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This page highlights stories and information that shows that animals suffer with mental illness.

This page is part of a section concerning animal sentience which relates true stories, information and accounts of animal sentience.
For an introduction: Animal Sentience Stories

Emotion Love Altruism Empathy Pleasure Intelligence and ingenuity
Friendship Jealousy Grief Language


 Sixth Sense

Animals Have a Sense of beauty

Animal Morality Mental Health  

Click the links above to read stories and information that highlight these characteristics and abilities in animals.

Mental Health

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

Mental health issues in animals may be not the most positive evidence of non human animal sentience, however if we can show that animals suffer with mental health conditions just as humans do this would go a long way to confirming that animals are like us in many ways, and they too can suffer with mental health conditions such as depression, and are therefore sentient beings.

In humans there are different types of depression: clinical depression,  major  depression, dysthmic depression - low grade chronic depression - and bipolar disorder once called manic depression.    Humans also suffer with what are termed anxiety disorders such as obsessive compulsive disorder OCD, post traumatic stress disorder PTSD and phobias, for example complex phobias such as agoraphobia and specific phobias such as arachnophobia, a fear of spiders.

Humans also suffer with psychotic disorders such as Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. It may be less likely that animals suffer from either Schizophrenia or Bipolar disorder although this be cannot ruled out of course and there is some evidence that certain aspects of bipolar can manifest in mammals. Concerning bipolar, which presents in one to two percent of the population, there is little known about the cause of the disorder although it presents in families which suggests a  genetic predisposition, however many people develop the disorder with no family history of the condition. Other factors include the persons nutrition while in the uterus and the mother's mental and physical health. Though the fact that the condition is controlled by the use of medication suggests the condition results from malfunctions of the nerves in the brain. Also disturbances of hormones in the endocrine system may play a role. The condition research shows may be triggered by stress, social factors and physical illness.

It would be difficult to tell if an animal has certain types of mental illness such as bipolar or  Schizophrenia because they cannot tell us for example that they are hallucinating either visually or auditory, such as hearing voices.  There however may be some anecdotal evidence from the observation of animal behaviours for the possibility of bipolar disorder. But such evidence for this kind of condition may not be conclusive. However notwithstanding the above considerations the possibility exists as in theory a mammal such as a dog has a brain that reacts to serotonin a neurotransmtter, a chemical involved in depression, similar to the way that the human brain does. Sudden bouts of rage is amongst the symptoms of bipolar, dog owners report that all of a sudden their dogs have become aggressive, are unresponsive to commends and have a glazed expression. A brief comment about bipolar and  Schizophrenia is included towards the end of this webpage.

Information about bipolar in dogs in included in the following link

There is far more conclusive evidence however for other types of mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety disorders and so on amongst non human animals and this article will mostly focus on Depression, OCD, Phobias, Post traumatic stress disorder PTSD and suicide all of which are commonly suffered by humans with devastating effects.

Lets take a closer look at some of these conditions and see if we can find evidence that animals also suffer in this way.

Many people think that animals indeed suffer from such conditions as depression, anxiety, stress and OCD and  may also suffer such complex conditions as anorexia nervosa as is the case in the example cited on the following internet forum:

My mom has this cat she's about ten now. She's also pretty bizare. She had her first episode when she was about a year old. She was at a healthy weight but suddenly stopped eating. She went to the vet and there was nothing wrong with her but the vet perscribed a med to stimulate her appetite. She started eating again and started gaining weight. When she started getting paunchy again she did the same thing. Refused to eat and started starving again.

Read more and also view other message about mental health problems in animals:

Do animals suffer from forms of mental illness

Lets start with depression, a condition among humans which according to the World Health Organisation is "the leading cause of disability as measured by YLDs (years lived with disability) and the 4th leading contributor to the global burden of disease DALYs ( Disability Adjusted Life Years The sum of years of potential life lost due to premature mortality and the years of productive life lost due to disability.) in 2000. Depression is common, affecting about 121 million people worldwide."

To read about other mental health problems continue reading, scroll down or click the following links
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder OCD Zoochosis
Suicide Post Traumatic Stress Disorder PTSD
Phobias Autism in Animals
Bipolar and Schizophrenia  


Does depression present in animals? If it does how does it  manifest, what are the signs and symptoms.

Depression is a complex condition with several causes.

Depression in animals cannot be proved scientifically by blood tests, x-rays or any other medical tests, however this may also be the case with humans at least concerning certain types of depression such as major depression/clinical
depression - a term often used to denote depression that does not result from a normal reaction to adversity, such as depression over a dissatisfactory life event or grief - or Dysthymia/subclinical depression which is a low grade but chronic type of depression which may be suffered along with bouts of major depression.

What causes depression? With the possible exception of bipolar there does not appear to be a genetic predisposition. There maybe thyroid deficiency in some people who have no real or imagined reasons to be depressed. Depression it appears may manifest as a result of negative consequences either real or imagined. It may result from a poor diet, as a result of illnesses and being physically unfit. Depression may also occur as a result of a chemical imbalance in the brain.

There has been some research into potential markers for depression but at this time there are no blood or other tests that can confirm that a person suffers with depression. To diagnose depression a doctor uses as evidence symptoms supplied by the patient, the patient's relatives, carers and so on, personal and family medical history and direct observation.

However for anyone other than the patient it is difficult to prove the existence of depression other than by outward indications. Nonetheless such outward observations are an important requirement and often the only requirement in the diagnosis of a person with depression. Therefore the same also applies to animals.

Lets look now at accounts and anecdotes that show evidence of the existence of depression in animals

Depression in Dogs

The link below describes the signs of depression in dogs who are grieving the loss of a companion.

Depression in dogs may often be the result of what is referred to as separation anxiety. Millions of dogs are left alone all day while their owners go to work. The result can often be destructive as dogs wreak the furniture, excrete on the carpet, bark frantically or plain and simply sink into depression.  

My mother's labradoodle literally will wait by the door and not eat until she comes home- it makes me depressed to see him in grief like that..

The above is a comment in response to the article below where you can read more about depression and separation anxiety in dogs

Dogs Get Depressed: UK Study

Here is the story of a dog who became depressed when his human companion became preoccupied with work assignments and unintentionally neglected his dog.

I started neglecting Dino... thus he started suffering. I noticed this a few weeks back. He was whining and aching and behaving anomalously and I felt that there must be something terribly wrong about things with him.

Dino used to wait for me everyday as to when I return from my work. This was his habit and I used to pat him and cuddle him on greeting him every evening. As I started getting late in my work this habit started getting remote. Thus the problems started. Lack of my company and attention started making him feel lonely and he was getting into a state of depression. Lack of energy, lethargy, not eating or drinking enough were all symptoms that came into Dino and I started to worry about his health and then I found out that it was due to the effect of depression that these were happening to him. The dispute in detecting depression in dogs is that symptoms imitate those for several additional health problems. Thus, it becomes important to judge properly and understand the cause of the issues and then detect correctly the problem.

Dine improved and returned to his former self after receiving more care and attention and being prescribed anti depressants. Read the full story

Dogs left alone are prone to the real risk of loneliness, distress, depression and separation anxiety. In the UK about twenty three percent of people leave their dogs alone for five hours or more each weekday

Read the story about a depressed dog called Decker in the following article

Dog Depression: A Story about Decker

Look at the photographs on the webpage below, this poor little dog looks so depressed. Yes these dogs do have a kind of natural hangdog appearance but note the eyes which say it all. With both human and non human animals depression radiates from the eyes, which as the saying goes are the windows of the soul.

