Some dogs show signs of ADHD, just like humans
Having ADHD is a lot like watching TV with someone who refuses to responsibly handle the remote. Instead of finding a schedule and sticking to it, this hypothetical viewer stubbornly insists on surfing, going from channel to channel before they can focus on what’s on screen.
As someone with ADHD, I can attest that when left untreated it looks a lot like this – emphasizing that you are not the one holding the remote. Someone else chooses the channels, leaving you feeling helpless.
This is not the sort of thing one would wish for our loyal animal friends. Still, a new study reveals that dogs can exhibit ADHD symptoms similar to those known in their human counterparts, suggesting that there may indeed be ADHD dogs around the world.
“The domestic dog can spontaneously manifest high hyperactivity / impulsivity and inattention which are components of human ADHD,” write researchers at the University of Helsinki in a new study published by the journal Translational Psychiatry. “Therefore, a better understanding of the demographic, environmental and behavioral factors influencing canine hyperactivity / impulsivity and inattention could benefit both humans and dogs.”
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To find out more about the extent to which dogs have ADHD-like traits, Finnish scientists analyzed more than 11,000 companion dogs in their country. After studying their behaviors at length, scientists concluded that some dogs were more likely to struggle to pay attention and display hyperactive and impulsive actions – especially young, male dogs who spent more time at home alone. A dog’s breed also made a significant difference: among the 23 breeds studied, Cairn Terriers, Jack Russell Terriers, German Shepherds, and Staffordshire Bull Terriers had the highest scores for hyperactivity and impulsivity. On the other hand, the breeds with the lowest scores included the Chinese Crested Dog, the Rough Collie, and the Chihuahua. This suggests a genetic basis for these traits.
The study also offered a stark contrast to previous research which found that small dogs are more impulsive (or, in the case of some stereotypes, anxious). Researchers at the University of Helsinki found that medium and large dogs had higher scores for hyperactivity and impulsivity than smaller ones. At the same time, the authors emphasized that height differences alone cannot explain the differences in these traits. There were other correlating factors as well, some of which may also be causal.
“Hyperactivity / impulsivity and inattention presented strong comorbidities with compulsive behavior, aggression and fear,” the authors added. “Several of these associations have also been identified in humans, reinforcing the dog’s role as an animal model for ADHD.”
Scientists already know that dogs, despite their popular image of lovable clowns, are also extremely intelligent and emotionally complex. Thanks to dogs like Bunny the Sheepadoodle, scientists even gain insight into how dogs perceive themselves in the context of the world around them. It has also led to a thriving industry of pharmaceuticals for dogs, which can help them in their battle with mental health issues similar to those that can plague humans. As with humans, however, the key to success is avoiding excess.
“My point of view is on the side of caution,” James A. Serpell, professor of ethics and animal welfare at the University of Pennsylvania, told Salon. “Do not use these drugs on animals unless it is really necessary to calm the animal and prevent the worst symptoms of anxiety, and try to think of it as a short-term thing, something you would do. for a while until you find a more satisfying way of dealing with the problem by behavior modification and things like that. “