Is it possible that your dog is hallucinating?
In short, yes, it's likely that dogs can hallucinate. Many people are shocked to find out that dogs can suffer many of the same neurological conditions that people can, and hallucinations are no different. When a person or a dog hallucinate, they are picking up on an experience involving the perception of something that isn't actually there. In other words, you're seeing something that doesn't exist.
Signs Your Dog is Hallucinating
For example, dogs who are relatively introverted who suddenly refuse to come inside can possibly be experiencing hallucinations. In the same way, if a dog, especially a relatively quiet or soft-spoken dog, starts to obsessively bark or growl at the same spot over and over, then it's possible they are seeing something that isn't really there.
If you notice your dog is staring off into space far more than he normally does with intense focus, it's also possible that hallucinations could be the culprit. Don't rule out hallucination if your dog starts fly-biting, either. Fly biting is a behavior that dogs with epileptic tendencies often show. With this behavior, your dog will likely frantically nip about at flies around him that don't actually exist - so, in reality, they are nipping and biting at the air.
- Twitching whiskers
- Ears back
- Pupils dilated
- Whale eye
- Refusal to come inside/ stubborness
- Barking or responding to nothing
- Seizures and epilepsy
- Obsessive behaviors that don't make sense
Historic Causes of Hallucinations in Dogs
Historically, signs of hallucination occur in dogs when they're struggling with epilepsy or seizures. Hallucinations are often a precursor to epilepsy, so in a way, the cause of hallucinations are a warning sign of what's to come. Focal seizures are the biggest cause of this, as well as liver problems. Sometimes, liver problems trigger hepatic encephalopathy which can result in strange dog behaviors.
But hallucinations can also be a result of a toxic food that your dog has eaten. For example, if your dog eats chocolate, the toxicity might affect him within 24 hours and he could start seeing hallucinations, among other things.
The Science Behind Hallucination
Auditory hallucinations are a big one for dogs. This affects their hearing. Your dog might think they are hearing something real, but instead, their neurological functions are acting up and they're not hearing anything at all. This can be exceptionally hard to determine because dogs have superior hearing to humans, so it's harder to tell if they're hearing something we can't or if they're hearing something that doesn't exist. Visual hallucinations are big, too. Your dog can experience these just like you can. They typically manifest themselves in something called flycatching or star gazing. With this, your dog will bite or nip at flies that aren't there, stare fixedly at objects, chase things that don't exist, or avoid imaginary objects that you can't see.
Training Your Dog to Deal With Hallucinations
First off, they might prescribe something like Valium. Valium will reduce pet anxiety, which might be the first step in helping your dog deal with their hallucinations. If they're suffering from epileptic issues or seizures, that's a whole extra ball game and it's likely that your dog will have to deal with quite a few different pills and medicines to keep his health in the clear.
But how do you train your dog to take these pills without a problem? We have a few suggestions. First, you can always go the super-simple route and try to hide pills in your dog's food. This works most of the time, but if you have a dog that's too sly to fool, you'll want to try to slip the pill in a special treat - like a piece of cheese or lunchmeat. If this doesn't work, try simply being upfront and feeding your dog the pill from your hand. Some dogs won't mind this and they'll think you're offering them a special treat.
Other dogs, though, might require some convincing. With this situation, we recommend training your dog to play a fun game to distract them from the actual pill. With this, we suggest a throw-and-catch game. Teach your dog to go long for the treat, catch the treat, and then eat it as their reward. Fun loving dogs will get a kick out of this game and they'll also get the medicine they need.
How to React if Your Dog Suffers from hallucinations:
Talk with your vet.
Determine a diet and exercise program that can help him.
Consider medication for their anxiety.
Avoid things that upset your dog.
Give your dog plenty of comfort.