Hyperkinesis in dogs is a rare behavioral disorder that can affect our furry friends. Much worse than basic hyperactivity in dogs, canines that suffer from this behavioral condition can struggle greatly in their day to day lives.
Since hyperkinesis can often be misdiagnosed due to the similarity to other behavioral problems, it’s important to understand the true signs of this condition.
In this article, we’ll dive into the basics of hyperkinesis in dogs, the signs to look for, and how to handle this condition.
What Is Hyperkinesis In Dogs?
Hyperkinesis in dogs is truly a canine form of Attention Deficit Hyper-activity Disorder (ADHD).
Unlike normal hyperactive dogs, those that suffer from hyperkinesis have a difficult time settling down no matter how much exercise or mental stimulation they receive.
ADHD in dogs, otherwise known as “hyperkinesis,” can be defined as dogs who display frenetic activity, abnormally short attention spans, and high impulsiveness.
They can demonstrate aggression, reactive behavior, and overbearing attention-seeking behavior that can be disruptive inside of your home.
Similar to adults or children that experience true ADHD, they can struggle to accomplish day to day tasks without the help of medical intervention and proper behavioral skills.
Hyperkinesis is an actual behavioral disorder versus standard hyper behavior and needs to be addressed in order to help your pup live a stress-free life.
Difference Between Hyperkinesis And A Hyper Dog
When discussing hyperkinesis in dogs, it’s important to know just how rare this condition is.
Similar to ADHD in children, hyperkinesis is often overdiagnosed by considering normal hyper dogs to be suffering from this behavioral disorder. There is a huge difference between a hyperkinetic dog and a dog with rambunctious behavior.
Dogs with ADHD have exceptionally short attention spans and a high degree of impulsiveness that makes it impossible for them to focus on one task for long.
They also have a difficult time settling down and becoming accustomed to their environment. They are always on high alert and seem to catch attention to every single stimulus in the environment, no matter how normal it may be.
While most hyper pups are able to adjust to stimulus around them once the initial excitement dies down, hyperkinetic dogs seem to never settle.
Hyperkinetic dogs also tend to be especially sensitive to sudden changes in their environment.
Changes in your home can set them off, and leave them on edge for a longer time than usual. They tend to overreact to the presence of a strange person or animal and have a difficult time adjusting to the new stimulus.
Dogs that just experience standard hyper behavior may react to the new changes or stimulus initially but are able to adjust and settle down fairly quickly.
In addition to the other complications of hyperkinesis in dogs, they do not handle boredom well.
While most dogs are typically able to settle down and adjust to the mood in their home at the moment, dogs with ADHD have extreme difficulty during calm days.
They seem to bounce off the walls when they are lacking stimulation, and are usually unable to enjoy lazy days with their owners.
What Causes Hyperkinesis In Dogs?
Since hyperkinesis in dogs is so rare, it’s not well understood in the veterinary world.
Since there are some high energy breeds that seem more prone to hyperkinesis, it can be challenging to separate the normal breed behavior with the actual ADHD behavioral condition.
Since these dogs with hyperkinesis often find so much relief with medication, it’s believed to be an actual genetic disorder.
Experts think it’s the combination of genetics and the environment in which a dog is raised, and how often they were exposed to other people and animals throughout their lives.
A 1961 study conducted by Waller and Fuller also found that puppies raised in isolation exhibited excessive social contact behavior when given access to other puppies.
When kept with their litters at all times, the excessive behavior decreased by 75 percent.
This study showed that dogs may have a biological need for a certain minimum amount of daily stimulation and activity, and if that need is not met, a dog compensates with excessive activity.
Hyperkinesis is also thought to be exacerbated in dogs that have received physical punishment of any kind.
Signs Of Hyperkinesis In Dogs
Since hyperkinesis is separate from normal hyperactive behaviors in dogs, there are a few signs that can help to determine the possibility of an actual behavioral condition. Some common signs of hyperkinesis in dogs include:
- Extreme hyperactivity
- Fast heart rate
- Panting that never seems to settle
- Excessive barking and crying
- Difficulty understanding obedience training
- Extremely short attention span
- Unable to settle down when your house is calm
- Seeming on edge and at alert at all times
- Sensitivity to sound and other stimuli. Always on alert to sounds in and outside of their home
- Mouthy behavior when greeting new animals or people
- Inability to settle when a new person enters your home
- Aggression associated with new stimulus or overstimulation
- Excessive salivation when becoming over excited
- Excessive barking and howling when hearing sounds
Treating Hyperkinesis In Dogs
If you fear that your dog struggles with hyperkinesis, there are a few ways to treat the disorder.
While you may need to visit your veterinarian if the problem becomes severe, there are a few changes you can implement before seeking medical intervention.
Some methods to help treat hyperkinesis in dogs include:
1. Daily exercise
This is possibly the most effective way to help resolve the symptoms associated with hyperkinesis. Since these dogs have a difficult time settling down, it’s important to help them tire themselves out by participating in daily exercise.
This can involve taking your dog on a long walk, playing fetch in your backyard, taking your dog along on a hike, or any other physical activity that lasts for at least 30 minutes each day.
The more tired a dog is at the end of the day, the less likely they are to be overcome by their hyperactive behavior.
This is extremely important in high energy breeds, as they require a minimum of 30 minutes of daily exercise in general.
If you own a high energy breed that struggles with ADHD, you may need to increase their daily exercise time even more.
2. Mental Stimulation
Most of the symptoms associated with hyperkinesis in dogs involve their brain acting in overdrive.
Their minds are running in a million different directions at once, and this is why it’s so challenging for them to calm down and adapt to their surroundings.
Luckily, there are many options available today for mentally stimulating dog toys.
Mentally stimulating toys such as Kong toys filled with treats, licking pads that allow you to apply peanut butter or other treats, puzzles, sandpits that hide toys, and sound-making toys allow your dog to focus on the toy rather than the outside stimulus that’s causing them distress.
Since the bulk of hyperactive behavior is displayed toward other people and animals in dogs that have ADHD, it’s important to desensitize your pup to these factors.
By exposing them to other people and animals in and outside of your home from a young age, they are less likely to display excessive behavior when coming in contact with them in the future.
Since dogs with hyperkinesis can experience aggressive behavior when they are overstimulated, it also makes these pups a safer member of your family when they are less likely to be overwhelmed by other people or dogs.
Proper socialization is one of the best ways to ensure a safe adult dog in the future.
4. Specialized Training
Since hyperkinetic dogs struggle with training due to their short attention span, it’s best to work with a trainer that is equipped to handle dogs with behavioral struggles.
These pups can be a challenge to train, so you’ll need someone who’s up to the task.
While you can certainly implement your own obedience training at home, it’s important to realize when the problem is out of your league.
If you are unable to keep your dog’s attention, or it begins to seem like your dog is overpowering you, it’s important to seek professional training help before the problem becomes more difficult to conquer.
5. Veterinary Help
If it seems like none of the above options bring your pup any relief, it’s time to turn to your veterinarian for additional help.
While some dogs with hyperkinesis can find relief with a change in their daily routine, some will require the assistance of medication.
Just like adults and children with ADHD, some only find balance when they are taking daily medication that can help ground them.
There is nothing wrong with turning to a medicinal approach, and it may be the best option for your furry friend.
Hyperkinesis in dogs is a behavioral disorder that can cause your pup a great deal of distress.
If you think your pup is past the level of normal hyperactive behavior, it’s time to consider the possibility of ADHD in dogs!