Depression in Cats

Cats are sensitive creatures and major changes in circumstances, sometimes only in the mind of the cat which also is of course the case with humans, can have a devastating effect upon their mood. Sometimes even subtle changes such as a change of the brand of cat food, can make them depressed. More obvious things may include moving house, loss of another pet either by death or other type of separation, the arrival of a new pet or even the stresses anxieties and depression experienced by their owners as cats rather like dogs are sensitive to the mind states of their human companions. Boredom of course is another factor in the cause of depression in cats as it is with other animals including humans. There are many signs that you can look for to ascertain if a cat is depressed - which incidentally are very similar to the signs of depression in humans - and include the following,  loss of interest in playing and other activities the cat once engaged in, eating only very little and maybe nothing at all, not using the litter box, withdrawal from human company, reduced activity and sleeping more than is usual, aggressive behaviours, hissing  scratching and biting when seemingly unprovoked and not grooming. Neglect in grooming is a sure sign that something is wrong as cats are usually fastidious about cleaning themselves. 

Here are accounts of depression in a cat from Pets CA

My cat is depressed. She and I had to move recently from a large home to a small apartment. She also had to leave her cat companion of 5 years and she is very sad and lonely without Boo Boo. I don’t know what to do…other than love her and buy her new toys and play with her a lot.

My 6 year old cat has been losing weight, started sleeping all the time, and acting “touchy”. His coat has dulled and when he attempts to play he falls over. He’s been losing balance and is unable to jump onto the couch so he pulls himself up. I took him to the vet twice and they said his blood-work and physical exam came out normal. I spoke with 2 different Vets and both said they felt that the problem was an emotional or mental one.

I have a two and half year old male cat named Mylo. My partner, who has been his companion since he was born just left yesterday for work. She just started truck driving and will be gone for extended periods of time. After she left, Mylo isolated himself in the bathroom. Every time I brought him out, he goes right back there. I tried to play with him, give him both soft and hard food, and nothing will get him to stay out of the bathroom. He is normally a VERY vocal cat and I have only heard him meow once in the past two days. He also is usually playful, social, and eats a lot. I can tell that he is upset and I think he may be depressed that my partner left.

To read the full accounts and more stories visit Pets CA's website:

Depression in Rabbits.

Rabbits like all animals may become depressed, in fact in rabbits depression is quite common. Rabbits are social animals and this behaviour has not disappeared even after centuries of domestication. In the wild a warren consists of hundreds of rabbits, so rabbits are seldom alone at least not all the time. Indeed loneliness is a problem for rabbits that cannot entirely be fulfilled by human company, nor by another species such as a guinea pig which people often erroneously consider a suitable companion for a rabbit but which can have disastrous effects for the guinea pig. It is now usual to at least have two rabbits as a bonded pair. Loneliness in most social animals including humans leads to depression and rabbits are no exception. Both loneliness and boredom are the main cause of depression in rabbits, in addition of course to confinement in an unsuitable environment, hutches too small and small runs if any run at all. Signs which indicate depression in rabbits are destructiveness and either hyperactivity or withdrawal.

Once a rabbit pair have bonded the death of one can result in depression of the other.

More information

Depression in birds

An internet search will quickly reveal that yes indeed many birds get depressed and with the majority of such queries to forums concerning pet birds, it surely comes as no surprise that they do.

Here is an example of such a question

My bird has been acting "down in the dumps" lately. Is it possible for birds to get depressed? What can I do to help?

The response included such reasons as a change in the position of the cage, boredom and the loss of a favourite toy. Depression however can occur for more profound reasons, for example as a result of grief for the loss of a companion if there was one or loneliness. Inadequate or no mental stimulation of course is a factor for the presentation of depression in any animal, and birds, particularly those in cages, are no exception.

Naturally confinement for any animal results in depression but for birds I would well imagine that imprisonment in a tiny cage unable to fly is torture indeed and will result in depression and other symptoms, such as stress and anxiety.

Signs to indicate a depressed bird include loss of appetite, fluffed up feathers, a change in droppings, feather plucking, and irritability.

Most of the stories below concern domesticated birds and as with all domesticated animals the frustration of not be able to lead the lives that nature intended is most probably the main criterion for depression. Depression is far more common in birds than many people think. Although most pet owners love their birds and may see no incongruity with their fond feelings by confining an animal in a cage, a bird so confined cannot have a normal quality of life. While this website does not advocate the freeing of caged exotic birds who would of course now die as a result, it has to be said however that we do not condone the keeping of birds in cages or other restrictive environment however large and the keeping of pet birds should be phased out.

The following is an example of the way a bird can become depressed:

Three birds,  Buddy, Indigo, and Squirt live together in one cage, though Buddy and Indigo are new arrivals as previously Squirt lived all alone. Buddy and Indigo always got along with one another and were close friends grooming each other, always chirping, always happy. With the arrival of the new comer  things were to change and not for the good, at least not for Buddy  because his close friend Indigo bonded with Squirt leaving Buddy out. Sadly now Buddy does not fit in and sits alone feeling dejected while his former friend grooms, plays and happily chirps with his new found friend Squirt. Buddy is now so depressed that he no longer chirps and his appearance is not one of the former healthy and happy bird.

Read the original entry and other comments

The account below from an internet forum concerns depression due to the separation of a love bird from his partner

Two love birds lived for several months together in a cage in a pet shop until one day one one of the birds who were now close friends was sold. The remaining bird is pining the loss of his companion and is losing weight. He now no longer sits on his perch and prefers instead to sit at the bottom of his cage.

Read the posting and comments

A depressed chicken

Four chickens and one duck lived together in a chicken coop until one night three of the chickens and the duck were killed by a coyote. The surviving chicken's behaviour changed. She appears distressed and refuses to leave the coop, does not sit on her perch preferring to sit on her water bottle, refuses to eat very much, is more skittish and has abandoned the eggs that she was previously incubating.

Unfortunately the link to this story is no longer available

Depression in sheep

There is not much in the way of information concerning depression in sheep. However you only have to look at some sheep to see they are depressed. While the photographs below may be open to interpretation, it is my opinion these sheep are depressed. My husband and I took these photos on a unseasonably cold spring day. On first seeing these rams my immediate impression was that they were depressed, and  before I could make a remark to my husband, who is not too good at recognising moods even in people, he immediately said how depressed these sheep looked.


Professor John Webster of the University of Bristol has found that, like humans, sheep visibly express emotions. When they experience stress or isolation, they show signs of depression similar to those humans show by hanging their heads and avoiding positive actions.


Stories and accounts of other animals who suffer with depression

The story of a depressed and lonely elephant

Susi an Elephant who was born wild in the African Savannah is depressed as a result of loneliness after the loss of Alicia her companion. Since loosing her close friend of six years Susi is now all alone in a Barcelona Zoo. Her sadness compounded by boredom is so severe that it is thought that she may die if she is not moved from her 1000 square metres concrete enclosure to a more spacious safari park where she would be with other elephants.

Elephants should live in herds in enclosures with a space of two hectares or more as is recommended by the The European Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Elephants are herding animals and Ideally she and other elephants should of course be left in their own environments were they would have the support of other members of the herd.

Signs of her depression include eating her own excrement and the repeated swaying of her head and truck from side to side similar to the elephant in the video further down

Read the full story

Depression in a polar bear as a result of  unfavourable environment and bullying.

Bullying is certainly a significant factor in the presentation of human depression, along with boredom and maternal rejection, the same it seems is the cause of depression in animals.

Knut a polar bear who is a popular attraction at Berlin zoo is showing all the signs of depression and has caught the attention of a local member of parliament.  Else Poulsen a Canadian polar bear expert says he is loosing fur and does not have enough muscle for a four year old as a result of an unsuitable environment which was "monotonous, outdated and cruel,". Knut was moved from an enclosure were he lived alone into one shared with three other bears including his mother who rejected him. The other bears are bullying Knuts, visitors to the zoo have complained that the other bears are ganging up on Knut threatening him and he often looks scared and depressed and sits alone in a corner of the enclosure.

