In relation to humans, when a person has an impairment in social interaction and language development or communication skills, he is said to have the neurobehavioral condition called autism. For any suggestive behavioral condition to be classified as autism, it must be rigid and repetitive.
A child with autism has trouble communicating, and understanding what other people think and feel, which makes it difficult for the person to express himself or herself by words, gestures, facial expressions or touch.
Research reveals that dogs can experience a similar behavioral condition. Hence, whether or not dogs can truly have autism is becoming one of the most frequently asked questions.
This inquiry came into prominence in 1966, when Veterinarians were engaged in conferencing on whether symptoms of autism can occur in dogs. It was similarly reported in a 2015 investigation by the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, which studied tail-chasing behavior in Bull Terriers and a possible link to autism.
Other similar studies further indicate that Dogs can have autism. However, one must be cautious to assert that because none has established Canine Autism with absolute certainty. Also, considering the fact that a number of other difficult-to-diagnose canine conditions such as anxiety disorder and pain, can cause clinical signs similar to those associated with autism, at best, we can say that dogs MIGHT have autism.
There are two criteria on which Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is based, thus:
- Impairments in social communication and social interaction.
- Restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities.
Signs and Symptoms of French Bulldog Autism
For a dog to be tentatively diagnosed with autism, he or she should exhibit atypical repetitive behaviors and some degree of impaired social interaction with dogs and/or people. Also, a veterinarian must first rule out other conditions that might be responsible for the observed clinical signs.
Hence, in order to know whether your dog has an impairment in social communication and social interaction, look out for the following:
- Failure to respond to his name or if he is not able to hear you all the time;
- If the dog retreats to a world of his own, i.e., he resists cuddling or you holding him and prefers playing alone;
- He doesn't make any facial expressions and avoids durable eye contact with you;
- He doesn't understand simple questions or instructions;
- He doesn't seem to express emotions or feelings, and is kind of ignorant to other people's feelings too;
- Your dog is inappropriately approaching a social interaction by being passive, aggressive or disruptive.
The above behavioral changes are good examples that your dog may have a form of autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Again, in order to know whether your dog has a restrictive, repetitive pattern of behavior, interests, or activities, look out for the following:
- He begins to perform repetitive movements or activities that could cause harm;
- If your dog develops specific routines or rituals and becomes disturbed at the slightest change of things;
- He begins to move constantly
- If he is showing signs of uncooperativeness or resisting changes;
- Has odd, stiff, or exaggerated body language, or other kinds of uncoordinated and odd movement patterns;
- If he becomes unusually sensitive to light, sound, and touch, and yet oblivious to pain;
- He is no longer responsive to imitative or make-believe plays.
- The dog may become fixated on an object or activity with abnormal intensity or focus.
- The dog may also have certain odd preferences when it comes to food. For instance, he may be eating only a few foods and he eats only food with a certain kind of texture.
Note that there's no straight-jacket signs and symptoms of autism, a dog may show a unique combination of symptoms and in various degrees of severity.
How to Manage Autism in French Bulldogs
The first step to managing your Frenchie's autism is to avoid the things that cause atypical behavior to flare up. That means you have to determine the triggers.
For example, if your Frenchie becomes fearful and aggressive when approached by strangers at the dog park, don’t go to the dog park, in the alternative, take a walk down a quiet trail.
Again, try adopting some measures applied to dogs with special needs, like using some commercially available wraps to provide reassuring pressure to the body whenever it is not possible to avoid the triggers.
There are some activities which also help autism patients. One of them is pulling weights. You can train your dog to do heavy work like carrying doggy backpacks filled with soft weight.
More research is being undertaken at the moment by a consortium of medical professionals and institutes under the theme, "Canines, Kids and Autism: Decoding Obsessive Behaviors in Canines and Autism in Children. It is hoped that in the nearest future more definite answers will come to the limelight.
Has your Frenchie shown any of the signs and symptoms disclosed above? You are welcome to share your view in the comment box below.