Is there such a thing as Dog ADHD?

Crazy Dog by Victooooooor, on FlickrThat’s a really great question.  Some veterinarians will say yes and others will say no, so the jury is still out.

For those on the “yay” side of the debate, ‘Hyper Syndrome’ in dogs is the most similar condition we have in veterinary medicine to human ADHD.

As in ADHD for humans, we are still unsure of what may cause hyper syndrome in canines, and many theories have been put forth.  Hence, I’ll give you a brief overview of the causes and generalized treatments for doggie ADHD.

Before we do that, keep in mind that hyper syndrome is sometimes nothing more than a manifestation of neglect.  Often, the term ‘hyperactive’ is used loosely and not necessarily medically.  Such ‘hyperactive’ dogs have nothing genetically, physiologically, or even behaviourally wrong with them – they’re dogs!  They want to go play!  If you lock up breeds who crave exercise, attention, and play for a long time, what would you expect other than a ‘hyperactive’ dog once you let them out of the crate?  In these cases, consistent and proper exercise, positive attention, training and play will fix the problem because there’s nothing truly wrong with the dog to begin with, only something wrong with the human who neglects them.

However, in some cases the problem is actually something medical, behavioural, both (or something else altogether).  The problem with hyper syndrome is that while the outward manifestations of it are sometimes the same, the causes of that behaviour can be many.

One such cause for hyper syndrome in dogs is the food they eat: feeding a dog too much food for their level of activity or from an allergy to the food they eat. In cases of the latter, try and imagine that you’re allergic to something.  You’ll begin to break out, itch, and become restless due to your allergy.  Dogs are no different and they may also be allergic to things around them in their environment, such as dust, pollen, or anything else you or I can be allergic to.  Do note, however, that hyperactivity is rarely the only sign of an allergy (if it’s a sign of it at all).

Regardless, other dogs with hyper syndrome actually have behavioural issues, whereupon they are hyperactive, potentially aggressive and unable to learn simple commands or tricks no matter what level of attention or food you give them.  In these cases, these behaviours may point to a subset of the hyper syndrome called hyperkinesis.  Hyperkinesis is usually diagnosed by looking for a certain response to specific medications and is addressed with behavioural therapy that is coupled with appropriate medical therapy.

In addition, there is another very similar category of hyper syndrome that is simply called ‘hyperactivity’.  It will have the same presenting signs as the hyperkinesis, however its response to therapy is different from hyperkinesis and it is therefore classified as a different subset of the hyper syndrome.

Furthermore, both the hyperactivity and hyperkinesis categories of hyper syndrome require behavioural training in addition to medical intervention.  The good news is that given enough time and effort it may be possible to wean the dog off of their medication as proper behavioural modification sets in.

Last, but certainly not least, there may be other causes of hyperactivity in dogs, such as certain metabolic conditions, which when put under proper medical control will usually result in a return to normal behaviour without the need for additional behavioural modification.

I hope that explains it!

by Artem Cheprasov (‘Animal Guru’)

Question from Laura Quintrell via Facebook


Beaver, B (2008). Insights and answers Canine Behaviour

Article by Artem Cheprasov

May 21, 2013

Dr. Artem Cheprasov was born in St. Petersburg, Russia. He then moved to the U.S. when he was a little boy. So no, he is not a spy. Or is he? He finished his studies in veterinary medicine at the top 10% of his class, conducted research, and discovered a cool mathematics algorithm; but we cannot confirm this as both Washington and Moscow have refused to comment on this matter either because he really is a spy or more likely because they have no idea who he even is.

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