Read more,1518,726810,00.html

Sadly in  March 2011 Knut died

Links to articles concerning depression in animals

Information about depression in horses also links to other related articles concerning animals and depression

Some information about depression in cats and dogs and alternative ideas to help

More information about animals depression from ehow

Animal Suicide

Occasionally a serious outcome of depression in human beings is suicide. Does the same tragic consequence of depression occur in non human animals? There is a body of opinion that assumes that animals are incapable of suicide because they are not self aware, have no concept of death and are unable to visualise it or bring it about of their own accord and are simply driven by the instinct of self preservation.

Therefore if we can prove that animals do indeed take their own lives this shows that far from being the automatons that many would like us to believe they are in fact thinking feeling aware beings, aware of not only their own death as a means of an escape from suffering but also aware of the death and loss of a loved one, either a companion human or other animal,  which is often the reason why an animal takes his or her own life. In other words if animals are capable of suicide this demonstrates that they are sentient creatures with the ability to suffer, to perceive their suffering both physical and mental and take action to bring about the cessation of their suffering by means of suicide.  There is a great resistance by many in the industries that exploit animals to the concept of animal suicide because by conceding that animals have the capacity to take their own lives, they are in turn conceding emotion, intelligence, consciousness.

There are indeed cases of animals who have committed suicide some dating back centuries.

The Romans were aware of suicide in animals and considered it not only natural but noble, in particular the horse, an animal most respected by the Romans was commonly reported to be suicidal.

Down through the ages there have been reported numerous cases of animal suicide such as  Aristotle's account of a stallion who threw himself off a cliff after allegedly having mated with his mother.

Maybe the stallion committed suicide, the reasoning may be obscure and the incest implication an assumption as this particular story is often dismissed as dubious as of course our society cannot envision that animals are sentient to the extent that such would be an issue, or even that animals have any sense of self nor any moral or ethical code. However one has to keep in mind that incest as an act of wrong doing is a human concept and is not necessarily a taboo in nature for quite the same reasons but which may be avoided nonetheless by animals because of a genetic biological predisposition because of the possible disastrous effects of inbreeding. In fact it is considered of course that the same biological predisposition exists in humans and ethical laws usually initiated by most cultures and religions is the manifestation of this biological instinctive aversion.

In 1845 a case of a dog who committed suicide was reported in the Illustrated London News with the headlines "Singular Case of Suicide". The unfortunate animal apparently made two  attempts to take his own life by trying to drown himself having previously for a few days been observed to be less lively

He was seen "to throw himself in the water and endeavor to sink by preserving perfect stillness of the legs and feet."

On this occasion he was rescued and tied up, however the dog it seems remained determined and as soon as he was let loose he again entered the water trying to sink himself several times until keeping his head immersed he finally tired and "by dint of keeping his head determinedly under water for a few minutes, succeeded at last in obtaining his object, for when taken out this time he was indeed dead."

Read more of this story of animal suicide

In his book Myths About Suicide, Thomas Joiner, a Florida State University psychologist discusses the suicidal tendencies of all animals "Across nature there seems to be the same kind of calculation," says Joiner. "Is my death worth more than my life?"

Is an animal who starves his or her self consciously committing suicide? Is a beached whale in some cases taking his or her own life? Is a deer who throws himself from a cliff top while fleeing from a pack of hungry dogs consciously deciding that this would be the better fate. Such examples may be ambiguous. Certainly cases of an animal deliberately drowning himself as in the account above, or a dolphin smashing herself on the rocks after the death of her partner or a cat or a dog throwing his or her self from a window as you can read below offer more substantial and conclusive examples of animal suicide. Nonetheless we should not dismiss the less obvious accounts.

As has been observed in the above mentioned concerning depression in animals; animals  become depressed for many reasons similar to our own, such as the sadness that they experience when they loose a companion or their guardian or for other dire reasons such as confinement and for reasons that we may never know nor understand. Admittedly as we cannot communicate enough with any animal to really know if what we perceive as suicide is truly suicide and most accounts remain ambiguous to some degree but are compelling evidence nonetheless that animals indeed make the conscious decision to end their own lives. From the many case histories perceived from merely observation we can arrive at the conclusion that it is possible that animals indeed do take their own lives. Bereaved animals may stop eating and refuse food until they eventually die it seems from a broken heart and this may be seen of course as an unintended consequence of their unhappiness. However we cannot be certain that death of course was not the objective. Considering though more obvious instances of suicide we can arrive at the conclusion without too much of a leap of faith that animals do consciously endeavour to take their own lives such as the dog mentioned above who drowned himself.

Grief at the loss of a loved one appears to be the primary cause of suicide in animals, at least it is the most observable cause for which we can be reasonably ascertain resulted in the animal deliberately taking his or her own life. In Zoos it has been observed that when one of a bonded pair of monkey companion dies the bereaved monkey refuses food and dies within a few days. The same is the case with dogs who often form tight bonds with either another dog or with his or her human companion. Dolphins also are known to commit suicide whenever they loose a partner or in cases when their lives are unbearable such as under the circumstances of confinement. One instance is the following example of the experience of Richard O'Barry who watched a dolphin named Kathy, who featured in the 1960s' TV series Flipper, intentionally kill herself. The experience transformed the life of the one time animal trainer who became an animal rights activist now famous for his film the Cove, a  documentary about the dolphin meat business in a town in Japan. On this occasion the dolphin after looking Richard in the eye sank to the bottom of her tank and stopped breathing.  "The [animal entertainment] industry doesn't want people to think dolphins are capable of suicide, but these are self-aware creatures with a brain larger than a human brain. If life becomes so unbearable, they just don't take the next breath. It's suicide."

Richard O'Barry quoted in:,8599,1973486,00.html

Another possible example of animal suicide is included in a report in the 1871 RSPCA journal The Animal World about the ‘Remarkable Suicide’ of an old and infirm dog depressed by the desertion of his owner. The unfortunate animals sank deeper into despair having ‘wandered in the fields for a while, receiving more blows than crusts’, until the dog eventually ‘preferred a violent death to its miserable existence’. Its decision to drown itself in a river was, the author was certain, ‘a deliberate act of will.’ Also the same report tells of a canvasback duck who drowned himself over the  loss of his mate, a cat that hanged herself on a branch as a consequence of the loss of her kittens, a horse that leapt into a canal after years of maltreatment.

Read more of this interesting article

Here are a few more contemporary instances of possible suicide.

Two male lions banished from their pride came across a warthog and chasing him down a hole one of the lions got stuck and despite the frantic attempts of his companion to pull him out he died of  asphyxiation. The remaining lion was found later near the body of his companion whose corpse it appears he was finally able to drag out. Saddened by the death of his companion it is likely he stopped hunting and starved to death.

An airdale and a fox terrier kept close company. Sadly the fox-terrier was killed by a car and was buried by his owner in the garden. The airdale once so full of life never left his friend's grave, refused to eat and within a few days died near the grave of his companion.

A more obvious case of suicide concerns a dog named Shastra, who took her own life after her guardian died. When the body was removed she throw herself out of a third floor window. On this occasion she broke only a leg, however the dog remained determined and once again throw herself out of a window and died.

In France it is reported that a cat throw himself out of a window as a result of unrequited love of a female cat who lived in the neighbourhood. In another case a cat was so aggrieved by the loss of his eight year old human companion that he through himself from an open window and died. The girl had suddenly died and the cat had disappeared for months looking sad and weakened at which time he refused food and affection eventually going into the girl's bedroom and after looking round leaped from the window

A German Shepherd was killed by a train after roaming the tracks for days and being chased away by workers. His guardian had been detained in prison for one year and although the dog was looked after he had roamed the city refusing food pining for his beloved human companion.

