Pets With Problems
Does spaying cause depression in dogs and cats?
Of course, disregarding animal psychics, there is no way to decipher the subjective emotional experience of a cat or dog (or even a laboratory mouse). It may offer a dog some relief to see a bitch stroll by and not feel impelled to jump the fence to chase after her, or put less strain on a cat whose spine isn’t forced into arched-back lordosis posture at the whim of estrogen. While they may be groggy from the anesthesia post-op, spayed or neutered pets won’t know they’ve lost the ability to reproduce. They simply won’t feel the desire, or have the capacity, to do so. There’s no reason to think they experience any angst over not passing on their genes, or pine for puppies, or long to hear the clitter-clatter of little claws.
Already millions of strays are euthanized every year, and sex-specific behaviors of pets are too much for most owners to live with. But if mice really do provide a model of psychological distress in humans and across the animal kingdom, perhaps it’s worth considering whether castrating or ovariectomizing your animal could make it prone to anxiety or depression.
Fortunately, the psychiatric medications that were tested in mice but designed for humans are now readily available for both cats and dogs. One pharmaceutical company even markets the antidepressant drug fluoxetine (aka Prozac) in beef-flavor chewables. Its brand name is suggestive: “Reconcile.”