Mental illness in (non human) animals?

Here’s an interesting question for you medical dopers.

Animals (other than humans, of course) can have many medical conditions that are similar to human ailments. For example, a horse can have a broken leg and a pig can have a bacterial infection.

Is it meaningful to speak of animals as having mental illnesses? Is it possible, in theory, to have a schizophrenic duck (in the sense that the duck actually has schizophrenia or a veterinary equivalent), a sociopathic turtle, a horse with panic disorder, a cat with gender identity disorder, or a sheep with OCD?

I’m more interested in whether a veterinarian can legitimately diagnose or treat mental illnesses in animals than anecdotes about pet behavior.

Some dogs get something that very much resembles clinical depression in people. They are sometimes treated with antidepressants as well and can respond to them.

Lot’s of animals can show symptoms of something like post traumatic stress disorder especially if they were badly abused.

Yup. Dogs can also get dementia.

There are also other mental problems dogs can get that that have inexact analogies in humans. Separation anxiety is a very common one in most breeds, for example.

Animals can certainly suffer from induced dementia. One specific example is of a polar bear in a zoo, in a too-small enclosure, who went completely insane (non-technical term.) Repetitive behaviors, weird vocalizations, etc. When she was moved to a larger, richer enclosure, instead of adapting…she died.

Some horses are clearly terrified of things that don’t bother other horses. I’m not sure if you’d call it a phobia or just being extremely easily scared, but I think it counts.

Another thing that occurred to me regarding the sociopathic turtle question - you can’t really be a sociopath without empathy, and nor can you really have “proper” empathy without a theory of mind.

I’m convinced my dog has this because it makes me emotionally happy and my gut says so. But science as I understand it has only the great apes, and maybe dolphins, having ToM. Hard to know.

Turtles seem unlikely to have it.

The more intelligent parrots like African Greys can basically be driven insane through isolation(they are naturally highly social animals) and become self destructive(pulling all their plumage and picking at their skin til open sores develop which can be life threatening if infected).

Dogs can also basically go insane through isolation and become destructive of their enviroment.

Absolute rubbish of course. What I intended to say was that you can’t really be a sociopath unless you lack an empathy you would be expected to have if you were normally functioning. So either all turtles are sociopaths, or none are.

Harry Harlow’s controversial experiments with cloth and wire mother surrogates and partial and complete social isolation of monkeys indicated that monkeys can suffer from something like attachment disorder and can be severely psychologically distrubed through isolation.

I once had a cat who developed what was essentially OCD a little while after our older cat, who was his good pal, died. He started licking himself excessively, to the point of developing bald spots. The vet couldn’t find any real cause (no allergies, mites, or other skin conditions). We got a new kitten a few months later, and once the older cat accepted him and started to play, the weird grooming behavior stopped. I can’t say conclusively that he was displaying “mental illness”, but it sure looked that way to me.

Both dogs and cats can get a form of Pica. Siamese cats seem to be prone to wool sucking.

Nope. As far as I know, schizophrenia is a sort of ‘unwanted side effect’ of the mental wiring necessary for complex language so it only occurs in humans.

That said, there are plenty of other mental problems animals can have. Phobias, compulsive behaviour, depression, PTSD, etc. My aunt used to have a rabbit that got attacked by a dog and spent the rest of its days pressed into one corner of its hutch and freaking out if anyone touched it. I saw what happened when someone lifted it out so that they could clean the hutch; the other rabbit, a laid back bunny named Peter, was picked up and put in a temporary cage without fuss, but trauma-bunny went nuts, thrashing about and apparently trying to claw the person holding it. There was definitely something broken inside that rabbit’s head.

CMC fnord!

I once dated a women who took rescue dogs and trained them as helpers for physically handicapped, wheelchair bound people.

One otherwise normal seeming dog would not stop whining unless you were paying direct attention to it. IIRC she said that was the reason the prior owners had given it up to the shelter. The whining was unbearable. If it was in it’s cage it was whining and it was non-ending, as long as the dog was awake and in it’s kennel it was whining.

She got to the point she tried a shock collar to stop it, but even that would only stop it for a while and the dog would whine in as a low a volume as it thought could get away with without her noticing. Was the dog “mentally ill”? I don’t know, but it could not stop whining to save it’s life.

B.F. Skinner and others had “superstitious” pigeons. If they were being trained to push a button to get food, and they just happened to do something like bob their head before pushing, they would associate that head bob = food, even if it is really not true. Then they would do that behavior before every button press. I would hesitate to say that this is truly analogous to OCD or Tourette’s, though.

As stated above, some dogs can be treated with anti-depressants and seem to respond to it.

There is now even a veterinary specialty in animal behavior, which would include things akin to mental illnesses.

My dog has severe separation anxiety, which manifested only after we got him, when we were gone all day to a party and it happened to rain that day. My dog doesn’t like storms, especially thunder, and with us not home, something flipped over in his head.

Since then he’s attacked 5 doors (destroyed and almost got through 2), destroyed carpets, and scratched his already bloody claws on a doorway which has not ever had a door.

His vet prescribed xanax, twice a day, every day. No kidding.