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Can A Dog Try To Kill Itself

Written by Jay
BsC (Hons) Animal Behaviour & Welfare graduate with a passion for advocating for misunderstood animals.
Published on
Saturday 20 August 2022
Last updated on
Tuesday 9 May 2023
Can A Dog Try To Kill Itself
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As our understanding of our pets’ mental health grows, some new questions arise. For some pet parents, the question of “can a dog try to kill itself” may be a genuine concern. This concern may grow for owners who believe their dog is suffering from depression or is showing signs of self-destructive behavior.

But to answer this question, we must first discuss whether animals kill themselves in general. Is it possible for an animal to be suicidal? Or do their actions inadvertently lead to death, without the intent of dying?

What Is a Dog Suicide?

To understand the idea of dog suicide, we must first discuss the concept of suicide in the animal kingdom overall.

Do Animals Kill Themselves?

Animal suicide implies a range of higher cognitive capabilities that experts have been reluctant to assign to nonhuman animals. To truly understand and carry out suicide, an animal must have a concept of self, death, and future intention. For these reasons, animal suicide in itself is a controversial topic amongst academics.

Do animals kill themselves? Sometimes. But not all animals have the psychological capacity to attempt suicide in the same way and with the same intent that a human might. For example, many “suicides” in the animal kingdom are carried out in order to protect other members of the social group.

Some examples of animal “suicides” include:

  • Some social insects (e.g. termites) will sacrifice themselves when their colony is in danger, or when they are diseased, to protect the colony.
  • Pea aphids can “explode” when threatened by ladybugs, thereby protecting other aphids.
  • Some social bees and wasps will use their sting to defend against an attacker, thereby killing both the predator and the insect to defend the colony.
  • A captive orca named Hugo repeatedly banged his head until he passed away. Some animal activists have claimed that this was an act of suicide.

While it is currently not proven whether non-human animals can commit suicide, some species are shown to behave in ways that may be considered suicidal. Many animals that are suffering from depression or grief may show self-destructive behaviors that end in death, but this cannot objectively be considered suicide, as death may not have been the purpose of these behaviors. The death of mourning animals is likely caused by depression that leads to starvation, rather than the intent of suicide.

Can A Dog Try To Kill Itself?

With all of this in mind, to suggest that depressed dogs will attempt suicide may be a hasty conclusion. Research suggests that your dog’s mind functions around the level of a human two-year-old. Human children, at this age, have no concept of life and death, and we currently have no evidence to suggest that dogs do either.

There are many stories of dogs who don’t respond to danger adequately – some even entering semiconscious states where they allow themselves to waste away. Still, the concept of a dog deliberately taking its life with intent is not currently accepted by scientists.

The “Dog Suicide Bridge” in Scotland Explained

Overtoun Bridge is found in Dunbartonshire, Scotland. Since the 1950s, there have been several reports of pet dogs jumping or falling from the structure. With a 50ft drop below, most dogs suffer serious injury or death after the fall. The exact cause of these deaths is not currently known, but we do have some theories besides ghostly presences along the bridge. And, it’s a point of contention when discussing if a dog can kill itself or not.

The bridge’s construction has tapered edges, which may make it appear to be a safe and flat plane from a dog’s point of view. When a dog jumps onto the wall, the sloped edging cause them to topple over. Another proposed cause is the presence of wild animals in the area.

The scent of mink, pine martens, squirrels, and other wild game may agitate dogs as they cross. This is important to note because many of the dogs who have jumped are long-nosed breeds like German Shepherds. Their high prey drive may cause them to give chase to the wildlife nearby, where they consequently fall from the bridge and make the long drop.

Common Dog Mental Health Issues

When discussing whether a dog can try to kill itself, the topics of dog mental health are important to go back over. Your furry friend can struggle with anxiety, depression, and compulsive behaviors, not too much unlike we can.


Similar to humans, dogs suffer from anxiety, too. There are a number of important symptoms to look for: accidents in the house, destructive behavior, excessive barking, restlessness, repetitive behaviors, and aggression. If you suspect that your pup is struggling with anxiety, it’s always best to speak to your vet.