You can read the above stories in their entirety and others by visiting the following website

The following is a sad case of the suicide of a mother bear who killed her cub and than herself.

According to the Chinese media, a mother bear killed her cub before eventually killing herself, apparently in an attempt to save her baby from a life of pain and suffering on a bile farm in China.

Reports claim the mother bear heard her cub’s cries while workers attempted to puncture the stomach of the creature to harvest bile, which is believed to have healing properties.

The enraged mother bear broke free from her cage causing the workers to scatter in fear. She then made her way to her frightened cub and proceeded to make a futile attempt to free the scared animal.

After efforts to free her offspring failed, she hugged her cub before strangling it to death. Witnesses allege the mother bear dropped her dead cub before killing herself by running into a wall head first.

Read more including comments and video by Jacky Chan to end bear bile farming

More stories of animal suicide from around the net

Consider these links

The following link will take you to a short video about a Scottie Dog who committed suicide


I do think cats can commit suicide. At least I heard a story about two cats who had lived together all their  lives and when one died, the other cat couldn't find comfort and was moping all the time. In the end, the cat went out and, by her owner's word, deliberately got under a car. The owner said it was deliberate because the cat had been very cautious before and would never do such a thing...

For comments both for and against the idea of animal suicide and stories like the one above

More information about animal suicide:

A discussion on the possibility of animal suicide
Defined as the intentional killing of oneself, suicide is a sad and tragic event most commonly associated with human beings. Whether animals are capable of committing suicide has been a subject of debate for hundreds of years

A review including a sample chapter of a forthcoming book Animal Suicide: Realistic or Illegitimate?  by Maya Piñon

Her upcoming book, begins this timely discussion with all the correct (and hard) questions...

From her unique Native American Indian perspective, Maya Piñon offers us all a chance and a challenge, to 'walk in her moccasins' as she shares Ancient Animal Prophecy, backed by scientific research, and the eye-opening and undeniable observations by people just like you. Through this journey in her moccasins, we also get to fly on the wings, swim with the fins and leap on the hooves of animals who appear to take that final mortal step with the same natural cadence of a life that lead them there.

One species of animals leaves this planet - forever - every 20 minutes. Extinct forever! Where do they go? And, why are they leaving us behind?
What else are our aged or injured pets trying to tell us, when they are ready to die?
Why do pods of intelligent dolphins beach themselves in acts of mass suicide?
Is the 12 prong buck that walks up to the hunter, deaf and blind from old age-or self-determinedly 'ready to go'?
Why are seemingly 'perfectly healthy' rehabilitated wild animals so often found dead in their cages - the day before they were to be released to the wild?
Have you ever thought that an animal 'deliberately' ran or flew in front of your vehicle?

An interesting and comprehensive response from Wiki answers to the question:
Do any animals other than humans commit suicide?


A discussion of animal suicide including fifty comments with mixed views ???????

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder OCD

As with depression animals may suffer another human affliction:
Obsessive -Compulsive Disorder OCD. OCD is an anxiety disorder characterised by compulsive behaviours. Such compulsions in humans include repetitive hand washing, compulsive counting, checking, hair pulling and a whole array of habitual behaviours. Such behaviours mostly but not always follow on from obsessions or thoughts, for example a person with OCD may have the thought my hands are contaminated by germs (obsession) which will result in the performance of the behaviour of hand washing (compulsion).  OCD involves thoughts in humans therefore because in the main little is understood about animal cognition or how animals think similar behaviours in animals is simply referred to as compulsive disorder. For all we know compulsions in animals may follow on from a thought or concept just as they do in humans rather than a reflex action. Personally I consider that animals think but not in the way that we do of course mainly in words and pictures, maybe animals think only in pictures as suggested by Temple Grandin or in ways beyond our comprehension. However in the absence of our understanding of animal cognition the obsessive facet of the condition isn't applied to non human animals. However for the rest of this section I will continue to use the term OCD for both human and non human animals as I rather think such behaviours have some thought behind them and are not simply bizarre neurological ticks. Although of course such ticks or compulsory reflexes manifest in humans such as compulsive hair pulling called trichotillomania, the compulsion to pull hair from any and every part of the body, also compulsive skin pricking CSP and Tourett’s syndrome which is characterised by uncontrollable movements referred to as motor and vocal tics. Motor tics manifest with sudden uncontrolled jerking movements such as blinking, facial twitching, head jerking, neck stretching and so on. These manifestations can vary from mild to extreme involuntary impulses with more complex movements, the sufferer suddenly seemingly compelled to spin round, change direction even jump, also hand movements, head shaking, twisting or bending along with a compulsive urge to touch others.  Vocal tics include compulsive swearing of obscenities which is in fact rare despite its  sensationalization by the media . Mostly vocal tics concern more simple and less dramatic vocal impulses such as throat clearing, grunting, sighing, tongue clicking, sniffing or snorting. Although all of the above conditions, which are related to OCD and may present as a coexisting condition with OCD, may seemingly appear involuntary without the proceeding thought these compulsive urges may nonetheless arise from feelings of depression, tension or stress which gives rise to an uncontrollable and irresistible impulse to engage in these sorts of behaviours such as hair pulling. The same could well be the case with non human animals who exhibit similar compulsions.

OCD and its related conditions are complex disorders requiring complex thinking. For more information of its manifestation in humans:

In recent years OCD has been found to exist in a number of animals including dogs, cats, horses, and animals in confinement such as zoos. At this time most of the research into OCD and animals centres upon dogs, and is sometimes referred to as canine compulsive disorder CCD. Very much like ourselves it has been shown that the brains of dogs react to outside stresses and influences. For example if a dog lives in a chaotic environment such as a house full of chaos or stress it is more likely that he or she will suffer with OCD symptoms.

It is highly likely that OCD like behaviours exist throughout the entire animal kingdom but little is known about it and most observations that have been made have been made on domesticated and confined animals, most particularly dogs. It has been estimated that up to  eight percent of dogs have OCD, particularly in certain breeds, such as Dobermans. In dogs OCD behaviours include such compulsions as sucking parts of their flanks, sucking on blankets  fence-running, pacing, tail-chasing, snapping at imaginary flies, licking, chewing, barking and staring and spinning round and round in circles, a behaviour common in dogs but taken to excess in dogs with CCD, and compulsive grooming more common in breeds with long hair.  These behaviours, compulsions, are performed over and over for no apparent reason at least for the observer. And this is the same for humans of course as from the perspective of the  observer, the behaviours of people with OCD seem to lack purpose and appear inappropriate. These behaviours are also often incorporated into actions that every one does but to excess in the those afflicted with OCD, such as over grooming in
humans - repetitive hand washing, sometimes as much as hundreds of times each day, showering and other cleaning compulsions - and over grooming in dogs. It has been found that dogs with OCD are anxious and nervous, which is the same with people who suffer this condition who are more anxious than normal about everything. OCD in animals as in humans may be the consequence of a number of factors including emotional conflicts, genetic predisposition, medical conditions and the animal's environment and may even be triggered by an event or situation that has gone unnoticed. Rather like humans even something small and otherwise insignificant may trigger this kind of behaviour. Sometimes it can begin for no apparent reason due no doubt to genetic predisposition. So Just like like humans OCD in animals is the result of both a genetic predisposition and environmental stresses that trigger the obsessive compulsive behaviours. 

