Causes of Aggressive Behavior in Senior Dogs
It is hard to watch our four-legged pals age. Health and
behavior changes often occur in older dogs, but because our
dogs can't tell us what's wrong it's up to us to figure out
why they aren't feeling well. One change that some owners notice is
in senior dogs
- even dogs that are normally sweet, gentle,
and well-balanced may show uncharacteristic aggression.
Aggressive behavior can include snapping and snarling, nipping,
or even a real bite. A common reason why older dogs can show
aggression is pain
. Pain can occur because of chronic
conditions like arthritis; illnesses or injury; surgeries (for
instance, the removal of a cancerous mass, not uncommon in older
pets); dental disease or abcesses (causing pain when eating or
with handling around the mouth); and many other medical conditions.
A dog who is experiencing pain may be sensitive to being
handled. Even being gently and lovingly handled can lead to
pain, causing the dog to react. Some dogs may also react
pre-emptively to try to prevent the handling from occuring
at all, fearing the pain that can result.
Signs that your dog may be in pain include:
- Uncharacteristic whining, whimpering, or other vocalization;
- Excessive panting;
- Behavior changes such as lethargy, hiding, restlessness, unresponsiveness, or being "clingy";
- Lack of interest in the usual activities that he used to enjoy (such as going for walks);
- Difficulty or reluctance in getting up or moving around;
- Persistent licking at the same spot on his or her body;
- Lack of interest in eating;
- Difficulty sleeping or resting comfortably;
- Ears held back against the head.
Take your dog to the vet if you suspect that he is in pain.
There are many things that can be done to alleviate a dog's pain,
from medication to acupuncture to rehabilitation therapy.
Another common reason for aggression in older dogs
is the deterioration of their hearing and sight. Poor hearing
and sight can lead them to be more easily startled. Combined
with other aging issues such as decreased mobility (preventing the
dog from being able to 'escape' from annoying situations), and
canine cognitive dysfunction (dementia), can all factor into
Pain, fear, anxiety, and stress can all lead to aggressive behavior
in senior dogs. Ultimately, it is up to us as pet owners to talk to
our veterinarians to see what can be done to help our pets feel better.
Dog behavior problems
in senior pets aren't always as they seem - what might appear to be an
aggression issue could be a medical one instead. Old age doesn't mean
that dogs automatically have to suffer - so many things can be done
now to help senior dogs continue to lead happy and comfortable lives.