a dog is autistic, or just tired; if they are just putting their toys away, or acting in a compulsive manner. The best thing a dog owner can do is familiarize themselves with the possible symptoms, and keep an eye out for any behavior that might indicate a presence of autism, especially if they are recurring behaviors or symptoms.

Here are some of the symptoms that might be present if a dog is autistic:

  • Repeating the same actions over and over again. This might not be in the form of walking around in circles, but dogs with autism typically like to have a set routine that’s the same day in and day out.
  • Awkward social interactions. This could be with other dogs, or with their owner. If they seem to withdraw from social situations, express uneasiness around other dogs, and don’t willingly come to you, these could be symptoms of autism.
  • Limiting behavior. This is especially true with new situations, and that could be something as small as a new toy that’s brought home for them. If the dog doesn’t express any interest in trying new things, playing new games, or doing anything that’s not familiar, this could also be a symptom of autism.
  • An inability to express emotion. Sometimes autistic dogs cannot communicate that they are happy, sad, scared, or display any emotion at all.
  • While all dogs will get tired at some point during the day, dogs that cannot show any signs of energy or enthusiasm at all for long periods of time could possibly be autistic. This will be especially noticeable in breeds that are known for their high energy levels.
  • Compulsive behavior. As crazy as it sounds, some autistic dogs have been known to display compulsive behaviors, especially around their toys and food dishes. Continually putting their toys away, even when their owner has brought them out to play, and wanting their food and water dishes placed in a certain way or on a certain mat are all types of compulsive behavior that have been observed in autistic dogs.

Because dogs cannot develop autism but rather must be born with it, autistic dogs will show these symptoms from the time of their birth, although they may become more pronounced as the dog gets older. If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s imperative that you keep a close eye on your pet and watch for repetitive symptoms so that you can start getting a diagnosis and treatment for your pet as soon as possible.

How to Treat Autism in Dogs

If you suspect that your dog is autistic, the first thing you need to do is discuss the problem with your vet.

Although there is no cure, the vet will want to examine the dog and might know of some possible therapies or treatments that might help put your dog at ease and deal with some of the symptoms. Pet counselling might also be available in your area that can help deal with autism in your dog. This type of therapy has been known to make dogs with autism more open and receptive.

Meanwhile, there are some things that can be done right at home that will also help deal with an autistic dog.

First and foremost, show the dog lots of love and attention. While they may not be able to show that they reciprocate affection, receiving it will make them feel safe and secure, which is even more important for autistic dogs. It’s also important that there are not a lot of changes in your dog’s life. This could be something as major as changing owners or moving homes, or it can be something as simple as changing the time of your daily walk. Even changing the furniture around your home could cause your dog to feel stress and agitate their autistic symptoms.

While autism in dogs is a condition that you’ll have to deal with should you think your dog is showing signs of it, it’s not something that should be considered a disease. While changes may have to be made because of the condition, it’s not fatal and your pet can continue to enjoy a happy and healthy life. At the first sign that your dog may be autistic, it’s important to keep an eye out for recurring symptoms and speak to your vet as soon as you suspect the condition. The sooner you catch it, the sooner you’ll be able to start providing your pet with the lifestyle and possible treatment that they need.



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Kate Elliott

Kate Elliott

Kate Elliott has been a freelance content writer for the past 8 years, and has written creatively her entire life. In addition to her online work, she has written a fiction novel, as well as had poetry published in the “Songs of the Heart” collection. A lover of animals since she was young, she’s also always had a dog by her side. Currently her best friend is a 13-year-old German Shepherd named Chewy.

Kate Elliott

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12 thoughts on “Autism in Dogs – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

  1. Do you have a citation for study linking vaccines and canine autism? Or any peer reviewed research even accepting canine autism as a diagnosis in the first place?

  2. I would also appreciate knowing which scientific peer reviewed papers you based your post on. I cannot find much information about canine autism. I recently adopted a dog from a refuge and she may be autistic. I need more information, please. But only science based and published in peer reviewed journals. Thanks very much.

  3. I have a 10 year old doberman who is autistic. He was very well socialized as a puppy then at about 6 months began slowly behaving in very timid and fearful ways to many things. He was fearful of new people, dogs, places and very very sensitive to sound. Things became more severe as he got older. It has been a very long road but we have very supportive friends and I had a great behaviorist who helped us learn how to help Arnold live in a safe world!

    • Having a vet that can diagnose autism in your pet is half the equation and then treating with meds has helped tremendously. Our ZoeyGrace, a yellow lab mix shelter rescue, didn’t strike anyone as having a “problem” but since her 3 month to present, she’s 8 yes old now, she has classic symptoms
      Trainers behavorists and routines have kept her sane along with her meds. Glad to hear there are more of us owners. It helps to compare notes

      • A quick update about ZoeyGrace. Well she’s moved with her family and two “sisters”. So now we get to combat a new and upcoming neighborhood, new sounds and smells, and a new vet to treat and repair an infected anal gland. Talk about trauma while autistic. Zoey became a statute to deal with it. Our poor girl

    • My 14 year old yellow street dog (we found her as a pup, 3 or 4 months old) is like yours. As a puppy she behaved like a normal dog and then gradually, over the years, slowly withdrew to the point of standing in a corner and staring at the wall for hours at a time. She IS happy when I take her for a walk, however. Otherwise it’s almost like she’s depressed. We have her on Paxil with some success.

    • I agree with you Jennifer. My dog almost died after receiving a round of six vaccs at rhe same time. He had issues/symptoms three years previous.
      He now has “problems”, NO vet will diagnose. He once was a happy healthy pet.
      He is now standing in the hall staring at the wall for hours. No disease. No virus. Etc. He just was not the same after those injections.
      I manage his health as far away from science and synthetic meds as possible. He can nit have vaccs. They will kill him.

    • Thinks thimerosal causes autism in people.

      Thinks this also proves same effect in a different species.

      That’s military-grade stupidity.

  4. Hi I think my dog is autistic, telling from the way he acts (or more doesn’t act) around other dogs and people, not aggressive or fearful it just seems like he doesn’t really know what to do or how to act. He will just stand still and keep looking to the side when a dog approached him. He also has some weird quirks with food and toys

  5. I would love to find help somewhere near me in diagnosing and teaching us how to deal with a autistic puppy and in the event we can’t provide the right household for him in finding the perfect place for him. We live near Waco, Texas

  6. Autism is dogs is a growing concern for all dog owners. We should pay careful attention to our pets to look for signs of autism. However, do remember that this is not a disease and should not be treated as such. I loved how you explained everything about dog autism and highlighted very important points. An excellent read!

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