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Can Dogs Have Tourettes? 7 Things You Need To Know (2023)

Can Dogs Have Tourettes

Sudden and unusual behaviors?

You’d think they’re common in our four-legged friends.

But what if it’s becoming too frequent and aggressive?

You have a suspicion…

However, is it possible for them to get Tourettes like humans?

Continue reading to find out:

  • Whether dogs can have Tourettes or not.
  • If other animals can also have this syndrome.
  • 7 conditions that might be confused with Tourettes in dogs.
  • How canines get each disorder and its common symptoms.
  • And much, much more…

Can dogs have Tourettes?

Dogs may have the potential to get Tourettes. But you’ll rarely observe this in canines. Usually, dogs only develop similar behaviors to the condition. This is because experts believe that the syndrome is due to a problem with the basal anglia in the brain. And it’s found both in humans and dogs.

“What’s a basal anglia?”

It’s a part of the brain affected by specific neurotransmitters.

“What are those?”

Those are serotonin and dopamine. And an irregular count of these may play a role in having Tourette syndrome.

Cats have a similar condition called feline hyperesthesia syndrome, a.k.a. ‘twitchy cat disease.’ 

And tics were also observed in horses.


There’s no specific study about this on dogs yet. 

This is why until now, it’s only a mere possibility.


What can be confused with Tourettes?

#1: Paroxysmal dyskinesia

Experts also refer to this condition as ‘atypical seizures.’

“What does it do to dogs?”

Vets say that this ailment causes canines to tremble all of a sudden. And during the episode, they’ll also be unable to walk or stand up.

But once the ‘seizure’ is over, they’ll appear normal – as if nothing happened.

Want to know what it looks like? Watch this short clip.

“How long does each episode last?”

Each episode can last up to 2 to 5 minutes.

It usually happens before or after sleeping. But it can also occur when a dog is excited or exercising.

“What may have caused this?”

Dyskinesia mainly affects Labrador Retrievers. So, this might be inherited.

But, here’s some good news.

I came across a study about this in Maltese dogs who had dyskinesia.

To improve their condition, they were given a gluten-free diet. Then out of 7 Maltese dogs, 6 didn’t experience any episodes from then on.

“Okay. So, how does gluten affect Paroxysmal dyskinesia?”

Based on the same research, the said disease has many forms.

One of them is Paroxysmal gluten-sensitive dyskinesia, a.k.a. PGSD.

“What is it?”

As its name implies, this type is caused by an intolerance to gluten.

So, to manage and prevent further episodes…

A gluten-free diet is introduced to the affected dogs.

#2: Myoclonus

Next, this condition is characterized by muscle jerks. So it could also be mistaken for Tourette syndrome in dogs.

But did you know that we, humans, also experience this in our daily lives?


Yup. Doctors say that hiccups are a type of myoclonus. And even that weird sensation of falling as you doze off is counted.

But in dogs, the term mainly refers to repeated involuntary movements. 

Say, jerking a specific muscle up to 60 times per minute.

According to PetMD, this usually affects the limb and chewing muscles. And it might be due to:

  • Genetics.
  • Swelling of the brain or spinal cord.

However, this could also be a sign of…

#3: Canine distemper

You may have already heard about this.

It’s a deadly virus that’s spread not only in dogs.

But also to other members of the ‘Canidae family.’ Say, foxes and wolves.

“How do dogs get this?”

It’s highly contagious.

It can be passed from one Fido to another by sneezing or coughing. And a dog may also get this by eating or drinking in an infected bowl.

But don’t worry.

Vaccines can help prevent this.

“Okay. But what does it do to dogs?”

Vets say that the canine distemper virus attacks the nervous system.

Then once it does, the infected dog may display these ‘tic-like’ behaviors:

  • Circling.
  • Tilting of the head.
  • Twitching of muscles.
  • Jaw chewing movements.

Aside from seizures and tremors, dogs may also have these other symptoms:

  • Coughing.
  • Severe vomiting.
  • Extreme drooling.
  • Difficulty swallowing.
  • Thickening of footpads.
  • Watery or pus-like eye discharge.

#4: Canine compulsive disorder (CCD)

Canine Compulsive Disorder Can Be Confused With Tourettes

According to a survey, 1.2% of people in the U.S. have obsessive-compulsive disorder, a.k.a. OCD.

This refers to having persistent thoughts and urges that can’t be easily controlled.

But did you know that OCD also has a counterpart in dogs?

