ADHD in Dogs: Does It Really Exist?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a possibility in dogs. Non-stop running, excessive barking, and inability to focus are visible signs of ADHD in dogs. Although these signs are common in many dogs, their continued showcase together with overactivity and hyper-reactivity hints at the presence of canine ADHD.

ADHD in Dogs - Beagle running with toy

ADHD in Dogs: Not All Overactive Dogs Have ADHD

Some dogs are more active than the others. Overactivity does not necessarily indicate hyperactivity or ADHD in dogs.  A dog’s activity level depends on many factors, especially on his age, sex, and breed.

For example, puppies are more rambunctious than adult dogs. They have so much energy trapped in their little bodies. Because young puppies can barely contain themselves, they can be very stubborn, overactive, and hard to control.

Sex also affects a dog’s activity level. Intact male dogs can be more active, dominant, and territorial than female dogs. They are also easily distracted compared to female dogs.

Australian Shepherds, Border Collies, German Shepherds, and Collies need a longer period of activities than other dog breeds. As herding dogs, they require vigorous daily exercise in order to stay calm and balanced. Staying idle at home all day can make these dogs vocal, anxious, unruly, and destructive. When they are not able to spend their energy, they tend to play a lot rougher than normal dogs. Sighthounds also tend to be hyper-reactive and easily distracted by fast-moving objects.

Hyperthyroidism can also make dogs overactive. Dogs who do not get exercise regularly and sufficiently tend to become very rowdy.

The dogs described above do not automatically have ADHD, although a very small percentage of them may do.


Signs of ADHD in Dogs: Which Ones Have ADHD

Dogs who have ADHD show multiple behavioral problems, including overactivity, attention deficits, excessive barking, lack of focus, and impulsive actions. This can be confusing as many dogs display just one or two of these symptoms due to different factors, such as genes, age, daily routine, and lack of exercise. Thus, identifying ADHD in dogs is more complicated.

It is possible that your dog has ADHD if he remains hyperactive despite having sufficient exercise, interaction with both humans and other dogs, and having no known anxiety issue. He may overreact to the presence of unfamiliar people and animals.

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If your pet has ADHD, he may also be harder to train than normal dogs because he gets bored easily with repetitive tasks and commands.


Diagnosing ADHD in Dogs

Because true ADHD in dogs is very rare, diagnosing the condition involves ruling out behavioral and physical problems first.

First, make an assessment of the dog’s living condition. Ensure he is not rewarded for unwanted behavior. Let your vet check the dog for anxiety, phobias, dominance, and territorial dominance. Signs of health issues, such as hyperthyroidism and dementia, should also be evaluated.

Once potential behavioral and medical issues are ruled out, a prescribed stimulant may be used to help confirm ADHD in your dog. The drug is given under very controlled clinical conditions, in which the dog’s behavior, respiratory rate, and heart rates are monitored. Interestingly, ADHD is diagnosed if the stimulant causes calming effects on the dog.


How To Help Dogs with ADHD

Make sure he gets good nutrition and plenty of exercises. Any lifestyle imbalance, physical and behavioral problem must also be addressed.

When a dog is clinically diagnosed with ADHD, veterinarians often prescribe the same drugs used to treat the disorder in humans. Ritalin is the most common drug prescribed to dogs with ADHD.   The drug corrects a neuron imbalance that causes ADHD in dogs – helping dogs with the condition to de-stress and calm down.Although it is legal for veterinarians to prescribe Ritalin to dogs ADHD, the drug is not yet approved by the FDA for pet use.

According to a 2016 study, dogs with ADHD have low levels of fatty acids in their blood. For this reason, veterinarians often recommend giving Omega-3 fatty acids to dogs who exhibit signs of ADHD.

Other treatment options for ADHD in dogs include calming herbs, such as skullcap, valerian, and chamomile.


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