Sarah Wilson

Dog Expert

What’s Going On? Sudden Behavior Changes in Senior Dogs


Senior Dogs need Special Care
The large senior dog in front of me is ten-years-old. He is a cherished member of the family. His person called me in because he is no longer willing to get into the car; something that concerns her since she can’t get him to the vet if that were needed.

We chat.

Turns out he isn’t playing as much either, something chalked up to the heat of the summer. He wasn’t hopping on the bed regularly anymore, something chalked up to a snarky canine sibling. He was hesitating to come downstairs in the morning, something chalked up to him being a bit stubborn.

It is easy, when you live with a dog, to chalk each small change that happens over time up to a behavioral or mental shift and hard, for the same reason, to see incremental yet progressive health changes. Add to this that none of us wants to see our canine friends age.

To me, such adult-dog changes almost always have their roots in something physical or medical.

If this dog were going to get intimidated off the bed by the other dog, that would have probably started years ago. If the heat was going to bother him, it would have many summers back.

My guess? He is getting older and he’s getting ouchy. He was largely airborne in his youth, one of those drive-by dogs who leapt and bounced his way through his first few years and he may now be paying the painful price for his youthful indiscretions.

Seeing him yesterday, he had that head low and forward posture that alerts me to a dog who may be trying to take weight off his hind end.

So I canceled our next session and they are heading off to the vet for an assessment.

If your senior “suddenly” starts behaving differently, write down all the changes you’ve noticed and take that list to your vet. A good work up may uncover thyroid issues, tick-borne illness, or arthritic changes. With treatment, senior dogs can feel better quickly.

Now you know.

Follow up: With some pain relief, this dog was willing to get into the car again. Also, we adjusted entry. No more hopping in and out of the back of the SUV but rather into the passenger, backseat wheel well with the front passenger seat as forward as possible. He was uncertain about the ramp they purchased and, since we had a solution that was workable, I did not pursue that course.

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