Do Goats Experience Depression?

Goats are fairly expressive animals, and are known for being so. They enjoy having friends, and playing with other animals or goats, and have a multitude of emotions. So if they can experience things like joy, and happiness? You might be wondering if they can also experience the blues and even depression.

Yes, goats can experience depression. While scientists can’t determine goats for-sure emotions, as they can’t communicate. Based off of certain behavioral patterns, we do believe that goats, and other animals, can experience depression

The Science of Animal Depression

Animals can’t communicate with us, obviously and unfortunately, however we can view their behaviors and how they change. Depression, isn’t the word that’s used by scientist though because of the lack of communication. We can’t tell the difference between an animal being just a little sad, and the full fledged depression we may know. We also aren’t sure that depression in animals would be the same as humans. However, animals are a form of human. What’s keeping them from experiencing the same existentialism we do? Who knows, we can’t ask them to find out. So due to animals lack of vocabulary, we don’t use the word depression and instead “depression-like” is used.

Olivier Berton, an assistant professor of neuroscience in psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, was asked about animal depression in an ABC interview. They reported that his study found a number of things connected to animal emotions. When rats or other rodents had been isolated and separated from their social group, OR when forced to live with other animals that bully them, they stopped exercising and eating. This is incredibly similar to humans! So this type of research helps promote the idea that yes, animals experience depression-like symptoms.

So we can see that they could experience depression, but of course we don’t know for sure whether or not they do. Again, because we can’t talk to them. So what do we look for? If your goat is depressed, how do we know?

How to Tell If Your Goat is Depressed!

If your goat is depressed the first thing you’re going to want to keep into consideration anything traumatic or stressful that may have happened recently. Have they been moved? Has another goat within your farm died, or been sick recently? These are all things that are going to cause stress, and potentially depression-like behavior in your goats.

So if they’ve experienced any of this then you know that they are more susceptible to depression-like behavioral spells. Happy goats point their ears forward. As opposed to unhappy goats who may lay their ears flat, or may be less perky than usual. You can also know mood in the sound of their call. Happy goats have higher pitches of calls, if a goat “baa’s” at you, and it’s in a lower register than normal they may be experiencing some inner turmoil and you might need to pay extra attention.

The best way, however, to tell whether or not your goat is depressed is going to be based off of how much they move, eat, and how they act. Sad goats act the way that humans would. They’ll skip meals, or eat less. They’ll graze, and eat significantly less, they may not even want any treats that they would want normally. They could also be a bit more lazy. They’ll sleep more often, or lay about much more than they would normally be. This could also be a sign of infection, but if you know that anything traumatic or stressful has been happening to the goat recently then you’ll know it’s probably not a medical issue, but instead a mental issue.

Goats also mourn. While stressful situations not only affect goats’ mental health but as mentioned earlier so can their relationship with other animals. If you happened to have lost a goat in your mix recently, either to illness, or another animal, goats will mourn the loss. Just like humans, goats mourn the losses of their friends and loved ones and it can cause bouts of depression within goats and the rest of the herd.

How to Treat Goat Depression

So if you know that your goat is depressed, what do you do about it? There are a few ways you can help your goat to be the best that it can, and have the mental health it deserves.

Keep them well fed, and clean! This is also important in their physical health, but the same way we as people don’t like to feel dirty, goat’s don’t like when mud and grime builds up on them either! Keeping your goats clean will keep them happy!

Make sure any stressful situations are made as comfortable as possible! You might not able to prevent traumatic or stressful situations but you can make a point to try to make them as comfortable as you can. Making sure to properly prepare all of your animals for anything stressful that may occur.

Let Them Mourn/Be Sad, but Only For a Little Bit! Allowing goats to feel out their emotions is great, just like humans they may need a bit of time to be sad. Especially allowing them to mourn after the death of another goat, will allow them to better process their emotions according to most animal doctors!

When To Seek Help!

If you find that your goats are still in the gutters after well over a few weeks, then maybe consider calling a vet! They can not only help with the physical health of your goats but can prescribe you medications for them to make them feel better and faster than they typically would naturally. Make sure with this medication you’re giving them plenty of attention and making sure they’re maintaining a good diet (even if they might not necessarily want too) that will be a great way to promote your goats mental health.

We all need help with our mental health from time to time, even if you’re a goat! So if you notice your goat being a bit down, see what you can do to help, and if not, call your vet! Your goat will be happy before you know it!

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