What are Hyperkinesis?
This condition is a physiological disorder that is often exacerbated by punishment in an attempt to correct inappropriate behavior, reduced activity due to difficulty to control, and impulsivity. If you suspect your pet may suffer from hyperkinesis discuss your concerns with your veterinarian.
Hyperkinesis in dogs is a rare behavioral condition that is often confused with hyperactivity, poor training or overactivity. Dogs suffering from this condition often show symptoms such as aggression and agitation, and failure to habituate to external stimuli.
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Symptoms of Hyperkinesis in Dogs
- Poor trainability
- Excessive vocalization
- Extreme sensitivity to sound and stimuli
- Aggression associated with overstimulation
- Excessive salivation
Causes of Hyperkinesis in Dogs
Hyperkinesis in dogs is not very well understood and is rare within veterinary practice. It can be difficult to differentiate between healthy dogs that have behavioral requirements that are not being met, especially in breeds that require high amounts of activity and mental stimulation. The urbanization of working and farm dogs seems to have contributed to an increase in hyperactive dogs, as has high expectations from owners who are unaware of the training commitment dogs pose, especially during puppyhood. However, true hyperkinesis seems to affect adult dogs which can be seen to be over reactive to normal sound and stimuli.
Diagnosis of Hyperkinesis in Dogs
Your veterinarian will perform a nose to tail physical examination on your pet and ask questions to determine a full, clinical history. Other similarly presenting conditions that may be considered are:
- Allergies such as protein allergies
- Poor training
- Attention deficit disorders or attention seeking behavior
If your veterinarian suspects hyperkinesis due to your pet’s clinical history, a diagnostic test can be performed. This will involve your pet being taken into a quiet room and having his pulse, respiration and heart rate and salivation monitored. He will then be orally given d-amphetamine at a rate of 0.2mg/kg. Your pet will be monitored for adverse reactions to the drug. After a period of 30 – 70 minutes your pet will have their pulse, respiration rate and salivation monitored once again. If these have decreased your veterinarian will likely make the diagnosis of hyperkinesis.
Treatment of Hyperkinesis in Dogs
Often the initial treatment recommended by veterinarians is daily exercise, stimulation and socialization. Halter leads may be beneficial when walking your pet as they allow you to gently guide your pet’s line of sight. Stimulation such as kong toys filled with treats, puzzles, sand pits and balls may also give your pet an outlet. As pets’ who are exhibiting behavior of hyperkinesis often have pent up energy. Activities such as obedience training and competing may be an excellent way to direct energy, while providing social rewards and strengthening your bond with your pet.
Your veterinarian will help you develop a program and effective strategies to support your pet. The initial plan may be to decrease exposure to the stressor and your pet may be prescribed medication. Your veterinarian may recommend contacting a canine behavior expert for hands-on guidance. An experienced canine behaviorist will be able to help you in learning training principles and techniques that are designed to calm your pet and bring his arousal levels down, this includes clicker training and social rewards. As your pet is likely to react drastically to stimuli, including that of other people, it is vital to remain in a calm, non-reactive state while around your pet. This is particularly important when your pet is displaying inappropriate behaviors; often the best method is to ignore the inappropriate behavior and reward the wanted one.
Dog appeasing pheromone plug in sprays release synthetic hormones and have been shown to reduce stress in dogs, this may be beneficial as a complimentary treatment for your pet.
D-amphetamine has been shown to be effective as a management tool for dogs with hyperkinesis. This drug works by blocking the reuptake of norepinephrine and dopamine into the presynaptic neuron; the release of norepinephrine and dopamine into the extraneuronal space is also increased.
Due to its known effects on the cardiovascular system, your veterinarian will carefully listen to your pet’s heart prior to the use of this medication. If your pet requires long term treatment on this medication, it is vital your pet revisits the veterinary clinic often for assessment of cardiovascular health.
Recovery of Hyperkinesis in Dogs
For these pets, the prognosis is guarded, as often behavior can be very difficult to change. Successful treatment requires owner commitment, environmental management, and behavioral modification, which can be time consuming. However, combined with medication, natural products, exercise, and mental stimulation it may be possible to improve your pet’s behavior.