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One of our dogs is currently under very heavy medication (something similar to cortisone). Our vet who took this stuff herself during an illness described the side effects to be so exhausting it makes death seem the better option sometimes. A person however is capable of understanding the need of the treatment, what causes the side effects and that they will end after treatment. It is impossible to explain this to a dog.

In the last few days our dog fell into the pond several times while he tried to drink. He always drank from the pond before and normally isn't as clumsy, sometimes he really seemed to slip into the pond on purpose. This only happened after the dosage was reduced, before he was too exhausted to go outside most of the time. I am not interested in the cause of this behavior, as I am currently not near the dog and can't really judge the effect of the drugs on him.


Are dogs capable of committing suicide?
Are they aware of the consequences their actions have and can chose to die intentionally?

While there are some articles written about this topic, those I've found and the Wikipedia article on animal suicide are inconclusive.

Note: I am interested in research on this subject, opinions or anecdotal evidence can't really answer my question. An answer does not have to be specifically about dogs, but it should show that assumptions made on other animals apply to dogs, too.

  • 1
    Note2: everything before that line is just fluff and not part of the real question, just giving some context why I ask myself this question. – Baarn Oct 31 '13 at 12:45
  • Research costs a lot of money. The people who fund research typically expect some form of ROI. While interesting, There is not much in the way of a return on dog sucicide. A lot of what is known about the finer points of animal behavior is based on observation in the field al la Jane Goodall. My field observations indicate cats and dogs are not mentally equipped to commit suicide. Performing controlled laboratory studies to try to induce suicide in dogs would be viewed as rather cruel, and not good for a researcher's career. – Beo Apr 17 '14 at 23:30
  • If there's no note, I'd be suspicious. – Oldcat Apr 17 '14 at 23:39
  • Since you said that one of the medicine's side effects are found "to be so exhausting", I'd just blame it on the dog being out of sorts and accidentally slipping while drinking. When a relative was on a heavy Coritsone dose, she felt dizzy to the point where it was hard to keep her balance while walking -- your dog may be experiencing the same thing. – Johnny Oct 23 '14 at 20:04
12

This is an interesting question. Personally based on the information I've seen, I don't believe a dog has the cognitive ability to decide that death is better than their life. They probably can't even comprehend what "death" is. The idea of committing suicide is a very advanced thing to think about.

I'm sure we've all heard the classic idea of "self-awareness", where it was proposed that humans are the only animals that are self-aware. According to this wiki article, this idea extends to a few other animals, namely apes, elephants and dolphins.

Self-awareness

But self-awareness would probably be necessary to knowingly cause your own death.

Also, a smaller part of this I think would be the idea of time. When you commit suicide, you're deciding that your future won't get better over time. The Jury is out on whether or not one could consider a dog to have a sense of time, but there are some interesting reads

DOG BEHAVIOR
Do dogs understand the concept of time?

Overall I think that it's possible for a dog not to have the "will to live" but I think that choosing their own death is a bit too advanced for his mind

6

I don't think that dogs "commit suicide" in the same sense as humans. That said, I do think that dogs decide when their time is up, and I think they generally do it by stopping their consumption of food entirely.

One of my dogs had an aggressive form of cancer, and when things really got bad she stopped eating. She was on various medications, including one to stimulate appetite, but she refused to eat anything no matter what. (We tried a lot of things.) The vet said that if she's refusing to eat then there isn't anything we can do. I think my dog knew that and it was her way of saying that it was her time to go. So in that sense I think she chose her fate, but suicide is more going out of your way to kill yourself, whereas refusing to eat is more passive.

  • Yes, you're right, I have similar experience. Our previous dog had also cancer, but we didn't know it until the crisis came about. He was so ill, he could barely move anymore. And yet, after peeing, he went to a place below some trees near the house and laid down there in the snow, it was a hard winter with -15°C. It took a while before I even found him, I had to follow the traces in te snow. I had to carry him in the house, he would not go on its own. He did this again on the other day, again I carried him on my arms into the house. Two days later he died. – Ingo Apr 18 '14 at 17:19
  • @Ingo: I'm so sorry for your loss. – Alex A. Apr 18 '14 at 19:40

protected by Henders Jun 20 '18 at 12:59

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