Does Your Dog Have ADHD? Can Dogs Even Have ADHD?
As psychiatric medicine evolves, doctors learn and define psychological issues we didn’t know about before. One of the most commonly diagnosed psychiatric conditions in humans is ADHD. Many dog owners can get surprised at how much energy their dogs can have and start saying their dogs have ADHD. Before we start throwing diagnosis, we have to know the answer to the question - Can dogs have ADHD? Here’s what dog behaviorists and trainers have to say about it.
ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is an extensively studied behavioral condition that can severely affect an individual. ADHD will affect a person’s ability to learn, focus, behave, react, and do different things, making basic things in life a lot harder. This condition was studied in adults and younger children, in particular.
The scientific term for ADHD was first mentioned in 1968 in the American Psychiatric Association’s "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders." It wasn’t until 1980 that psychiatric medicine made two distinctions - ADD (Attention deficit disorder) with and without hyperactivity.
Dog ownership has become extremely popular in the past 100 years. Mind you, it was always popular, but dogs had a different role back then. In the past 100 years, humans have started mostly keeping dogs as pets. However, dogs’ temperaments were unchanged, and many pet owners learned dogs are highly energetic. Especially breeds that were bred for work.
Since the 1990s, when ADHD became a widely familiar term, dog owners started wondering, “Can dogs have ADHD?” The best possible answer is - Yes. However, in the canine world, ADHD has a different name and slightly different symptoms. It is called hyperkinesis.
Hyperkinesis is, in many things, very similar to ADHD in humans. Dogs with hyperkinesis, or dog ADHD, have trouble focusing, learning, or reacting to their environment. In a more scientific term, the exact description would be, “fail to attenuate to external stimuli.” That means that dogs don’t have the appropriate reaction to their environment. For example, if your dog is in a calm room with a soft bed, fed, has water, and is exercised, they should calm down. Dogs with dog ADHD fail to do that.
There are ways you can notice if your dog has canine ADHD or hyperkinesis. Many dogs are misdiagnosed by their owners, and when they take them in for a checkup, their vet says they have a normal dog whose needs are not met. To fully understand and determine whether your dog has ADHD, you have to learn the symptoms.
Like with any other disorder, physical or psychological, the patient will show specific symptoms that will help vets diagnose the condition. If you think your dog might have canine ADHD, here are the most common symptoms they will display;
- Exceptionally short attention spans
- Inability to focus on a single task
- They are easily distracted
- A high degree of impulsiveness
- Opposite reactions to their environment (agile and alert in calm situations)
Many dog owners think their dogs have some form of canine ADHD because their dogs aren’t behaving in a manner they might expect them to. Working dogs became trendy pets. Selective breeding tried to bring their energy levels down and make them more suitable family pets, but they still remain pretty energetic. Suppose you have an energetic breed, like a Border Collie, Australian Shepherd, or a Doberman. In that case, you have to do a simple task to determine if your dog actually has canine ADHD.
Hyperkinetic dogs fail to concentrate on one task, so it is pretty easy to perform a basic test. The “click and reward” game will be impossible to play with a dog that has ADHD. However, energetic dogs will have no problem focusing on a game based on food rewards.
There are different ways you can treat a hyperkinetic dog. If your vet determined your dog actually has a hyperkinetic disorder, you should listen to their advice. In most cases, your vet can perform an amphetamine test (Ritalin test) and determine in 2 hours if your dog has canine ADHD or you just have an active breed. Treating a hyperkinetic dog will be challenging, and it will require you to adjust different areas of their lives. Here’s what your dog will need;
This is a “cure” for energetic breeds and breeds with hyperkinesis. If you have an energetic dog, providing additional exercise will help them feel content and happy. A lot of behavioral issues can be solved this way. However, hyperkinetic dogs will need even more than that, but additional exercise is the first step.
Your vet might tell you to adjust your dog’s diet. Give them food that contains less protein percentage, so their overall energy levels get lower. You can also use calming dog treats and CBD dog treats.
As your dog’s treatment moves forward, their ability to focus will improve. You should include different mental games, puzzles, or snuffle mats to capture their interest and force them to use their brains. The more your dog feels psychologically “drained,” the happier and more content they will be.
Vets can prescribe different medications and supplements that can affect your dog’s energy levels and behavior. One of those medications is D-amphetamine. It will affect the dog’s reuptake of norepinephrine and dopamine into the presynaptic neuron. They can advise you to give your dog valerian root, L-theanine, or GABA.
Dogs can have the canine version of ADHD - hyperkinesis. However, it is extremely rare. Most dog owners misdiagnose their dogs because their dogs are surprisingly energetic. Most of the behavioral issues can be resolved with increased physical activity, training, and socialization. However, if your dog does have ADHD, you should consult your vet regarding the dog’s treatment and lifestyle.
World Dog Finder team