You may be noticing that your older dog is slowing down a bit, maybe getting a little creaky in the legs when she gets up from a nap. Physical changes like arthritic joints and grey muzzles are common in older dogs, but what about behavioral changes? The website Senior Tail Waggers, a great resource for owners of older dogs, has some helpful information on some of the behavioral changes you can expect to see in your senior pup. Here’s a quick rundown:
1. Less Interest in Food
Your previously always-hungry dog seems a little less enthusiastic around mealtimes. Why is this? Common causes of decreased appetite in older dogs include loss of sense of taste or smell, slow metabolism, dental problems, and cognitive impairment.
2. Sleeplessness and Restlessness
You’d think your older dog would sleep more, not less. This is not always the case. Your senior dog’s difficulty in getting good quality sleep could be due to physical pain or discomfort, anxiety, lack of bowel or bladder control, lack of exercise, or cognitive impairment.
3. Going to the Bathroom in the House
The three major causes of incontinence in senior dogs are disease or illness, cognitive dysfunction, and (to a lesser extent) separation anxiety.
4. Fear and Anxiety
Is your older dog showing signs of fear that he normally never did before, such as trembling when the doorbell rings or acting suspicious of the vacuum cleaner? Here are some reasons why this may be happening: weakening hearing, eyesight, or sense of smell; cognitive impairment; physical pain or discomfort; decreased adaptability to changes in the home environment.
5. Irritability and Aggression
Increased grumpiness in your older dog often has some of the same causes as other behavioral changes like anxiety. Your dog may be in physical discomfort or could be experiencing a loss of hearing or eyesight. Cognitive dysfunction may also be the culprit.
Physical and mental changes could cause your older dog to lose some of her enthusiasm for the things she used to enjoy. She may be unable to enjoy her food as much as she used to, or be bummed that she can’t run around and play as well. Pain and tiredness can also make your dog seem sad.
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7. Increased Barking
Many owners of older dogs report that their dogs are barking more than before. Your dog may step up the barking as a way of letting you know that he is anxious, confused, needs to go to the bathroom, or is in pain.
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