Most dogs go through periods of extreme exuberance. In my experience, my boys have always shown much more of this than my girls, but even Choe and Mia had their moments. And so, like me, you might be forgiven for thinking your dog is just overly excitable.
But a study recently undertaken in Finland showed that for some dogs it's actually much more than this. In fact, your dog's blood - specifically low levels of fatty acids in their blood - could reveal that they have what we humans know as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD.
How a dog's blood could reveal if they have ADHD
The study formed part of a larger behavioural research project and was run by Professor Hannes Lohi's research group at the University of Helsinki and the Folkhälsan Research Centre.
The study paid specific attention to the impact and well-being of dogs in connection with some of the most common behavioural problems dogs suffer from, such as general fearfulness, sensitivity to noise as well as hyperactivity and impulsiveness.
Professor Lohi explains, "Behaviour and behavioural disorders often develop as a combination of hereditary and environmental factors, which makes studying them challenging.
"Metabolomics, or the study of the metabolism, provides us with new clues on the biological issues underpinning behavioural disorders while promoting genetic research. At the moment, metabolomics research in dogs is rare, and the purpose of this pilot study was to examine new approaches and attain information on any metabolic abnormalities associated with hyperactivity in dogs."
ADHD reveals similar results in both dogs & people
The study worked with German Shepherds and discovered that the blood metabolites in hyperactive and normally behaved German Shepherds revealed a significant link - specifically, those who were hyperactive and impulsive had low levels of fatty acids (lower blood phospholipid levels) in the blood.
Jenni Puurunen, a doctoral student says, “We knew to expect this discovery from research on the human side, as several studies have recorded lower blood lipid and fatty acid levels in ADHD patients than in control groups.
She continued, "However, the causal relationship is not clear and requires further studies, particularly ones with more extensive research data. Our discovery supports the existing belief that human and canine diseases are similar, which suggests dogs can serve as excellent models for human illnesses.
Could a dog's age impact on their behaviour?
According to Jenni their study revealed that it has little impact.
She says, “It is significant that the dog’s age, sex or fasting had little impact on the link between behaviour and metabolites. We also controlled for dietary changes by feeding all dogs the same food for two weeks before testing.”
A wider study into dog behaviour still ongoing at the university.