It's really, really technical, but this study shows that dogs can have similar traits to those that are associated with autism in humans. Essentially, some behaviors that we currently associate with stress and anxiety might actually be symptoms of autism in dogs.
Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are neurodevelopmental disorders characterized by defects in communication and social interactions, as well as stereotypic behaviors. Symptoms typically worsen with anxiety and stress. ASD occur in early childhood, often present with regression and have a prevalence of 1 out of 68 children. The lack of distinct pathogenesis or any objective biomarkers or reliable animal models hampers our understanding and treatment of ASD. Neurotensin (NT) and corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) are secreted under stress in various tissues, and have proinflammatory actions. We had previously shown that NT augments the ability of CRH to increase mast cell (MC)-dependent skin vascular permeability in rodents. CRH also induced NT receptor gene and protein expression in MCs, which have been implicated in ASD. Here we report that serum of ASD children (4–10 years old) has significantly higher NT and CRH levels as compared with normotypic controls. Moreover, there is a statistically significant correlation between the number of children with gastrointestinal symptoms and high serum NT levels. In Bull Terriers that exhibit a behavioral phenotype similar to the clinical presentation of ASD, NT and CRH levels are also significantly elevated, as compared with unaffected dogs of the same breed. Further investigation of serum NT and CRH, as well as characterization of this putative canine breed could provide useful insights into the pathogenesis, diagnosis and treatment of ASD.