5 min read


Can Dogs be Bipolar?



5 min read


Can Dogs be Bipolar?


Over recent years, we have come to learn a lot about bipolar disorder in humans, with many cases coming to light. People used to know very little about this condition until recently, as it was often not even diagnosed. However, it is important to remember that this is a human condition and not one that should be attached to dogs. 

Some people are curious as to whether dogs can be bipolar. Well, the conclusive answer is not really – although this doesn’t mean that they won’t have their off days, just like every animal. However, your dog feeling grumpy or aggressive does not mirror the manic highs and dramatic lows that are seen in humans with this condition.


Signs that Mimic Bipolar in Dogs

According to veterinary experts, dogs tend to switch emotions in reaction to an external factor or situation. Bipolar, on the other hand, is a biochemical disorder and dogs do not have this sort of biochemical response to make them switch moods from high to low in sudden spurts.

You may have thought that your dog was suffering from this sort of condition because of signs that you have picked up on. For instance, perhaps your dog is normally happy and cheerful but has become grumpy and aggressive. This is more likely to be the result of another condition that may be causing him pain or some external factor that has made him unhappy such as a new pet in the house.

It is important not to read the signs wrong if your dog suffers a change of mood. Many dogs have their off days where they will be tired, grumpy, or withdrawn. This does not mean that they are bipolar although it could be classed as a polarity switch if they suddenly go from one state to another. For example, if your dog is playing around happily but then sees another dog and becomes scared or aggressive, this could be classed as a switch in polarity but not in the same way as bipolar disorder. 

There are certain body language signs that your dog may display when his mood changes suddenly, but as mentioned earlier this is often a reaction to something external. This could include becoming withdrawn with his ears down, baring his teeth and becoming suddenly aggressive, laying down with little or no energy, or whining and trying to get your attention. 

This could indicate that the dog has either encountered a situation that he does not like such as a stranger or other animals, or that he has an injury or condition that is causing him pain. If it is an external factor it may only last for a short period until the threat or situation subsides.

Some dogs can suffer from neurosis and sometimes the issue could be behavioral. Some signs that your dog may display that may mimic bipolar include sudden mood swings, aggressive behavior, becoming withdrawn and fearful, or becoming totally aloof and disinterested. 

Body Language

<p>Some signs in dogs that mimic bipolar disorder are:</p>

  • Barking
  • Whining
  • Ears Drop

Other Signs

<p>There are other signs that may make you think that your dog suffers from bipolar or another similar condition, including:</p>

  • Acting Allof
  • Fearful Behavior
  • Sudden Changes In Mood
  • Aggression
  • Baring Teeth
  • Acting Withdrawn

The History of Bipolar Disorder


While many people had not heard of bipolar disorder until recent years, the modern description of the disorder came about in the 19th century. This was when a description of the disorder was presented to a medical academy in Paris by two medics who determined that there was a strong genetic link. The disorder was further investigated by other psychiatric experts during the 1900s but it was not until the 1960s when a distinction was made for people who displayed both extreme highs and lows as part of their disorder.

To date, no such disorder has been identified for dogs despite the fact that dogs can sometimes display what appear to be sudden mood changes. However, as veterinary experts have observed this is usually a reaction rather than a biochemical imbalance that can lead to these extremes.  

Over the years, these mood changes in dogs have been put down to environmental factors, other conditions, or behavioral problems although they can display similar symptoms to bipolar disorder as we know it today. This results in some owners being convinced that their dog has bipolar disorder, when, in fact, it is another factor that is causing the issue. 

The Science of Bipolar-Like Dogs


In terms of the science behind this sort of behavior in dogs, it can be put down to a polarity switch, in a manner of speaking, if something happens to make their mood or actions change dramatically. 

However, it is not the biochemical change that occurs in humans who are bipolar. Dogs will often switch moods because of their immediate environment or situation. They can even switch moods in line with your own mood because they are able to sense your feelings through your tone, actions, and expression. Their behavior is a combination of instinct and behavior that they have learned. 

Training for Bipolar-Like Behavior in Dogs


If you find that your dog is experiencing what you would consider as severe mood swings, the first port of call should be your veterinarian. They will be able to determine whether there is an underlying condition and what the root cause of the problem is, which means that appropriate action can then be taken. It could very well turn out that the mood swings are down to behavioral issues in your dog, in which case you need to consider behavioral training, which you can do with the help of professionals.

When you take your dog to behavioral training, it can help him in many ways. In addition to getting him used to new situations and environments, it can also help to socialize him with other dogs and people. This could be part of the reason behind the symptoms he displays, which is why proper socialization is always deemed important in dogs. Learning how to get along with other animals, other people, and respond to you as his owner could make a big difference to the way your dog reacts to certain situations and environments. This, in turn, could help to eliminate the mood swings that he appears to be having.

With the right behavioral training, you can address a range of issues that may be affecting your pooch, which includes everything from aggression or extreme timidity through to excessive barking, biting, jumping and more. It is also worth noting that behavioral problems in dogs may stem from separation anxiety if they are left alone for long periods each day. 

In addition, failing to pay enough attention to your dog through play and communication could affect his moods and his behavior. You should, therefore, make sure you take the time to involve your dog in activities and communicate with him effectively. 

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Written by a Boston Terrier lover Reno Charlton

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 02/16/2018, edited: 04/06/2020

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