Researchers have found a gene responsible for this behaviour and identified a spot on canine chromosome 7 that contains the gene CDH2 (Cadherin 2), which showed variation in the genetic code when sucking and nonsucking dogs were compared. Further investigation determined which protein of the gene contained instructions. It did for one of the proteins called cadherins, which are found throughout the animal kingdom and are apparently involved in cell alignment, adhesion and signalling. Cadherins have also been identified as playing a role in another condition that involves obsessive compulsive behaviours, autism.

OCD is more common in male dogs than female and vice versa in cats. In addition to genetic predisposition certain life circumstances and environments are thought to precipitate OCD in animals . For example dogs from puppy mills and rescue centres are more likely to have OCD as are dogs who are bored or confined and dogs who have been subjected to certain training practices such “hanging” a dog up by his choke collar as a form of discipline.  Such behaviours have been observed in animals other than dogs for example cats as already mentioned, also horses and some animals confined in zoos. For example behaviours referred to as stall weaving and walking in horses, a behaviour whereby the horse swings his head from side to side in a repetitive motion. The horse may only swing his head, or he may sway his entire forequarters and lift a front leg with each sway. Such behaviours can become severe, and such extremes of behaviours have an impact on the well being of the animal, other animals and their guardians. Some animals can become so absorbed in these behaviours that they stop eating and may injure themselves. For example continual grooming may result in the loss of fur and injury to the skin possibly resulting in infection. Cats who are sometimes known to suck on wool or other material may do so to such an extent that the material is ingested with possible health consequences such as obstructions.

More on genetic causation of OCD:

Scientists Find a Shared Gene in Dogs With Compulsive Behavior

Selective breeding has also been blamed for OCD in cats and dogs

Research into OCD in cats and dogs has revealed that selective breeding may play a role in is manifestation in both cats and dogs. The research also includes other possibilities and information concerning the nature of OCD such as the observation that of the many animals studied (74.8 percent of the dogs and 39.1 percent of the cats) had other behavioural issues, such as separation anxiety or attention-seeking behaviour. And just like humans the average age for the appearance of OCD in cats and dogs is adolescence. Also sixty percent of dogs with OCD come from either professional or backyard breeders. Most interesting concerning the animal's awareness of the inappropriateness his or her behaviour, the cat or dog will, just like humans, try to perform their behaviours in private. It is interesting to note that other animals in the household, shelter or other situation will try to avoid animals afflicted by OCD. Moreover in a similar way to humans animals also experience an increase in OCD symptoms at times of extra stress and anxiety.

Watch the example of weaving


Observe animals in zoos and you will see in evidence a large variety of compulsive behaviours such as step retracing, sitting motionless, head bobbing, rocking and trunk swinging in Elephants or like the Rhino in the videos in the link below who paces up and down. Such behaviours are compulsions born of anxiety, stress, boredom and frustration.

Concerning the rhino it is not difficult to see why this poor creature is frustrated and pacing back and forth, his environment is cramped with no form of stimulation whatsoever. Like all creatures he wants to walk, run, sit and sleep and simply live his life free as nature intended with those of his own kind not confined for the satisfaction of fleeting pleasure and the curiosity of human beings

In such unnatural conditions pacing is common in animals like big cats and bears and other large predators accustomed to ranging across extensive territories.

The heartbreaking and inappropriately tiled video below shows animals including humans with OCD behaviours sometimes called  stereotyping when referring to zoo animals and other animals in captivity. I have no idea the person's motivation for making this video, but it most certainly shows the kind of behaviour exhibited by animals who exhibit this type of OCD behaviour born of the frustration and boredom of captivity


This type of behaviour develops in animals who are confined and as a consequence suffer psychological conditions as a result of boredom, such as animals in zoos, circuses, aquariums even safari parks where although there is more space it is limited and the animals really do not live according to their natures. Read more about problems with zoo and confined animals further down under zoochosis

In an attempt to understand OCD in humans researchers at Tel Aviv's university zoo have observed the behaviours of animals in captivity and compared them to routines that animals exhibit in the wild which in captivity change into repetitive behaviours very much like those of people with OCD. These observations have resulted in a new behaviour therapy for people with OCD.

Bears, Gazelles And Rats Inspire New Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Treatment

Although the purpose of this research is to bring about a new treatment for OCD, this research also corroborates the fact that animals just like humans suffer with mental health issues.

OCD and Animals: Stories From Around the Internet

Below are anecdotes and stories from around the internet concerning the obsessive compulsive behaviours of animals. The first is an interesting one from yahoo Answers.

Can animals have OCD?
In general all animals; but ive noticed my fish has been moving all the cream and blue colored rocks into one side of the tank, and leaving the rest to make perfect circles...

Note the interesting response to this question about the dog who licked her feet

A thirteen year old schipperke often licks the fur off his front and hind legs. His vet has confirmed that there are no underlying medical conditions and he is simply neurotic. Wylie, a  14-year-old Norwegian elkhound, incessantly paws at the tiles on the floor.

Read the full article to learn about the whys and wherefores and the course of action to remedy the problems

A message on Ask Science

My anecdotal, single case observation in animals was watching a polar bear in an unsuitably small and horribly barren enclosure at a zoo many years ago pacing back and forth over and over again.

It retraced its steps precisely every time, ending with rubbing its back on a wall, and then back again; the repetition was so exact that it had actually worn deep dimples in the rock underfoot where it stepped, and a groove in the wall where it rubbed its back (and also had a corresponding bald patch on its back fur).

Read More

Ask Science

Here is an example from Ask Science forum concerning a cat with OCD

This account concerns a cat who it seems has odd habits and went through a stage of drinking only water that came out of the bathroom sink tap and contained in the cupped hand of his owner. He ignored the water in his bowl. Eventually he grew out of this habit and went on to drink the water in his bowl. However a new habit presented and the cat would only drink water which lay on the floor of the shower, sitting outside the bathroom door while his owner showered and rushing in as soon as the door was opened.

The owner asks if his behaviour was OCD

read the original post and also the comments


Phobias are extreme and irrational fears of things or situations that most people would not perceive as fear provoking or in any way threatening.

Phobias are of varying kinds manifest in humans and most people have at least one phobia, albeit fairly mild and not life inhibiting. For example arachnophobia, most people fear spiders and this phobia in the majority of people is usually mild. However arachnophobia can become severe and disabling as can any phobia. There are two kinds of phobia, specific phobia, like arachnophobia,  dentist phobia, flying phobia, and so on and more complex phobias such as agoraphobia and social phobia. Complex phobias consist of a mix of a number of anxieties. Specific  phobias can be fear of just about anything and may seem somewhat bizarre such as a fear of cotton wool but focus upon one fear only. Many phobias may present in the same individual and specific and complex phobias can occur also in the same person. The causes of phobias are not clear but It is thought that phobias are the result of a traumatic experience most often in childhood or adolescence or the consequence of upbringing. Phobias can be learnt and passed on from fears in other family members such as from the father or mother. Phobia may result from a life experience that may not even be remembered, such as a child being attacked or frightened by a dog which although forgotten may nonetheless result in a life long dog phobia.

Complex phobias are thought to arise from confidence issues during childhood or an intense experience in a social situation or a confidence issue at this vulnerable time in life. Social phobia may come about as the result of bullying or teenage awkwardness that never really improves possibly as a result of upbringing, not only by parents of course, but teachers and other adults may play a role in undermining confidence and self esteem. Genetics is also thought to play a role in certain phobias for example twins raised separately in different families may developed the same phobias. However there are a number of people who suffer with phobias who have no relations who have the condition. Culture also plays a role in the type of phobia experienced. For example there is a type of social phobia that is almost exclusive to Japan, taijin kyofusho,  a fear of offending or harming others in social situations, such issues of course being of great important to the Japanse. Generally with the more traditional social phobia the fear centres upon the sufferer's fear of being personally embarrassed or humiliated.