Your vet can help to identify the type of anxiety that your pooch has. With this, they can recommend the most effective treatment for their needs. Since anxiety is often the result of several factors at once, the best treatment usually involves a combination of training, medication, and preventative strategies.

Compulsive Behavior

In dogs, compulsive behaviors come in many forms. These include pacing, circling, incessant barking, fly snapping, chewing on objects, acral lick dermatitis, and several more. There may be a genetic predisposition to some of these behaviors – for example, spinning is more common in Bull Terriers, and flank sucking in Doberman Pinschers.

Because some of these behaviors may be a form of seizure disorder, it’s important to speak to your vet when you spot them. However, other cases may arise due to some underlying anxiety. Your pet may engage in compulsive behaviors to soothe their anxiety, thereby using them as a coping mechanism.


Dog depression symptoms are often similar to those seen in people. If your dog is struggling with depression, it may become withdrawn and inactive. Their eating habits may change. Most often, depression in dogs comes from a major change in your dog’s life. Such changes include moving home, a new spouse or baby, or bringing a new pet home.

Even a loss of an owner or other companion can trigger canine depression. However, be aware that depression symptoms can also mean that your pup is suffering from a medical problem. Your first course of action should always be to speak to your vet. While your dog will not try to kill itself, a lack of self-care can lead to poor health.

How to Take Care of Your Dog’s Overall Health

In order to keep your pooch happy and healthy, you have several responsibilities. These include regular vet visits, grooming, exercise, and keeping them mentally stimulated.

Take Your Dog to the Vet Regularly

Ideally, your furry friend should see the vet at least once a year. This should be more frequent as they get older or if they have special medical needs. By visiting your vet, you practice the “prevention is better than cure” approach to your pet’s health. You know your dog best, but your vet can offer outside opinions on their health and may pick up on things that you have thought to be normal.

Groom Your Dog

It’s very important to research the grooming needs of your breed, as each one varies depending on its coat length and texture. For example, long-haired breeds or those with a coat texture that is prone to matting (Bearded Collies, Lhasa Apsos) should receive daily brushing.

For mixed breed dogs like Labradoodles, be sure to check in with your groomer every 6-8 weeks for a trim to prevent painful matting. If your pup’s coat becomes matted, grooming can become unbearable for them, and bruising can even occur under the skin.

Provide Physical Activities

Depending on your dog’s breed, their exercise requirements will differ. For example, the Belgian Malinois thrives on high-octane activities. A dog of this breed would require a minimum of 60 to 90 minutes of exercise per day – ideally even more.

Working dogs such as these are ideal companions for owners who would like a dog to join them on regular hikes, jogs, and bike rides, or can put them to hard work often. Conversely, a small breed like the Chihuahua does best on a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise per day. While these breeds may not require as much exercise, it’s still very important to keep them active!

Encourage Mental Exercise

A mentally active dog is a happy dog. While physical exercise is essential for any dog, it’s only half of the equation. Your pup also needs plenty of mental exercises to stay healthy. Regular training, playtime, hide and seek, taking a new route on your walks, and interactive games are just some of the ways to get your pup’s mind working.

Give Them Healthy Food

Where possible, feed your dog the highest-quality meals you can afford. Like people, dogs require a balanced diet made up of protein, fats, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, so it always pays off to seek high-quality food to meet these needs. Whichever diet you choose for your pooch, be sure to inspect the ingredients list.

Avoid dog foods that use broad, nonspecific terms like “animal meal” or “animal derivative” in their first few ingredients, as these may be indicative of a lower-quality food. Your vet can offer advice about your dog’s diet, taking into account their age, lifestyle, and health.

Overall, research currently does not suggest that a dog can try to kill itself. With our current understanding, dogs lack the mental capabilities to plan suicide, carry it out, or act with the intent to die. However, depression can lead to a dog neglecting themselves, which can lead to poor health and even death in extreme circumstances.

One comment on “Can A Dog Try To Kill Itself”

  1. Lexi Starlight

    There are examples of animals commiting suicide. A Moon bear mother killed her child and herself whilst living in a bile farm, elephants in circuses have lost their minds and gone on rampages,probably knowing they’d be killed. There are other examples and all were because of the evil done to them by humans

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