Sentient Animals: Animals Who Suffer With Depression and Mental Illness

This is part of a series of blog posts concerning animal sentience.  Here is the first post and introduction:

Sentient Animals: Animals Who Suffer With Depression and Mental Illness

Many animals experience pain, anxiety and suffering, physically and psychologically, when they are held in captivity or subjected to starvation, social isolation, physical restraint, or painful situations from which they cannot escape. Even if it is not the same experience of pain, anxiety, or suffering undergone by humans- or even other animals, including members of the same species- an individual’s pain, suffering, and anxiety matter.
Marc Bekoff, Animals Matter

This story is really heart breaking
“A rescue dog now spends his days staring at a blank wall after his would-be adoptees pulled out at the last minute.

Photographs of March, a pit mix, show the canine in the depths of depression.”

Living in animal rescue shelter ACCT in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, since he was brought in as a stray, the 58 lbs dog was finally due to be rescued.

But at the last minute, his new family pulled out of the deal and March was taken back to the shelter.
Read More:

I hope this unfortunate dog finds a loving forever home soon.

It couldn’t be more plain could it; animals are sentient beings capable of a wide range of emotions including depression. You can clearly see how dejected this poor creature looks, how miserable and unhappy. Depression is a serious and devastating illness in human beings and it is the same for animals.

If you think of depression and other mental illness as a uniquely human trait you would be wrong. Indeed the presence of mental illness including depression in non human animals is confirmed by both scientific and anecdotal evidence.

In the following article which is well worth reading you will find information concerning depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in chimpanzees; Obsessive -Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in birds and dogs and there is even an example of autism presenting in a coyote:

“He didn’t quite get what it was to be a coyote,”  “He was socially very maladaptive, and he didn’t seem to understand what other coyotes were saying to him or doing. And he didn’t seem to know how to play.”

In his 2008 book The Emotional Lives of Animals, Bekoff suggested that “Harry suffered from coyote autism”.

Read More:  – Please note, reference is made in the article to animal testing. I do not approve of animal testing for any reason whatsoever and have only included this article because of its invaluable information concerning animals and mental illness.

More stories concerning mental health in animals.

Below are two examples, but please click the following link to read many more – includes information concerning Zoochosis, a new term coined to refer to a range of psychological problems exhibited by animals confined in zoos or other places of long term captivity :

Animal Sentience Stories:Mental Health  – This is a long article and includes videos with many examples of mental illness presenting in animals.

Agoraphobic German Shepherd

Sam is a German Shepherd who does not like going for walks, in fact he is terrified of going outdoors. Any attempts to take him for a walk and Sam arches his back digging his feet into the ground, he is adamant he does not like the great outdoors. His fear may be the result of being kept in a small flat when he was a puppy by an elderly woman who had him for company but was too infirm to take him for walks. When she died the Dogs trust tried with difficulty to rehome him, his agoraphobia deterring prospective guardians from giving him a home. In the end staff decided to house him in one of their kennels. Sam refusing attempts over the years to take him for a walk in the fields opposite his kennel is taken only for very short brief walks in a paddock with a handler.

Sandra Owen, assistant manager at the centre quoted in the Daily Mail , said:

“Unfortunately, for Sam the great outdoors is anything but.”

“He finds staying inside so much more comfortable and reassuring, especially in the winter when the weather is cold and grey.”

“I think his fear of the outside world is borne out of his background, he used to belong to an elderly lady, who although doted on him, was too old to take him out.”

Read the full story

A service dog with PTSD

It is a well known fact that servicemen and women experience symptoms of PTSD as a result of their horrific experiences, now however it is becoming apparent that the dogs who serve along side them are also affected with PTSD

Before going to Iraq as a highly trained explosive detection dog two year old German Sheppard Gina was a happy and playful animal. As a door to door bomb sniffing dog Gina rather like the humans in her company was exposed to flashing lights and the noise from explosions. Sadly also rather like some of her human companions this experience changed the once happy dog into a fearful and cowering animal wanting nothing to do with people. Now when her handlers tried to take her into a building she would resist by stiffening her legs. When inside she would slink to the floor tucking her tail beneath her legs.

A vet diagnosed her with PTSD

Master Sgt. Eric Haynes, the kennel master at Peterson Air Force Base said:

“She showed all the symptoms and she had all the signs,”

“She was terrified of everybody and it was obviously a condition that led her down that road.”

A year on and Gina was improving and overcoming her fears thanks to frequent walks, friendly people and a slow reintroduction to the noises associated with military life. Unfortunately it is doubtful that Gina will overcome her fears entirely though there are hopes that she will resume her duties in Iraq but that will not be for a while yet.

For more information

What a sad story not only from the perspective of the psychological trauma of Gina but the fact that human beings use animals in their dreadful conflicts, animals who really have no say in the matter.

Related Links

More stories and information
Animal Sentience Stories: Mental Health

Mental Disorders in Animals

Do Wild Animals Suffer From PTSD and Other Psychological Disorders?
Observations of autistic- and bipolar-like coyotes and wolves suggest they do
Marc Bekoff Ph.D

Here is a more recent article by Marc Bekoff Ph.D with links to further information and review of the BBC article cited earlier

Psychological Disorders in Animals: A Review of What We Know

An essay in BBC Earth summarizes what we know about mental illness in animals

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