mad dog –or just a sad dog?

According to a new study from Zaragoza University in Spain, dogs who growl, snap and bite are not necessarily aggressive by nature  –  and could simply be suffering from depression.

A study of family pets found that badly behaved canines tend to have lower levels of serotonin than calmer, happy pets. The study authors say the discovery could lead to new treatments for canine aggression and even increased use of pet Prozac, not that Prozac for dogs doesn’t exist already. In 2007, the drug company Eli Lilly launched a beef-flavored form of Prozac aimed at dogs suffering from ‘separation anxiety’. (Hey, maybe they can start making candy versions of Prozac for us!)

The researchers tested blood samples from 80 dogs referred to two veterinary teaching hospitals after their owners complained that the animals were aggressive. When the blood was compared to samples from 19 normally behaved dogs, the researchers found that snappy, angry animals had lower concentrations of serotonin.

The lowest readings came from dogs whose anti-social behavior appeared to be an attempt at self-defense. The snappiest dogs also had higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol, the researchers report in the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science.

It is hoped the findings will make it easier to diagnose doggy depression, which could be treated with antidepressants. But what do vets think are the reasons why some dogs get depressed? Not enough walks or too many hours left alone each day. So, before feeding our pets some pills, perhaps we can take better care of our canine family members.

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2 Comments to “mad dog –or just a sad dog?”

  1. It seems no one wants to help “aggressive dogs”. I had a very loving aggressive dog for 9 years, loving towards me and my husband of course, but no one else. I tried to get the vet to put him on medication, no help, trainers wouldn’t take him, the one place that finally took him was mean to him (I’m pretty sure) and he would not go back into the building no matter what I did, so not like him. We had to take him home and skip the appt. There is very little help for aggressive dogs. They just need help, and the owners probably need help too, if any behavior changes need to be made. And if help comes in pill form, so be it. He was very very loved and well taken care of, I still miss him every day, 4 years later.

  2. maybe there’s some sort of a stigma within the dog community re: aggressive dogs. Even when we know what would work for them, they (the professionals) are not necessarily willing to give the help that the dogs need. Since your last dog, do you have pets now?

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