HELSINKI, Finland (StudyFunds) – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is not just for humans – it can also be a problem for our pets. New research reveals that dogs can also develop behavioral disorders that resemble ADHD in humans. The University of Helsinki team adds that gender, age, dog breed and even consideration of the owner affect whether this disease develops.
“Our results can help identify, understand and better treat canine hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention. In addition, they showed similarity to human ADHD, which strengthened the role of dogs in ADHD-related research,” said Professor Hannes Lohi, director of the Helsinki Dog Gene Research Group.
“Dogs have many similarities with humans, including physiological characteristics and the same environment. In addition, ADHD-like behavior occurs naturally in dogs. This makes dogs an interesting model for studying human ADHD,” adds PhD researcher Sini Sulkama.
Dogs at home alone are more often at risk
Professor Loh’s team studied more than 11,000 dogs in their extensive behavioral study. Researchers used questions and metrics that researchers often use in the study of human ADHD. The results show that puppies and male dogs are more susceptible to behavior similar to ADHD. However, this can also be influenced by the owner’s behavior, as dogs that don’t get enough attention, often stay home alone, or don’t move enough show more behavioral changes.
“We found that overactivity, impulsivity, and inattention were more common in young dogs and male dogs. Similar age- and gender-related observations in connection with ADHD have also been made in humans, ”says Dr. Jenni Puurunen.
“As social animals, dogs can become frustrated and stressed when alone, which can be released in the form of hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention. It may be that dogs that spend longer in solitude also get less exercise and attention from their owners, Sulkama says.
In addition to how a dog owner treats his pet, the study also finds that a person’s previous experience with dogs is relevant. The team found a link between hyperactivity and impulsivity and the owner’s previous dog choices.
“People can choose a less active individual as their first dog, which is more in line with the pet dog’s perception, while more active and challenging dogs can be chosen from dogs after gaining more experience,” Sulkama explains.
Dogs can also develop obsessive-compulsive disorder
The authors of the study find that certain breeds are more likely to have ADHD-like characteristics. Much of this is due to their genes and traits that many of these breeds have been bred to show for several generations.
“On the one hand, overactivity and impulsivity, and on the other hand, good ability to concentrate, are common in breeds bred for work, such as the German Shepherd and the Border Collie. In contrast, a calmer attitude is seen as an advantage for pet or show dogs in popular breeds such as the Chihuahua, Longhaired Collie and Poodle, making them easier companions in everyday life. On the other hand, the ability to concentrate has not been considered as an important trait in these breeds as in working breeds, which is why indifference may be more common among pet dogs, ”prof. The salmon says.
Unfortunately, just like humans, the study finds that patients with ADHD often develop other conditions, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). In dogs, this manifests as behavior such as chasing the tail, constant licking of surfaces or oneself, or staring at “nothing”.
“The findings suggest that the same brain regions and neurobiological pathways regulate activity, impulsivity, and concentration in both humans and dogs. This reinforces the promise that dogs show as a model species in ADHD research. In other words, research, Sulkama says.
The findings appear in the journal Translation psychiatry.