4 min read


Can Dogs be Schizophrenic?



4 min read


Can Dogs be Schizophrenic?


There seems to be a fair amount of toss-up when it comes to the question: Can my dog be schizophrenic?  

Researchers, scientists, veterinarians, and resources online all tend to say different things, but the overarching theme is that no, animals are not subject to the same degree of schizophrenia as people are. 

To put it simply, dogs can suffer from mental illnesses and conditions, and may even struggle with schizophrenia-like symptoms, however, they are not able to be diagnosed as schizophrenic, according to various research. Most vets and dog-tors will tell you that doggos can suffer from almost every psychiatric disorder that afflict humans - except for schizophrenia. 

That doesn't mean they won't develop these tendencies for other reasons. Schizophrenia-like tendencies in dogs can manifest themselves in behavior, new-found aggression, mania, and more. 

So, what signs should you look for when trying to determine if your dog has schizophrenic- like symptoms? What can be done about this behavior, and better, what should you be doing to help your dog while he suffers through these confusing symptoms? Read ahead to get a better idea of how your dog can deal with these symptoms. 


Signs Your Dog May Be Having Schizphrenic-Like Symptoms

Symptoms that resemble schizophrenia are not entirely uncommon in dogs, in fact, they can be found in most dogs that experience sudden and poignant changes in behavior. Rapid changes, traditionally marked by aggressive and violent tendencies, are the first of a few tell-tale signs that your dog might be suffering from symptoms similar to schizophrenia. 

Typically characterized by acute alterations in their personality without apparent reason, many dogs are subject to change their good-nature rapidly and turn into a dog that bites, attacks, growls, and more. Schizophrenic-like symptoms in your pup's behavior may include a negative mood, an aggressive temperament, your dog acting frightened or scared, your pup becoming fierce or interested in attacking other animals or people, and responding to stimuli that do not exist.

Again, it's important to remember that dogs cannot be diagnosed with schizophrenia on human terms, mostly because schizophrenia is a complex, psychological disease that is characterized by a creative genius characteristic that is uniquely human.

Body Language

Your dog can have similar symptoms of those of schizophrenia, many that are characterized by the body language included below:

  • Growling
  • Staring
  • Barking
  • Guarding
  • Shaking
  • Cowering
  • Panting
  • Howling
  • Ears Drop
  • Raise Ears

Other Signs

Keep an eye out for those body language signs we mentioned above, but also look out for:

  • Bared Teeth
  • Not Recognizing Owner
  • Guarding And Barking
  • Obsessiveness
  • Aggression And Growling
  • Odd Mood Swings

The History of Schizophrenia and Dogs


While there have been many case studies that can determine that dogs display schizophrenic behavior and schizophrenic- like systems, there have been no cases that can outright determine that dogs suffer from schizophrenia to the degree that humans do. Some dogs, though, certainly deal with the symptoms of it. 

For example, Patty, a Jack Russel Terrier, was studied by a UK behavior group to research and analyze the behaviors she was displaying. Patty was, for the most part, a lovely dog with a pleasant demeanor, however, in a matter of minutes, she could turn into a "total nutcase." 

Researchers said she could break free from normal collars, tug your arm out of the socket, leap high walls, and turn into a ravenous, violent pup within minutes. 

These behaviors bordered on multiple personality disorder, according to researchers. While Patty displayed symptoms that resembled schizophrenia, she was never properly diagnosed with the disease, as schizophrenia is a humans-only condition.

The Science of Schizophrenia and Dogs


It's important to remember that schizophrenia is a uniquely human disease. Despite the fact that your dog can have similar symptoms, mood swings and the like, your dog cannot be diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Research from Mount Sinai Medical School state that despite being detrimental, the condition affects over 1 percent of adults, something that confers a selective advantage, making it, evolutionary, a unique approach. 

The segments of our genomes that are affected by schizophrenia are called HARs, or human accelerated regions. These underwent rapid evolution following the evolutionary split from chimpanzees. In fact, HARs play a vital role in regulating the genes that contribute to schizophrenia. Of the 128 gene variants associated with schizophrenia, about 108 have distinct locations in the human genome. 

How to Train Your Dog - And Yourself - To Deal with Schizophrenic Symptoms


Your dog's symptoms are going to be heavily characterized by mood swings, sudden aggression, and strange behavior, so it's important that your dog has a strong foundation of training to start with. 

Ensure that your dog knows basic commands and considers you the alpha, even when they're frightened, aggressive, or nervous - that mindset should help to diffuse the situation. 

Often though, dealing with symptoms this serious requires a vet's intervention. Make sure your doggo is comfortable going to the vet's office. Reward him for doing well, and scold him responsibly when he doesn't. Positive reinforcement is a good way to train him to behave at the vet's office. 

Additionally, if your vet describes any kind of anti-anxiety medication for your pup or mood-controlling medicines, ensure your dog is well-prepared to take them. Teach your pooch a throw-and-catch game with his pills, train him to eat his medicine with his food, or make sure that he's okay to take liquid medicine from a syringe.

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By a Great Dane lover Hanna Marcus

Published: 02/05/2018, edited: 04/06/2020

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