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What Is Rage Syndrome in Dogs?

Why Your Dog's Behavior May Be Getting Worse

By Madeleine Burry. January 24, 2014 | See Comments

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    PetCareRx Staff Veterinarian

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A Dog Snarling

Rage syndrome is a genetic disorder that most often occurs in particular dog breeds such as Springer Spaniels. Although there is no way to prevent rage syndrome, there are precautions you can take to help keep both your dog and family safe.

Rage syndrome is also often referred to as sudden onset aggression or Springer rage. As you may guess from the name, the syndrome is often associated with Springer Spaniels, and involves a dog displaying an unprovoked fit-like moment of rage and aggression. This poorly understood disease is genetic in nature.

It’s important to not confuse the rarely diagnosed rage syndrome with other more typical displays of aggressive behaviors from dogs, which can be motivated by fear, protectiveness, or territorialism. The roots of rage syndrome are deep within the brain; partial seizures lead to the short-lived, but still frightening, explosions of rage and aggression.

Causes of Rage Syndrome in Dogs

The causes of rage syndrome are genetic in nature, and some dog breeds are far more likely to develop this problem than others. Springer Spaniels are particularly linked with the syndrome, but Cocker Spaniels, Golden Retrievers, Poodles, and Dobermans are also breeds that may be more likely to have rage syndrome. However, even among breeds that are genetically linked with rage syndrome, the condition is extremely rare.

Symptoms of Rage Syndrome In Dogs

Just before an incident, it’s common for dogs to have a glazed over expression in their eyes and seem unaware of their surroundings. The angry moment won’t be provoked by anything in particular -- this won’t be like other moments of aggressive behavior, which tend to come after a trigger, like food being touched, or a stranger appearing. Instead these rageful moments appear without cause, and last for just a short period. Following the attack, the dog most likely won’t recall the events that just took place, and may have a glazed look in their eyes once again, and seem a bit out of it. Often the first attack occurs when the dog is quite young, usually before age two.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Rage Syndrome In Dogs

An EEG of your dog can be a helpful tool to diagnose the syndrome. However, no treatment is available for this scary and rare condition. Anti-seizure medications can sometimes help curb the occurrence of the angry fits. Because the attacks are not motivated by occurrence around the dog, there is no behavior treatment option, as there would be for dogs behaving aggressively due to common triggers such as fear, contact with other dogs, or possessiveness.

More on Dog Behavior

Aging and Old Dog Behaviors
How We Misunderstand Dog Aggression
OCD in Dogs

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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Rage Syndrome at a glance

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  • 1This genetic disorder is more likely in some breeds than others, including Cocker and Springer Spaniels.
  • 2Rage syndrome occurs very rarely.
  • 3During a dog’s brief fits of aggression as a result of rage syndrome, they lack control over themselves.
  • 4It is very difficult to treat rage syndrome, although sometimes anti-seizure medications can be helpful.