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Autism In Dogs – The Story Of Pacino And Anna

Inspiring Pet Tails 5 min read
story of pacino

This is the personal story of our loveable and sweet office dog, Pacino who’s pet parent is our pet expert, Anna. Learn all about Anna and Pacino’s experience with autism in dogs in Anna’s own words.

The Story Of Pacino

Enter Pacino, 10 weeks old when I brought her into my home to a Rottweiler mix, a Pit Bull, a cat, and an Amazon parrot.

Pacino as a young puppy.

Pacino’s First Days Home

Upon bringing her into my home, she was immediately different once my other two dogs (Dayton and Marley) came bounding over to greet this new pupper in their home. She casually walked around them, passing under their legs, and explored her new home, tail in the air. Your average puppy so I thought, just was a wee bit nervous due to the changes I assumed.

Pacino as a puppy sitting on the floor. Autism in dogs- pacino's story

On our walks, she was terrified. Tail between her legs and using only her sense of sight rather than smell to survey the environment. Now, most dog parents know that a pooch should also be using their sense of smell as a dog who uses only their sense of sight is often a nervous/aggressive dog. Try as I might, our quick “potty training” walks turned into 45 minute walks just trying to get her to adapt to her environment and go potty. I figured it was ok, she will grow out of this.

At the dog park for the first 4 months, she would sit under the bench or between my legs (not scared) and just watch all the other dogs play, fetch and chase one another. Then one day she sauntered up to a lovely Boston Great Dane and it changed! From that day forward she is the queen of the dog park, greeting every dog as they enter and just having a good time.

Walks With Pacino

As time went on, she started to notice everything. Someone in an apartment building two buildings over had erected a sun umbrella on their balcony, she would not take her eyes off of it until we walked out of sight. It became more apparent that something was different about my girl when there was an open house sign installed on the lawn of a building we walked past every day and she refused to walk past it. Now I know most people would tug their dog and help them pull through it, however, Pacino was literally NOT ok. I felt it was best to cross the street and not push her to the point of hating her walks more so than she already did.

Pacino starting at a leaf on the bathroom floor. Autism in dogs - pacino's story

Now keep in mind, she loves being at home, being in the office with me every day at work, at the dog park, the beach, and car rides as well. I’ve joked that if I had a teleporter for her, that her life would be perfect as she just hates “getting” to where she wants to go. She is not a fan of the traveling part but the end result is great!

Suspecting Autism in Pacino

At two years old, this had not improved. I spoke to my veterinarian and he mentioned that there is a possibility of autism in dogs but they’ve been exploring this since the 1960s without conclusive evidence. This is mostly due to the fact we are unable to diagnose symptoms of being “non-verbal” etc as we can in humans. We left it at that and as time went on a couple of other incidents arose.

It was agreed upon by the two veterinarians that she is a candidate for autism in dogs.

I live in an apartment building and a neighbor had a party. Well someone had left a plastic wine glass on the back stairs and when I took Pacino out in the morning, she saw it and would not walk past it. Much like outside, I will not push her limits when I can tell it’s going to be more stressful to do so. I took her out the front stairs instead. Well, she wouldn’t go potty for 3 days after breaking her routine! I called my veterinarian and also had a consultation with another regarding her behaviors and reactions. It was agreed upon by the two veterinarians that she is a candidate for autism in dogs. I was advised to keep her routine the same, to not push her limits when scared/averse to going somewhere or past something. Although she’ll be “nervous” there really is no cure, and keeping things the same for her will ensure she has a sense of security in all places she goes.

Pacino laying on the bed with Anna's two other dogs, Tatanka, and Marley.

When she was 3 years old, I purchased a new couch. Well didn’t that send her over the edge and she wouldn’t enter my living room for 5 days!

Supporting Pacino

All in all, my baby Pacino has taught me patience and made me very aware of my surroundings! We have many adventures together, she is my shadow and goes everywhere with me as my emotional support doggo. We are aware of each other’s quirks and support each other to get through this crazy thing called life. She’s got to be the most patient member of my pack that I’ve ever had, she’s kind to all other animals and loves her people once she gets to know them (she can definitely be bought with snacks).

She’s brilliant and tends to know things before her humans (energy of certain people, storms, and such). She’s rather taken with random items in the house such as when the cats bring in leaves or the parrot (George) throws a new toy on the floor. She inspects it, observes it, and will remember exactly where it is/was. She still stares at that stair that had the wine glass and she’s now over 7.5 years old!

Pacino wearing a knitted eeyore costume. Autism in dogs - pacino's story

Supplements For Mental Health

After consultation with my veterinarian, I chose to add Lesstress from NHV to her daily regimen. It took a wee bit of time given her predisposition to anxiety and nervousness, but after about 5-6 weeks, I noticed a very great improvement in her while walking to and from work and our other outings. We use this long-term given her autism and it’s been a great support!

Symptoms of Autism

Some of the symptoms associated with autism in dogs are:

  • Anxiety outdoors/social situations
  • Sensitivity to new people’s attention, light, and sounds
  • Distress from breaking routine
  • Adapting to new situations
  • Repetitive behaviors (tail chasing)

If you have any questions about supporting a pet that exhibits these behaviors, reach out to our pet experts for tips on supporting them.

Pet Expert Anna

Pet Expert Anna

Anna has been in the pet health industry for a total of 22 years, in a wide variety of roles. She’s a lifetime pet owner and currently shares her life with 2 large and giant breed dogs, 2 cats, and an Amazon parrot! She’s a passionate advocate for animals to live their most healthy and happy lives, she strives to learn all that she can about pet nutrition, treatment for specific health conditions, and all facets which lead to overall wellness. Contributing to her overall knowledge as a loving pet parent is her certification as a Professional Pet Food Nutrition Specialist. Next on the agenda is completing the Raw Dog Food Nutrition Specialist program, in order to add to the vast knowledge which she has already gained.

Published: December 23, 2020

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