At the present time a more a definitive conclusion cannot be reached and a combination of all of the above may play a role, after all not everyone who is bitten by a dog goes on to be phobic about dogs, maybe phobias only develop in those who have a genetic predisposition.

All sounds fairly complex and such experiences could not arise in any being who was not aware, not sentient. Therefore if we can show that animals are phobic it demonstrates that they like us are sentient thinking feeling beings.

Below are accounts and stories of animal phobias. The first is an account of a hare rescued from imminent death.

Frances the agoraphobia Hare

Frances the hare was not only abandoned by her mother but narrowly avoided being killed by a farmer's plough in a field. Instead of enjoying the companionship of other wild hares outside Frances prefers to stay in the house with the Naylor family who rescued her and spends her time bounding up the stairs, lying on the couch watching TV and sleeping with her adoptive family. Wildlife artist Mr Naylor quoted in the Daily Mail, said:

'We got her when she was just a few days old so she became very tame very quickly. I have tried to get her to go into a run in the garden outside but she gets hugely spooked, so she sits inside with us, watching the television.

Read more:

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 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

Other links of interest concerning agoraphobic dogs:

The case of the agoraphobic dog

Dog won't leave house... ask a trainer

Forums discussing agoraphobic dogs

Agoraphobic dog? - You will need to scroll down to access the information

Helping a Scared Dog, Rescued From a Puppy Farm

Agoraphobic dog

Bipolar and Schizophrenia

We have above looked at mental health conditions that are easily observed in animals most notably depression and OCD but what about conditions such as bipolar and Schizophrenia, both of which in humans are considered very serious mental health conditions which are not as easily treated or controlled in humans as are neurotic conditions such as OCD and phobia. Concerning bipolar and Schizophrenia the sufferer lacks insight while in the throes of an untreated psychotic breakdown which results from these conditions. Basically concerning human beings the difference between an anxiety disorder such as phobia and OCD is that the sufferer is aware their behaviours are not normal, while a person suffering from a psychotic condition lacks this insight. This is not to say of course that neurotic illnesses such as those discussed above are not a serious detriment to life of both human and non human sufferers of course.

In my opinion It is likely that animals also suffer from serious mental health issues similar to bipolar or Schizophrenia. There has been though no research into this possibility and it is unlikely that there is anything similar to the degree of prevalence in non human animals in comparison to humans. It is difficult of course to ascertain the numbers of animals in the wild who would suffer from these conditions as it is likely that they would not survive long as such would effect their ability to search for food and shelter or to defend themselves. This of course would be the case for human beings without our advancements and social setup which, with some exceptions, supports members of the species with this type of condition consequently ensuring their survival.  Animals with serious mental health issues particularly those which distort reality are unlikely to survive and is the result of the process of natural selection, the survival of the fittest.  As a consequence mental illness in wild animals such as bipolar would not become dominant as animals would not pass on this genetic characteristic. Due to the lack of support the afflicted animal would not live long enough to pass on his or her defective genes, therefore animal Schizophrenia may be rare in the wild and more difficult to observe of course.

There is increasing evidence particularly in the case of bipolar and Schizophrenia that these conditions are neurological, therefore it is highly likely that similar neurological glitches occur in non human animals the same as does any physiological disease. If mental illness in humans is biological then it is likely that animals have mental illness also. The same applies of course if mental illnesses is the result of both biology and environment or a mix of the two which according to various opinions is the main thinking regarding the causation of mental illnesses in humans.

I consider it very likely that animals suffer from similar conditions varying of course according to their species, the most obvious difference being that animals would not  hear tormenting voices as is the case with a human who suffers with Schizophrenia, and if an animal were to experience auditory hallucinations it would of course be in context with whatever occurred within his or her natural experience. Not to suggest of course that animals have no form self talk which they clearly do but in their own way and this is clearly exhibited in the decision making process that Darwin observed and wrote about in his book the Descent of man :Of all the faculties of the human mind, it will, I presume, be admitted that reason stands at the summit. Only a few persons now dispute that animals possess some power of reasoning. Animals may constantly be seen to pause, deliberate, and resolve.

Moreover certain mental health issues in humans are not issues with animals. The most obvious is the flight or fight response without which in the wild an animal would not survive long. However in humans the inappropriateness of the fight or flight response in modern living is thought to be the cause of panic and anxiety attacks.

You cannot ascertain if an animal has a mental illness other than by observation. In humans the process of establishing mental illnesses is a complex one and one which depends more on a person's ability to express his or herself in language although behaviour of course is taken into account and in some severe cases may well be the only method of diagnosis.

Within the context of both schizophrenia and bipolar lets see if there are any examples of non human animals, animals whom we can observe, animals suffering with conditions that might be similar. The evidence is admittedly sparse but it has to be remembered that there has probably been little if any study into the possibility and as a consequence other than anecdotal evidence there is little scientific observation to substantiate the possibility.


To begin with we need to understand what schizophrenia is and how this condition effects members of our own species. Symptoms include:

Hallucinations can affect any of your senses. You might:

see things that others don’t
smell things that others don’t
hear voices or sounds that others don’t.

For information about schizophrenia continue reading:

Consider the above symptoms of schizophrenia, there are other symptoms of course, could this not occur in any animal? How often have we noticed our dog or cat or indeed any animal stare seemingly at nothing. Most certainly it is possible for an animal to experience this type of hallucination without our being any the wiser except perhaps if your dog was incessantly barking for no reason at all. Of course there are more likely reasons why dogs may bark for no reason nonetheless the above may be a factor that we could consider. In fact looking at some of the other symptoms many could well be occurring in animals within the context of their thinking and behavioural abilities and perspectives

It is important to not get confused with Schizophrenia and multiple personality disorder and some of the references below may have confused the two unless the reference is to a change in mood. Nonetheless they are interesting and provide good anecdotal evidence for the existence of schizophrenia or similar condition in animals.

Animals like us are subject to sudden and inexplicable mood changes however if the transition from a friendly loving animal licking your hand one minute and than in the next becoming more feral, more aggressive with no obvious trigger there may be a possibility that he or she has some kind of mental illness such schizophrenia. Other indications you may observe are if the animal, usually observed in cats and dogs as of course we are more close to these animals than just about any other, is seen to jump at imaginary figures, waging his or her tail or staring for long periods of time at what for the observer is absolutely nothing. If such happens frequently and is accompanied by aggression the animal may be suffering from Schizophrenia or a condition much like it.

Opinion from around the internet

In response to the question: Are there any instances of animals showing the classic symptom of mental illnesses we often see in people?

It would be hard to compare 'classic symptoms' in animals vs people. The methods used to diagnosis in people being much more complex in part, due to the ability of people to communicate distress/complexity more easily than animals can. We are left with observing behaviors with animals. Personally, I have seen only one case of what I would classify as severe mental illness in a dog we owned and for that situation there was no option other than to put the dog down. If I had to classify the condition, it would be autistic or paranoid schizophrenic.

Most people who responded to the question, can an animal have schizophrenia or psychosis, consider that animals have these conditions

Bipolar Disorder

Rather like schizophrenia it is more difficult to ascertain if an animals sufferers from bipolar disorder than it is to tell if an animal has OCD or is depressed. Bipolar is a form of depression but unlike clinical or major depression it is a more complex condition.

Here is how it presents in humans:

Many of the symptoms listed of course would obviously not apply to animals, nevertheless we cannot dismiss the possibility of a similar condition existing but with obvious differences.

