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Friday, April 18, 2008

Animals' personalities

It may seem like a silly question to pet owners. Of course animals have personalities. Just take a trip to your neighborhood dog park, and you'll see those personalities in action: The miniature pinscher marches confidently into the middle of wrestling match among a pack of large dogs, while the mixed breed Labrador tentatively sticks to her owner's pant leg.

Pet owners are quick to attach personalities to their pets. But what do scientists say about this concept? Is it possible for animals to be irritable, adventurous, neurotic or even a mixture of these characteristics?

Some veterinarians not only think animals have personalities, but that they can even suffer from depression or separation anxiety when they are left at home alone all day. Studies estimate that more than 10 million dogs in the U.S. suffer from separation anxiety [source: Booth].
In 2007, the FDA approved a chewable antidepressant for dogs developed by Eli Lilly, the company that makes Prozac. Reconcile, the dog friendly antidepressant, even has a beef flavor. Combined with therapy, the drug successfully treated a little more than 70 percent of depressed dogs [source: Booth].

Experts also say parrots suffer depression when they are left home alone. Romain Pizzi, a specialist in animal medicine, notes that parrots will actually harm themselves during bouts of depression and that liquid Prozac has helped to stop that behavior

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