intention or accident
Have you ever heard someone claim that a dog committed suicide by jumping out of a window, jumping into the road, or falling off a bridge?
The truth is that these events happen. But what is the explanation?
The same emotions that lead people to take their own lives appear in dogs
Although it is practically impossible to get into the mind of a person to know the exact reasons that can lead him to commit suicide. We can name some of the more general emotions and note how, interestingly, they also appear in dogs.
- Depression: the mental suffering suffered by people with depression, and the lack of desire to live, lead some people to end their lives.
- Impulsivity: Lack of self-control can lead a person to death.
- Psychosis: hallucinations caused by a malfunction of the brain’s natural biochemistry or as a result of the action of external substances such as alcohol or drugs.
- Inability to manage stress: acute or chronic suffering can lead a person to such a state of stress and anxiety that they end up engaging in self-destructive behavior or taking their own life.
Against suicide in dogs
A large number of researchers assure that, to commit suicide, these three requirements must be met:
- Ability to reflect on the subject’s own life
- Intent to harm or kill yourself
- Being aware of death and its consequences
To commit suicide, it is necessary to have a level of self-awareness that validates the intention to stop living. It therefore requires awareness not only of life, but also of death.
In this aspect, the dogs would be far from such a situation, as they are not aware of the consequences of their death.
Some arguments in favor of the existence of suicide in dogs
Opinion biased by anthropocentrism?
Other points of view contemplate the possibility of the existence of suicide in dogs.
And they argue that their denial is due to a biased vision of anthropocentrism, unable to assume certain levels of consciousness in non-human animals.
However, the acceptance of certain emotions in dogs that we already know today could open new doors to a vision of suicide as a phenomenon that is not exclusively human.
3 Causes of Dog Deaths That Look Like Suicides
- Overwhelming intensity emotions: we know that dogs get excited and that emotions can be experienced at very different intensities. For example, a dog may feel different emotions about food, people, other dogs, being left alone, or going to the vet. But, in addition, the intensity in which you experience such emotions can also vary.
When the emotional intensity reaches its maximum levels, the cognitive system of the dog’s brain is blocked and this makes his behavior completely irrational. This can cause him to run out and be hit by a car, when a firecracker sounds and he gets scared, or jump out of the window in the panic of being left alone. You could just as well get hit by running after a rabbit or chasing a bike. But the intention was not to die.
- Stress: a dog that does not see its basic needs met, as often happens when living in captivity and not having freedom, can experience an exaggerated level of stress. This stress could be expressed through self-destructive behaviors. For example, injuring yourself by biting parts of your body. These attitudes are known as stereotypes and are the result of the body’s need to release the excess energy produced by the body.
- Depression: dogs can experience states of sadness and anguish so great that they block their behavior and stop performing basic functions for survival. In learned helplessness , the dog has learned that it is unable to get out of an adverse situation, and therefore stops trying. Even if you have options to get out of the unpleasant situation, you will not see them. This state can lead to death.
With all this, it seems that the fact that dogs feel and get emotional like humans and that they have cognitive abilities that never cease to amaze us, leaves an open door to the possibility that suicide is not something exclusively human.
Just because this possibility exists, we are obliged not only to take care of the physical health of our pets, but also their mental health.
How to cure depression in dogs?
- Maintain your dog’s routines, walks, meals, hygiene and affection. Try to be observable and know it.
- Take care of your diet and make sure it is quality, natural and prepared with love.
- Suggest activities that motivate you
- Stimulate your senses, such as using your sense of smell, or touch through massage.
- Keep a positive attitude, patience and a lot of perseverance.
- Do not rule out help from a veterinary specialist in ethology who can prescribe appropriate supplements or drugs.
Peña-Guzmán, D. M. 2017. Can nonhuman animals commit suicide? Animal Sentience, 2(20), 1.