Dealing with Behavior Problems in Senior Dogs

behavior issues in older dogs

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for older pets to begin displaying negative behavior problems. Even the most well-behaved pet can start to misbehave as he gets older. There are several reasons this happens: sensitivity to change, illness or even cognitive dysfunction. When you’re faced with an older pet who suddenly decides it’s okay to urinate outside the litter box or one that growls and bites at the slightest provocation, it’s important to identify the reason behind the behavior to correctly remedy the situation.

Sensitivity to Change In Older Dogs

This comes as no surprise since most humans can become overly sensitive to change as they get older, too. Change in environment, food, etc. can send an elderly pet over the deep end. Animals lack the ability to really convey their dislike for change and often revert to bad behaviors to get their point across.

If your elderly dog is displaying negative behavior uncharacteristic to him, think about what’s been going on around him recently and if you’ve made any major changes that concern him. For instance, if your cat is urinating outside the little box – did you move it? Did you change his food? Often times, these negative behaviors can be corrected by simply putting things back the way they were.

Dog Behavior Issues Could Be Caused Illness

Animals develop a lot of the same diseases as they age as humans do. Arthritis, bad hips, cataracts, etc. can all make a pet uncomfortable and grumpy. Inability to get around as he once did, your elderly cat may urinate outside his litter box because it’s just too difficult to get into it. Your once sweet dog may growl or bite if someone tries to pet him because his hip or joints hurt.

If your older pet begins displaying unwanted behaviors, it’s important to take him for a complete veterinary check-up to make sure there isn’t something medical going on. Many of the negative behaviors displayed by senior pets can be treated with medications that address the underlying illness or disease.  Some veterinarians my subscribe antidepressants such as Prozac for you dog.

Cognitive Dysfunction In Older Dogs

Animal experts believe that senior dogs can suffer from cognitive dysfunction just like humans. As they age, their ability to remember and comprehend diminishes, causing inappropriate and unwanted behaviors in some cases. Cognitive dysfunction can be present with other elderly issues, so it can be difficult to determine if this is the reason for the pets bad behavior.

If cognitive dysfunction is the diagnosis, therapy is the key to getting rid of poor behavior. Making helpful changes to your pet’s environment and keeping a consistent daily schedule are the best ways to help a confused pet regain a little understanding in his life.

Image Credit: Thinkstock



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