MacLellan, A., Fureix, C., Polanco, A. et al. 2021. Can animals develop depression? An overview and assessment of “depression-like” states. Behaviour 158(14/15), 1303–1353.

Describing certain animal behaviours as 'depression-like' or 'depressive' has become common across several fields of research. These typically involve unusually low activity or unresponsiveness and/or reduced interest in pleasure (anhedonia). While the term 'depression-like' carefully avoids directly claiming that animals are depressed, this narrative review asks whether stronger conclusions can be legitimate, with animals developing the clinical disorder as seen in humans (cf., DSM-V/ICD-10). Here, we examine evidence from animal models of depression (especially chronically stressed rats) and animals experiencing poor welfare in conventional captive conditions (e.g., laboratory mice and production pigs in barren environments). We find troubling evidence that animals are indeed capable of experiencing clinical depression, but demonstrate that a true diagnosis has yet to be confirmed in any case. We thus highlight the importance of investigating the co-occurrence of depressive criteria and discuss the potential welfare and ethical implications of animal depression.