can a dog have tourettes

The Barking Tics: Canine Tourette Syndrome Investigation

As humans, we are familiar with Tourette Syndrome (TS), a neurological disorder characterized by repetitive, involuntary movements and vocalizations called tics. While it affects only about 1% of the population, it is still a well-known condition. 

But what about dogs? Can they also suffer from Tourettes? 

The short answer is that there is not yet a clear answer. While there are no known cases of canine TS, some researchers and veterinarians believe that certain dogs may exhibit similar behaviors. 

Before delving into the possibility of Canine Tourettes, let’s take a closer look at what we know about TS in humans. Tourette Syndrome is generally diagnosed in childhood and typically involves both motor and vocal tics. 

Motor tics can include eye blinking, facial grimacing or jerking movements of the limbs or torso. In contrast, vocal tics can involve grunting, throat clearing or even swearing (coprolalia). The exact cause of TS is unknown although it’s believed to be genetic with environmental factors playing a role in some cases. 

People with TS often experience social stigma due to their unusual behaviors which can lead to anxiety and depression. But does this mean we must be concerned that our furry friends might also have this condition? Here at Pet Gifts & Toys, we go over the question: Can a dog have Tourettes?

Understanding Tourette Syndrome

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Before diving into whether a dog can have Tourettes, it’s important to understand what Tourette Syndrome actually is. Tourette Syndrome is a neurological disorder characterized by repetitive, involuntary movements and vocalizations called tics. 

These tics can be simple, such as eye blinking or throat clearing, or complex, such as jumping or repeating words or phrases. The severity and frequency of these tics can vary widely from person to person. 

While the exact causes of Tourette Syndrome are not yet fully understood, researchers believe that genetic and environmental factors play a role in its development. The disorder is typically diagnosed in childhood or adolescence and often improves in adulthood. 

So how does this relate to dogs? While dogs are obviously very different creatures than humans, they share some similarities regarding behavior disorders. 

For example, dogs can experience anxiety-related disorders like separation anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). While these conditions manifest differently in dogs than in humans with Tourettes, there may still be some overlap regarding the underlying neurological mechanisms. 

Canine Behavior Disorders

Overview of Common Behavior Disorders in Dogs

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Dogs, like humans, can suffer from various behavior disorders that affect their quality of life and the lives of those around them. Separation anxiety is one of the most common behavior disorders seen in dogs. 

This disorder occurs when dogs become distressed or anxious when separated from their owners or other people or animals they are close to. Dogs with separation anxiety may vocalize excessively, chew objects, dig at doors or windows, and engage in other destructive behaviors. 

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is another common behavior disorder seen in dogs. OCD is characterized by repetitive behaviors or compulsions that are performed over and over again without purpose. 

Examples include excessive licking, spinning in circles, and tail chasing. These behaviors can interfere with normal activities such as eating and sleeping. They can be potentially dangerous if the dog injures themselves during their compulsions. 

Possibility of a Tourette-Like Disorder in Dogs

While Tourette Syndrome is not currently recognized as a diagnosis for dogs by the veterinary community, there have been cases reported of dogs exhibiting tics and vocalizations similar to those seen in humans with Tourette’s. These behaviors are often called Canine Compulsive Disorder (CCD) or Stereotypic Behavior Disorder (SBD). 

CCD/SBD is characterized by repetitive movements or vocalizations that serve no obvious function but provide comfort to the dog performing them. These behaviors can include tail chasing, circling, licking objects excessively, barking for no reason and more rarely actual vocal tics like coughing or throat clearing. 

Pet owners must recognize signs of CCD/SBD since these disorders can cause significant distress for the dog and its owner(s). While not curable there are treatments available that can help reduce the frequency and intensity of these unwanted behaviors. 

Research on Canine Tourettes

Studies on repetitive behaviors in dogs

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In recent years, there has been a growing interest in studying repetitive behaviors in dogs that may be similar to human Tourette Syndrome. One study by researchers at the University of Helsinki found that certain breeds of dogs, such as Bull Terriers and German Shepherds, were more likely to display stereotypic behaviors like tail chasing or pacing than other breeds. These behaviors are often thought to be caused by anxiety or boredom. Still, there is also a possibility that they could be related to a neurological disorder. 

Another study published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior found that dogs with compulsive disorders (e.g. excessive licking or spinning) were more likely to have tics and vocalizations than dogs without these disorders. This suggests that there may be a connection between the two types of behavior problems. 

Case studies of dogs displaying tics and vocalizations

There have also been several case studies published about individual dogs displaying tics and vocalizations that resemble those seen in human Tourette Syndrome. For example, one case report described a dog who had sudden episodes of jerking movements and high-pitched barking sounds that would last for several seconds before stopping on their own. 

Another case study reported on a dog who had developed repetitive head shaking and lip licking behaviors after being treated with medication for separation anxiety. These symptoms improved when the medication was discontinued, but returned when it was reintroduced. 

