Sudden changes in the behavioral patterns of older dogs should be taken seriously since these changes may indicate that the dog is having some form of physical problems. This page looks at some typical behavioral changes in older dogs and the possible health problems indicated.
Do you have an older dog? If so, you may have noticed that the behavioral patterns of your dog have changed over the year. Some such changes are obvious and inevitable due to the aging process (e.g. sleeping more; less tolerant of exercise, etc.).
However, many behavioral problems stem from health issues in aging dogs. If we are observant and are able to catch them early, some such problems can be fixed. Watch your dog closely, and note on a calendar any changes in behavior that deviate from the norm. Dogs are very much "creatures of habit," and even slight variations from their normal behavior can indicate health issues. For example, changes in movement behavior may indicate joint problems, circulatory, ear or eye issues; changes in elimination patterns often indicate kidney, blood sugar, digestive, hormonal or metabolic issues.
Paying close attention to your dog's patterns, and noting variation from normal activity can help you and your veterinarian determine whether organ systems may be compromised and help you address or accommodate changes.
A normally gentle dog may suddenly turn aggressive as he ages due to changes in his body, such as:
If your aging dog is showing signs of aggressiveness, it is important that he be checked by a veterinarian to find out the underlying cause.
Some older dogs may show typical signs of separation anxiety (e.g. barking, chewing, eliminating in inappropriate places, etc.) when they are left alone. There are several possible reasons:
Just like people, some aging dogs tend to wake up in the middle of the night and cannot go back to sleep! Instead, they may whine to get attention, or pace through the house. Possible reasons include:
Herbs such as skullcap, valerian, chamomile, and oat, can be used to calm an aggressive dog, or a nervous dog suffering from separation anxiety, or a sleepless dog.
Sometimes a dog that has been properly house-trained will start soiling the house here and there when he gets older. This may be due to a number of reasons:
Again, treating and managing the underlying physical ailment can solve this problem, so work together with your vet if your aging dog starts having "accidents" around the house.
Sometimes an aging dog that shows some of the behavioral changes mentioned above does not have any other health problems (such as arthritis or hearing loss). The dog may just be suffering from a disorder known as canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD). According to a study, around 60% of dogs 10 years and older has this disorder.
Common symptoms of CCD include:
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As you can see, many older dogs change their behaviors due to physical problems. It is important therefore that we take our older dog to be examined by a veterinarian if he exhibits some of the above behavioral changes.
There are things that you can do to help make your dog's golden years more pleasant: