Rage Syndrome: idiopathic aggression in dogs - signs, causes, correction
Idiopathic aggression in dogs (also called “rage syndrome”) is an unpredictable, impulsive aggression that manifests itself for no apparent reason and without any preliminary signals. That is, the dog does not growl, does not take a threatening pose, but attacks immediately.
Signs of “fury syndrome” (idiopathic aggression) in dogs
Signs of "fury syndrome" (idiopathic aggression) in dogs are very characteristic:
- Idiopathic aggression in dogs most often (68% of cases) is manifested to the owners and much less often to strangers (to guests - 18% of cases). If idiopathic aggression is manifested in relation to strangers, then this does not happen immediately, but when the dog gets used to them. By kinship, these dogs show aggression no more often than other dogs that do not suffer from "fury syndrome."
- A dog seriously bites a person at the time of aggression.
- No noticeable warning signals.
- The characteristic "glass look" at the time of the attack.
Interestingly, dogs with idiopathic aggression often prove to be excellent hunters. And if they find themselves in a family without children, and at the same time the owner does not have the habit of “pestering” the dog with communication, appreciates working qualities and skillfully circumvents sharp corners, and the dog has the opportunity to exhibit species-like behavior (to hunt) and deal with stress, there is the chance that such a dog will live a relatively prosperous life.
Causes of idiopathic aggression in dogs
Idiopathic aggression in dogs has physiological causes and is often inherited. However, what exactly is this violation and why they are found in dogs is not yet known exactly. It is only known that idiopathic aggression is associated with a low concentration of serotonin in the blood and with a violation of the thyroid gland.
A study was conducted that compared the dogs that the owners brought to the behavioral clinic with the problem of aggression towards the owners. Among the “experimental” were dogs with idiopathic aggression (19 dogs) and with the usual aggression that manifests itself after warning signals (20 dogs). Blood samples were taken from all dogs and serotonin concentration was measured.
It turned out that in dogs with idiopathic aggression, the level of serotonin in the blood was 3 times lower than in ordinary dogs.
And serotonin, as many people know, is the so-called “hormone of joy”. And when it is not enough, in the dog’s life “everything is bad”, while an ordinary dog has a good walk, tasty food or a fun activity causes a surge of joy. Actually, the correction of behavior often consists in offering the dog something that will increase the concentration of serotonin, and the concentration of cortisol (the “stress hormone”), on the contrary, will lower it.
It is important to note that all the dogs in the study were physically healthy, as there are diseases that give a similar picture to a blood test (lowering the level of serotonin and increasing the level of cortisol). With such diseases, dogs are also more irritable, but this is not associated with idiopathic aggression.
However, the level of serotonin in the blood does not tell us what exactly “broke” in the dog’s body. For example, serotonin may not be produced enough, or maybe there is a lot of it, but it does not “catch” receptors.
One way to reduce the number of manifestations of such behavior is to prevent dogs that have been seen in manifestations of idiopathic aggression from breeding.
For example, in the 80s of the 20th century, "fury syndrome" (idiopathic aggression) was especially common among dogs of the English Cocker Spaniel breed. However, when this problem became more and more widespread, the responsible breeders of the English Cocker Spaniel breed were very concerned about this issue, realized that this type of aggression was inherited, and stopped allowing dogs exhibiting similar behavior to be bred. So now in English cocker spaniels idiopathic aggression is quite rare. But it began to appear in representatives of other breeds, the breeders of which have not yet sounded the alarm.
That is, with proper breeding, the problem leaves the breed.
Why does she appear in another breed? The fact is that the genome is designed in such a way that mutations do not occur by chance. If two animals are related (and dogs of different breeds are much more related than, for example, a dog is related to a cat), then similar mutations are more likely to occur than, for example, similar mutations in a cat and a dog.
Idiopathic aggression in a dog: what to do?
- Since the idiopathic aggression in a dog is still a disease, it cannot be “cured” by correction of behavior. You need to contact your veterinarian. The situation in some cases can be improved by hormonal drugs. The use of mild sedatives may also help.
- Special diet: more fermented milk products and a substantial reduction in the portion of meat.
- Predictable, dog-friendly rules for living in a family, rituals. Moreover, all family members must comply with these rules.
- Correction of behavior aimed at developing the dog’s confidence in the owner and reducing excitement.
- Continuous reinforcement of reconciliation signals in a dog.
Keep in mind that dogs with idiopathic aggression are constantly depressed and experiencing stress. They are always sick and annoying. And this is a kind of chronic disease, which will have to be treated all my life.
Unfortunately, idiopathic aggression (“rage syndrome”) refers to those behavioral problems that tend to occur again.
A dog that has one owner, which behaves consistently and sets clear and understandable rules for the dog, is more likely to cope with the problem than a dog that lives in a large family.