This is a much debated subject, but it is looking like more and more experts are starting to agree – pets can suffer from depression.
The fact that not many people are aware of this leads to the condition seldom getting treatment and as with humans, this can have dire consequences.
Let me tell you two stories from personal experience and you can make up your own mind.
The first is about a parrot owned by a good friend. The parrot grew up with my friend, but after some years, my friend had to move away for work reasons and the parrot was left with his parents. The parrot bonded with my friend’s father. After about four years, my friend settled down in a place where he could again keep his beloved parrot and they were reunited.
Everything went well until the parrot started plucking out his tail feathers and eventually plucked more and more of his feathers. Diet supplements and numerous vet trips did not help. Eventually one forward thinking vet put the parrot on anti-depressants. Almost immediately the plucking stopped and started looking like a healthy parrot again.
Then my friend went on holiday and the parrot had to stay with his parents for two weeks. They were scarcely back home when the plucking started again. Out of desperation and for the parrot’s well being, he was returned to my friend’s parents and now, some years later, has not plucked a feather and is thriving.
Did he miss the father, or is this pure coincidence?
The second story is much closer to home and still somewhat raw.
We had an armed robbery in our house where my wife and I were split up, three of our dogs sat by her through the whole ordeal while the fourth dog, Tissi, sat outside the window of the room where I was trapped, shouting for help, but unable to do anything.
Tissi was never the same afterwards, it was as if she had lost some of her spirit and sadly passed away seven months later at the fairly young age of eleven.
We were so tied up in our own struggle to get past the harrowing experience that we did not recognise her symptoms then and will always wonder if we could have done anything to help her.
Over the years working with rescued animals we also often saw the typical symptoms of depression: Kennel stress, listlessness and constant licking, amongst others.
Yes, I do believe our animals can suffer from depression and, like with our human friends, we must be on the lookout for it and get them help as soon as possible.
Below is some further reading