Dr. Nicholas Dodman proved this in his study. And it’s called ‘canine compulsive disorder’ or CCD.

So this could be the reason why they have a sudden urge to chase their tail or bite the air.

Other common obsessive behaviors in dogs are:

“Why does this happen?”

VCA Hospitals say that genes might play a role.

This is because CCD is mainly seen in certain breeds. Such as:

  • Bull Terriers.
  • Doberman Pinschers.
  • Miniature Schnauzers.


CCD can also be due to anxiety. And affected dogs are doing it as a coping mechanism.

Also, some dogs might do this because of discomfort in a certain part of their body. 

So you may catch them randomly biting or scratching themselves.

If you want to know more, read this article: 9 Reasons Why Your Dog Keeps Looking At Their Back End

#5: Canine dysfunctional behavior (CDB)

“So if this isn’t Tourettes…

Can my dog have an autism spectrum disorder, a.k.a. ASD, instead?”

Well, technically, no.

But, it’s right to say that your dog may have ‘canine dysfunctional behavior, a.k.a. CDB.

“What’s that?”

Like CCD to OCD, this condition is also a counterpart of ASD in canines.

This condition happens when a puppy lacks ‘mirror neurons.’

These help dogs learn the ways of adult Fidos and adapt to situations. 

So if a dog has CDB, they’ll find it hard to act accordingly. And they’ll also show these signs:

  • Aloofness.
  • OCD behaviors.
  • Hypersensitivity.
  • Communication problems.

Trivia: Research says that dogs can help experts understand ASD. Also, it’s said to be better than other animal models, such as rodents.

“Why’s that?”

There are 3 reasons.

One, because humans share more similar symptoms with dogs than rodents. Say, repetitive behaviors.

For example, a human with ASD may flick a light switch repeatedly. While a dog with CDB might chase their tail nonstop.

Two, the condition in dogs and humans can be due to a mutated gene. And it’s called ACTL6B in a recent study.

Lastly, since the cause is similar…

Human treatments also have the same effects on dogs.

#6: ADHD

Sometimes, a dog’s sudden behavior may look like ‘tics.’

But, they can only be frequent bursts of energy.

And aside from autism, ADHD can also be observed in dogs. But experts prefer to call it ‘hyperactivity.’

Some of its common symptoms in dogs are:

  • Overarousal.
  • Impulsiveness.
  • Short attention span.

Read next: 17 Hyperactive Dog Symptoms + 11 Tips To Calm Down Your Dog

Interesting fact: A 2021 study says that ADHD is more common in puppies and male Fidos. Also, dogs who are often alone at home are found to be more hyperactive than those who aren’t.

#7: REM behavior disorder

Lastly, if the episodes happen while a dog is asleep…

It might not be a tic but a simple sign that they’re in ‘REM sleep.’

“What does it mean?”

REM stands for rapid eye movement.

It’s usually the stage of sleep where humans (and animals) dream.

Believe it or not, even rats can dream while they sleep. 

But going back to dogs, this can make them twitch in their naps.

However, if their actions become violent, it might be a REM behavior disorder. Say, running into a wall.

Note: Avoid petting your pooch while they’re sleeping or dreaming. Why? They might be awakened and get confused. And it may lead to jolting or biting.

You might also want to check out: 5 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Pet Dogs While They’re Asleep

#BONUS: Stimulus you can’t perceive

Wait. One more thing…

Does your dog suddenly lunges, bark, or stare at nothing?

It may look like your Fido has a tic or sixth sense.

But usually, they might only be hearing things that our human ears can’t perceive.

Trivia: A study shows that dogs can hear ultrasonic sounds.

This means they can detect even the slightest noise of a tiny insect.

So don’t fret if your pooch acts normal most of the time. Then barks repeatedly at a certain part of the room.

Your dog may only be telling you that a termite is eating up the drywall.

Dogs can have tics, not Tourettes

Usually, dogs’ tic-like behaviors can only be due to anxiety or boredom. For example, a canine may repeat an action repeatedly as it calms them. But, they can also do it to cope with too much stress. 

But it’s different if the behavior comes with other symptoms like lethargy. 

Instead, it might be due to a disease or disorder. Such as:

  • ADHD.
  • Myoclonus.
  • Atypical seizures.
  • Canine distemper.
  • REM behavior disorder.
  • Canine compulsive disorder (CCD).
  • Canine dysfunctional behavior (CDB).