Consider these symptoms  from Mind's webpage of mental activity that we all experience but is more extreme in anyone suffering with bipolar. Some of these symptoms could manifest in animal

Someone diagnosed with bipolar disorder (formerly known as manic depression) experiences swings in mood from periods of overactive, excited behaviour known as mania to deep depression. Between these severe highs and lows can be stable times. Some people also see or hear things that others around them don't (known as having visual or auditory hallucinations)

Again there are few accounts or anecdotes let alone scientific evidence however here are a few instances from around the net concerning the probability that animals may suffer from bipolar or a condition that is similar.

Again we can only diagnose by the observation of such symptoms as mood swings from hyperactivity to mania with a striking contrast of hyper depression. Information from the website below deals with the manifestation of symptoms of bipolar in dogs and includes examples from the two types of bipolar disorder stage one and Stage 2:

Sudden unexpected aggression, constant barking, biting. Extreme contentment, pleasure, bad temper, high energy levels, sleeplessness.  Depression presenting as a loss of interest in activities or toys. constant crying and howling, less energy drive, loss of interest toward food, weight loss/gain, tends to sleep more

Read more about bipolar in dogs from Dog Behaviour Base entitled Different Stages Of Bipolar Disorders in Dogs


Dogs and psychosis


Zoochosis is 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.  Zoochosis is of course a portmanteau of the words “zoo” and “psychosis,” which conveys the fact that zoo animals develop psychosis. Severe depression which leads to other related psychological problems is among many of the conditions exhibited in zoo or other captive animals and occurs in both wild animals and those born into captivity. Mostly these conditions arise from chronic boredom, frustration as a result of alienation from their natural environment, loss of normal social interaction, lack of natural activity and enforced idleness, inability to determine the course of their own lives as a result of direct control by humans, medication and the control of fertility and natural mating and of course caging and other confinement social structures.

Zoochosis is of course worse in zoos where the conditions are poor, zoos that do little to provide any stimulation or have keepers who are abusive.

Awareness that animals suffer psychological damage is growing amongst conservationists and people who look after animals in captivity and some attempts, albeit inadequate, have been made to enrich their environment. However there is no substitute for an animal such as an elephant who in the wild may range as much as ten miles a day, a tiger who can run for miles with incredible speeds even an animal in a petting zoo such as a rabbit cannot be adequately provided for in terms of a natural life. Observe a rabbit in the wild who runs at considerable speed for long distances. Also rabbits in the wild live highly social lives in burrows with dozens of other rabbits.

Keeping animals in captivity can, and does, cause immense mental suffering to the animals confined and displayed for human entertainment. This also includes circuses and even safari parks; while the conditions in the latter are considerably better they however can never provide a substitute for a creature living in the wild and the environment of course becomes monotonous after a while. Consider that some animals such as zebras travel many miles a day and range from one area to another. The same problems of course also occur with animals kept as pets such as a rabbit often neglected after the novelty has worn off to live wreathed lives in a tiny hutch at the bottom of someone's garden, with no company, no stimulation and no freedom, also  guinea pigs, gerbils, or other confined creatures including caged birds of course

Here is list of some of the behaviours displayed by animals suffering Zoochosis. These are serious conditions many of which present in human beings with mental heath problems and are signs of severe psychological suffering .

Depression, Bar biting, which damages teeth; Continual tongue licking of walls and bars of enclosure; pacing, walking back and forth; circling, similar to pacing but involves following a defined route placing feet in exactly the same position each time; Neck twisting, may occur with pacing and involves unnatural twisting of the neck, flicking the head round and bending it back; Vomiting, but not connected with a physical illness similar to human bulimia involves repeated vomiting, also eating of vomit; Coprophagia, a behaviour which may also occur in humans with psychological  conditions and involves playing with, eating and smearing excrement on walls; rocking, a symptom of mental health problems which presents in humans is displayed by chimpanzees and manifests as sitting sometimes hugging the legs and rocking backwards and forwards; Swaying a behaviour also seen in humans presents in animals in confinement. This behaviour includes swaying the head and shoulders from side to side sometimes the whole body while remaining standing in one place. More conditions which present with humans mental illness but which are exhibited by zoo and other confined animals includes Head bobbing and weaving, a behaviour displayed by horses, bears and elephants see video above. Again standing in one place the animal continuously moves his or her head up and down or weaves to and fro; Over grooming, an obsessive-compulsive behaviour which includes excessive cleaning and tidying and also rather like trichotillomania mentioned above involves the compulsion to pluck out feathers or pull out hair even to the extent of causing boldness; Self-mutilation, a serious consequence of mental illness in humans which often involves cutting, likewise captive animals may self inflict upon themselves physical harm including chewing or biting a tail or leg or banging their head against a wall.

The above details came from the website below where you will find further information

Watch the video below

Sad Eyes and Empty Lives

Sad Eyes and Empty Lives is a clear and eloquent argument against the practice of imprisoning animals in zoos. All the major justifications put forward by the modern zoo industry are destroyed here, from the 'con' in conservation, the myth that zoos serve to 'educate' people about wild animals, and the lie that zoo prisoners are adequately protected by the law in the shape of the 1981 Zoo Licensing Act.


Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Do animals suffer with post traumatic stress disorder PTSD

We now know that elephants suffer from psychological flashbacks and likely experience the equivalent of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Marc Beckoff

Firstly what is PTSD and how does it manifest in humans. Once known as shell shock and only applied to combatants PTSD is a type of anxiety disorder which manifests after someone has seen or experienced a traumatic event which involved the threat of injury or death. For example PTSD may present after combat as mentioned above or witnessing or being a victim of other acts of violence such as terrorism or an assault such as rape or a mugging, after a disaster such as a fire or after time spent in prison, in fact any experience that the person perceives as traumatic that is outside normal experience. It may also present not only in the person who experienced the event, or who witnessed the event but also in friends or relatives of the victim. People who suffer with PTSD may experience a number of frightening reactions even after a long time has passed and in a safe environment: the trauma may be relived in the form of nightmares and vivid memories or flashbacks; situations and circumstances in their everyday lives may remind the suffer of his or her trauma leaving the person stressed and anticipatory all the time. A full list of possible reactions in human PTSD appears below:

If you have faced a traumatic experience, you may simply feel emotionally numb to begin with, and feelings of distress may not emerge straight away. But sooner or later, you are likely to develop emotional and physical reactions, and changes in behaviour, which may include some of the following:

Reliving aspects of the trauma

vivid flashbacks (feeling that the trauma is happening all over again)
intrusive thoughts and images
intense distress at real or symbolic reminders of the trauma.
Avoiding memories

keeping busy
avoiding situations that remind you of the trauma
repressing memories (being unable to remember aspects of the event)
feeling detached, cut off and emotionally numb
being unable to express affection
feeling there’s no point in planning for the future.
Being easily upset or angry

disturbed sleep
irritability and aggressive behaviour
lack of concentration
extreme alertness
panic response to anything to do with the trauma
being easily startled.

Symptom list from Mind's website, read more:

There is evidence that PTSD may manifest in animals. It has been observed that wild elephants display symptoms of PTSD similar to those of humans such as abnormal startle response, depression, unpredictable asocial behaviour and hyperaggression. Sadly elephants have experienced much trauma as a result of habitat loss, poaching and culling. In the early 1900s there was an estimated 10 million elephants in the wild; today there are only about half a million. Elephants are reared and live in matriarchal social structures and form close relationships in complex layers of extended family. Culling and poaching have split these patterns of society by eliminating the supportive structure of the matriarch and older female caretakers.

Read more here:

In 1994 an elephant named tyke an African elephant mauled her groomer and trainer than escaping to seek refuge in the streets of Honolulu before finally being killed by law enforcement officers. A tragedy borne of the elephants stress and trauma.