While these case studies cannot definitively prove the existence of canine Tourette Syndrome, they do provide some evidence that certain dogs may experience similar symptoms as humans with this disorder. Further research is needed to better understand this phenomenon and its potential causes. 

Possible Causes of Canine Tourettes

Now that we have established that a Tourette-like disorder is possible in dogs, let’s explore the possible causes. While research on canine Tourettes is limited, there are some factors that may contribute to the development of this disorder in dogs. 

Genetics and hereditary factors

It is well-known that Tourette Syndrome has a genetic component in humans. Similarly, it is possible that certain breeds of dogs may be more prone to developing the disorder due to their genetic makeup. For example, German Shepherds are known to have a higher risk for developing obsessive-compulsive disorders. 

A study published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior found that certain dog breeds were more prone to repetitive behaviors than others. Breeds such as Bull Terriers, Doberman Pinschers and Staffordshire Bull Terriers were found to be at a higher risk for compulsive disorders. 

Environmental triggers

In addition to genetics, environmental triggers may also play a role in the development of canine Tourettes. These triggers can include stress, trauma or even exposure to toxins such as mercury or lead. 

A study published in the Journal of Small Animal Practice found a correlation between environmental stressors and compulsive behaviors in dogs. The study found that dogs who experienced significant life changes such as moving homes or losing a family member were more likely to develop compulsions. 

While research on canine Tourettes is limited, it appears that both genetic and environmental factors may contribute to its development in dogs. Further research is needed in order to gain a better understanding of this complex disorder so we can improve diagnosis and treatment options for our furry friends. 

Treatment Options for Canine Tourettes

Medications Used for Human Treatment

While there is no specific medication developed for canine Tourettes syndrome, some human medications are used to help manage the symptoms. One such medication is Haloperidol, which is an antipsychotic medication that helps control tics and other movement disorders. 

However, it should only be used under veterinary supervision as it can have negative side effects on dogs. Additionally, antidepressant medications like fluoxetine and clomipramine may also be helpful in reducing repetitive behaviors. 

It’s important to note that these medications should only be used as a last resort when behavioral modification therapies have not been effective or when the behaviors are severe enough to cause harm to the dog or others around them. A veterinarian should always evaluate a dog before prescribing any medication. 

Behavioral Modification Techniques

Behavioral modification techniques are the first line of treatment for canine Tourettes syndrome. The goal of behavioral therapy is to reduce the frequency and intensity of tics and other repetitive behaviors by teaching the dog new, more appropriate behaviors. 

One technique commonly used in behavioral therapy is counter-conditioning, where a new behavior that is incompatible with the undesirable behavior is taught. For example, if a dog has repetitive vocalizations when left alone, they may be taught to chew on a toy instead when left alone. 

Another technique often used in conjunction with counter-conditioning is systematic desensitization. This involves gradually exposing the dog to situations that trigger their tics while simultaneously teaching them a new behavior. 

The exposure starts at a level where the tic isn’t triggered and slowly increases over time as they become more comfortable with each level. There are several treatment options available for canine Tourettes syndrome including medications and behavioral modification techniques. 

It’s important to work closely with your veterinarian to determine the best course of action for your dog. With time and patience, many dogs with Tourettes can learn to manage their symptoms and live happy, healthy lives. 


After researching the question of whether dogs can have Tourettes, the answer is not entirely clear. While there are no definitive studies showing that dogs can have Tourette Syndrome as it is diagnosed in humans, there is evidence that they can display repetitive behaviors and vocalizations similar to tics. The potential implications for dog owners and veterinarians are significant. 

For dog owners, understanding the possibility of Tourette-like behavior in their pet can help them better manage their pet’s behavior and provide appropriate care. Knowing what triggers their dog’s repetitive behavior can help owners create a more comfortable environment for their pet. 

For veterinarians, recognizing and diagnosing potential canine Tourettes cases could become an essential part of their practice. Veterinarians may need to be more aware of this disorder when examining dogs exhibiting repetitive behaviors. 

While more research is needed before canine Tourettes can be definitively diagnosed, this article provides evidence that such a disorder could exist in dogs. Dog owners and veterinarians should remain vigilant for signs of behavioral disorders in dogs so that appropriate care can be provided for these beloved pets. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it possible for a dog to experience a nervous tic?

Dogs can exhibit nervous tics, which are repetitive and involuntary movements or behaviors.

Can animals develop tic disorders?

Some animals can develop tic disorders, characterized by repetitive and involuntary movements or vocalizations.

What are examples of behavioral tics in dogs?

Behavioral tics in dogs can include repetitive actions like excessive licking, tail chasing, or pawing.

How can dogs assist individuals with Tourette’s syndrome?

Dogs can provide emotional support and companionship to individuals with Tourette’s syndrome, but they do not directly treat or manage the condition.

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