Sudden Onset Idiopathic Aggression (SOIA), or Rage Syndrome as it is more commonly known, is a rare but serious genetic behavioral problem in pets.
Sometimes labeled “Springer Rage,” SOIA is most common in Springer and Cocker spaniels; but has also been reported in Border Collies, Rottweilers, Bernese Mountain Dogs, and several other breeds.
Symptoms of SOIA involve the dog acting extremely aggressively seemingly out of nowhere. In documented cases, the dog acts completely normal leading up to and directly after the aggressive attack. However, during the attack, the dog may seem disoriented and may not respond to attempts to stop the attack. In most cases, what triggers this behavior outburst cannot be identified, but outbursts are uninhibited and severe.
In many cases, owners report that the dog’s eyes glaze over and their pupils dilate or that the dog becomes stiff directly before an attack. SOIA usually begins presenting in dogs between 7 months and 3 years of age. SOIA is not a contracted disease like rabies, rather a genetic abnormality that is still in the early stages of being studied.
The good news about SOIA is that your dog probably doesn’t have it! More than likely, your dog has a manageable or treatable behavior problem that can be identified and helped by a proper dog trainer or animal behaviorist. Time to get online and look for a certified trainer who specializes in positive reinforcement -based behavior modification and commit to a training program!
The bad news about SOIA is that when a dog actually has it, the condition is rarely treatable. If your trainer or behavior professional suggests that your dog may have SOIA, then a trip to a veterinary behaviorist is in order. Some dogs will respond to different drug therapies, and there have been minor successes in treating individuals with phenobarbital (common for epilepsy or seizure disorders). But because the nature of this disorder indicates that the cause or triggers of this rare type of aggressive outburst are generally not identifiable, medical and behavioral intervention is extremely difficult and frequently unsuccessful.
Since true SOIA is truly violent and totally unpredictable; in many cases of dogs with diagnosed SOIA, the recommended solution is humane euthanasia. If you suspect that your dog has Sudden Onset Idiopathic Aggression, talk to your veterinarian immediately.