"The Tyke footage is particularly disturbing when you look through the eyes of the science, because you understand the behavior that Tyke displays is someone who is incredibly stressed, someone who is so traumatized and so upset. It's very un-elephant like behavior,"
Gay Bradshaw, director of The Kerulos Center a research institute quoted in 'They're Like Us,' Elephant Researchers Say by Kimberly Launier

Elephants say researcher Gay Bradshaw have good reason to fear humans who have encroached negatively on their way of life. Elephant populations have been decimated by poaching for ivory, hunting and capture and confinement in zoos and used for entertainment such as circuses. These traumas have reduced these gentle care free animals into depressive and sometimes aggressive creatures. Gay and her fellow researchers have made a diagnosis of PTSD:

"To diagnose an elephant with PTSD is novel, but that's because we have denied elephants the capacity of having a mind, having emotions. All the neuroscience says, yes, it's there, and the behavior confirms it."
Gay Bradshaw,

Read more of this article

Access more information about PTSD in elephants

Disruption to elephant society and other traumatic experiences as a consequence of human activities such as poaching and captivity has led to unusual and violent reactions in elephants towards humans and the presentation of behaviours very like PTSD in our own species.

The elephants of decimated herds, especially orphans who’ve watched the death of their parents and elders from poaching and culling, exhibit behavior typically associated with post-traumatic stress disorder and other trauma-related disorders in humans: abnormal startle response, unpredictable asocial behavior, inattentive mothering and hyperaggression.

Read More

An Elephant Crackup? By Charles Siebert new York Times Magazine

This is a very informative and moving article clearly demonstrating conclusively the emergence of PTSD and other related disorders in elephants.

Stories of animals with PTSD

As already mentioned 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 effected with PTSD

Before going to Iraq as a highly trained explosive detection dog two year old German Sheppard Gina was a happy and playful dog. As a door to door bomb sniffing dog Gina was 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 than human beings use animals in their dreadful conflicts, animals who really have no say in the matter.

An act of cruelty causes PTSD in a cat.

In the seaside town of Ramsgate in the UK a man was caught on video swinging a cat named Mowgli by his tail. The ordeal lasted for over thirty seconds and left the cat traumatised with symptoms which very much suggest the beginnings of PTSD. Though Mowgli escaped the attack without injury his owner believes the whole incident has not only traumatised him but has also affected the two other cats who live with him who likewise will not venture outside. This is rather like the way that a traumatic experience effects the friends and relatives of the victim of an assault who likewise may become more anxious and vulnerable.

His concerned owner quoted in The Hufftington Post UK said the following:

"It's horrific. I can't believe anyone would do something that cruel. Mowgli is emotional. He's just distraught. He won't go out the door."

"When I got home he was in my bed so that he would feel secure. Now, he'll go as far as the door and turn back. He used to be outside constantly. He'd be scratching at the window."

 "Before this happened my cats used to sit outside the house on the steps and everybody knew them. Since then none of them do that."
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Dog with PTSD

Kodiak is a six months old chow chow who has been through so much trauma in his short life that his ordeals have adversely affected him. His history is not clear but he was found at the age of three with a dislocated back right leg which had to be amputated, previously he had somehow managed to get around on his dislocated leg for two or three months before ending up in a sanctuary where his present owner found him, it took a year for him to get used to managing without his right leg and learn to walk and eventually to run and play. In addition to his disability Kodiak was diagnosed with demodex a parasitic condition found in mammals. However the most significant factor in the development of Kodiak's PTSD occurred after an unpleasant experience with an emergency vet.

His owner describes how this has affected Kodiak

His main problem now is (he is 3.5 years old) that when he wakes up from sleeping, he acts like he thinks someone is out to get him; he goes in a split second from sleep to uncontrollably, blindly, barking and getting up to attack whatever he thinks it is that attacks him (this happens mostly when he wakes up from noises like a knock on the door).

It takes him a couple of minutes to realize that everything is good, but during that time I have to watch him closely since we have 3 other dogs whom he might attack when he is in that aroused state of mind.

There may be less obvious causes than the case of Gina for PTSD in animals. Depending on circumstances PTSD may be the result of a number of causations other than physical or mental cruelty or abuse including training, competing, and general mismanagement, a traumatic birth, either premature or too late and having to be literally pulled from their mothers. Also separation anxiety, loss of and or seeing the death of a companion, natural disasters and being hurt while being transported.  Also animals confined for long periods of time may become depressed, angry or withdrawn. Boredom is a form of stress and as is the case with humans can damage the health of an animal. Extensive travelling, unscheduled meal times can cause stress in animals who prefer a routine. In fact rather like humans PTSD may arise from any unfavourable circumstance that may not always be apparent to the observer

Stories from around the net

Two case histories of possible PTSD from Google Answers

Autism in Animals

Although autism is not a mental illness I have included it here as mostly in humans autism comes under the umbrella of the psychologist or psychiatrist. Moreover regarding animal sentience if we can prove that animals also have such conditions which are the same as or similar to our own it goes along way in establishing animals as sentient aware beings with personalities, characters and behaviours uniquely their own.

Firstly what is autism and how does it manifest in humans?

Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people. It also affects how they make sense of the world around them.

Read more:

How autism manifests in animals

Canine Autism/Aspergers?? is the question asked about a dog whose behaviour is of  concern.

All through his puppyhood, he has not really acted like a "normal" dog. He doesn't seem to know or understand normal doggy body language. He does not like being affectionate or cuddly, although he shows what SEEMS to be separation anxiety when I leave.

An example of possible canine AS/autism among the responses to the above question

A responder says the following about his dog:

He has no dog communication skills and cannot read dog body language. He also has no clue how to play with toys or wrestle or anything like that. He also does not have a clue how to be affectionate, you touch him and he gets very stiff. It took me forever to teach him to relax and he's finally enjoying cuddling in his older years.

Read the complete question and the responses

I have a dog that I believe has Asperger's/Autism. She doesn't like being hugged or held. Her brother, from the same litter, wants to be held like a baby as much as possible.

Response to a question on Dogster, Is there such a thing as Canine Autism?

As a canine behaviorist and trainer for 20 years, and having worked with about 8,000 dogs, I can tell you that dogs definitely can exhibit autistic tendencies just as humans do. I currently have a dog who I would term "high-functioning autistic." He is a 12-year-old Greater Swiss Mountain Dog. He's always been "different," and I now attribute this to canine autism. He relates to his world in a much different way from other dogs. His reactions are also much different from "normal." He's a nice dog, and fairly "happy" in his world, but he in no way acts, learns, or works like a typical Swissy. He is very much more like autistic children I've known. Dr. Marty Goldstein, who is Martha Stewart's holistic vet, has done some work on canine autism. You could query him about it. As for treating it, I see no reason for any treatment, as long as the dog can function or be managed in a safe way. Just realize he's not going to be as good at making decisions as a normal dog.

This page is ongoing and will be updated and added to when further information and stories are found. If you have a story to tell of an animal who has mental health problems please consider including it here by  e-mailing Christine Contact




Photo by Tony Esopi

* I have endeavoured to provide accurate references for stories found on the internet however some of the stories are so frequently repeated that the original source is not easily identifiable. If you see any story here that is yours for which you have not been credited for or have not given permission for its inclusion please Contact me.


Credit Photo: (c) 2008 by Wanda Embar, Vegan Peace. Picture taken at Farm Sanctuary.

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I am not an animal expert of any kind just your average person who loves animals, all animals, and feels deeply about the plight of many of our fellow creatures. Neither am I a writer, or any other expert. Therefore please keep in mind that the information included in this website has been researched to the best of my ability and any misinformation is quite by accident but of course possible.

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