Can Dogs Be Retarded?

You love your pet dog, you really do. But there are times you may wonder if, perhaps, he may be a bit slow. I don’t mean not fast, but “slow” in a mental way. Is that even possible? Could you be the loving owner of a dumb or a retarded dog?

Can Dogs Be Mentally Retarded?

The answer, of course, is yes. Dogs can be subject to just as many mental problems as humans, and there can be just as many causes. Inbreeding can cause usually recessive genes to come to the fore. This may certainly be the case in purebred animals bred primarily for looks rather than temperament and behavior. If any animal looks good in the competition arena, who cares if he is a bit slow in other areas.

Additionally, brain damage can occur at birth due to a particularly difficult delivery, or a lack of oxygen at the time.

It could also be caused by some unknown toxin to which the mother was exposed during her pregnancy. Or, a curious puppy may have consumed a toxin on his own, leading to deleterious effects on his mental capacity. This simply means that your puppy may be slow, but certainly not unloveable.

How To Tell If Your Dog Is Mentally Challenged

There are certain signs to look for if you suspect that your pet has certain mental challenges.

Does he exhibit a certain cognitive dullness, unable to recognize his surroundings? He may exhibit an inability to learn, or simply a greatly diminished capacity. He may never learn to sit on command, or merely take forever.

Does he stare off into nothingness, and you just know he is not contemplating the world political situation. Or even his new chewy toy. Just staring.

Is he calm to the point where he seems to be without emotion? Nothing moves him to joy, affection, or even fear. His behavior may not be typical of dogs, and he may not play with you or his canine companions as you would expect him to.

There may be virtually no interaction at all as he seems to live in his own little world. And his head may tilt to one side. You may think this makes him look cutely inquisitive, but it could be a sign of mental impairment.

Perhaps you have noticed him running or walking sideways. Surely this does not strike you as normal. And he may seem to forget just where to find his food dish, though you have never moved it from the accepted position.

And he may wander around, looking for a way out of the house, despite the fact that the door, like his food dish, has never been moved from its customary position.

One situation, which may seem a bit comical at first, but is certainly cause for concern, is seeing him walk into a corner and not know how to extricate himself. If you have seen any of these signs or symptoms, sorry to say, but your dog may, indeed, be mentally challenged.

This does not mean that he cannot live a complete doggy life, as long as he can run, play, remember, and learn a few basic commands.

But, aside from mental conditions arising from a damaged brain, your dog may be mentally challenged by certain psychological conditions.

You may be amused by a young puppy chasing his tail. This behavior is common. But if it continues, becoming almost constant, especially in older dogs, this may be a sign of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Regularly chasing shadows is yet another sign of this disorder. And a dog is not a goat! Puppies will routinely chew on unacceptable items, but if your adult dog suddenly develops an appetite for your socks, this may be yet another sign of OCD.

We’ve all, on occasion, been unnerved by our pet’s licking of certain body parts, but excessive licking of any body part is cause for concern. Not only can this cause damage to his skin, but it can also be a sign of excessive anxiety.

Quite a few pets may become anxious when in unfamiliar surroundings, such as taking a walk in the city or visiting a crowded park. But if your dog becomes overly anxious, this may be a sign of an underlying disorder.

Some anxiety is relieved by his wearing a thundershirt or thundercap, but if these items now seem to have lost their effectiveness, it’s time to reconsider his mental health.

A dog who constantly sleeps, or one who exhibits a loss or decline in appetite, may be suffering from depression.

Dogs, just like humans, will mourn the loss of a companion, whether it is a canine playmate or lifemate, or a human buddy. And, just like us, they should adjust to the loss in time. If their sadness or depression seems excessive, this is a sign they need help.

We are all well aware that a wagging tail is a sign of happiness, and a tail that does not wag at all should be cause for concern about your dog’s mental health.

Many breeds can suffer from the sprained tail syndrome, which is just what it sounds like. This condition will usually resolve itself within a few days, and the tail will be clicking back and forth like a metronome in no time at all.

But if it does not resolve itself, this is a sure sign of canine depression.

And, while we all know that certain breeds of dogs have a reputation for being aggressive, we also know that with proper training this can be controlled.

But sudden, uncharacteristic aggression may be an overt sign of your pet’s insecurity and should be dealt with.

So, Can Dogs Be Mentally Challenged?

As we can see, your dog’s mental challenges can be congenital in nature, or more psychological.

Some congenital cases can be dealt with by a visit to the vet. Psychological problems, while less physically debilitating, will require more specialized assistance.

A visit to your vet is the first step for a thorough evaluation. He may advise you on steps you can take on your own to assist your pet to overcome these challenges.

The vet may also advise you to consult a canine behaviorist or training to handle more difficult cases. You will have to be patient in order to resolve these issues but bear in mind that while you may be inconvenienced by the problem, it is your pet who is truly suffering.

Related Questions

Can Dogs Have Down’s Syndrome?

Downs Syndrome in humans is caused by an abnormal chromosome. Dogs and humans share many things, but are different, chromosomally speaking, in many ways.

Your dog probably cannot have Downs Syndrome, per se, but can suffer from a number of conditions that can mimic the disorder, such as congenital hypothyroidism, pituitary dwarfism, congenital hydrocephalus, growth hormone deficiency, or portosystemic shunt. If you have any suspicions, a visit to the vet is important.

Can Dogs Have Autism?

The jury is still out on this one, as there is still not enough research into what is, and is not, normal behavior for canines. For a vet to make a tentative diagnosis of autism your dog must exhibit atypical, repetitive behaviors and show impaired social interaction, both with humans and other dogs, but these symptoms can also be associated with other behavioral problems as well.

How To Know If You Have A Special Needs Dog?

A special needs dog is one who requires care and attention above the norm. This includes heat sensitivity, dietary needs, daily medication dependency, fear reactivity/aggression, and high energy dogs.

Do All Dogs Have Williams Syndrome?

Research has shown that about the time when humans started to domesticate wolves, a genetic mutation occurred in the wolf genome similar to Williams Syndrome in humans.

Williams Syndrome gives the face an elf-like appearance, cognitive difficulties, and the inclination to love everybody. Since wolves that were successfully domesticated were probability carries of this abnormal gene, it is not wrong to assume that most dogs today may also be affected.


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