I sometimes wonder this because I see so many dogs dead on the side of the road, so I wonder if there is a percentage of these dogs that do this on person. Let’s take a deeper look.
We certainly cannot ask them if they are depressed because they don’t speak English. But we can observe their behavior and deduce what they may be experiencing in the same way that we can interpret human behavior.
When humans are depressed they tend to either sleep much more than usual or have trouble sleeping. They will exhibit symptoms of lethargy, their appetite will change, and they will generally not want to be part of their usual activities. So when a dog starts acting this way, we know that there is something wrong. But we must be careful here because the dog could just be ill with some physical affliction. Just the same as adults, physical health problems can sometimes have the same symptoms as mental health problems.
But the question of the day is, would a dog actually go through the trouble of committing suicide if he were sad enough?
In order to commit suicide, humans have to have a plan and means available. Planning is a skill that humans have mastered due to our enlarged frontal lobe (and to a larger extend, the entire cortex) of the brain. Dogs do have a limited ability to plan however. For instance, if you teach your dog to go get a beer out of the refrigerator, the dog has to know where the refrigerator is, he has to know how to open the fridge, which thing in there is beer, and some sort of rudimentary plan about how to transport the beer to you. So in a sense, a dog does have the ability to plan things out.
But here is where a dog would ultimately fail at suicide. Death is sort of an abstraction, and abstract subjects take a well developed brain with an agile cortex to be able to work through. There is no clear evidence that I am aware of that dogs are capable of abstraction, much less formulate a plan that contains abstract subject matter. The more evolved the organism, the thicker their cortex extends from the brain’s limbic system, the part of the brain responsible for the most basic of tasks such as breathing and heart beat. Dogs have a well developed limbic system like most mammals, but not a whole lot in the way of cortex; therefore, I think it is safe to deduce that dogs do not commit suicide.
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