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Common Behavioural Changes In Senior Dogs – And How To Deal With Them

Behavioural Changes In Senior Dogs - Accidents, Aggression and Anxiety in Older Dogs

Has your once-trained senior dog been having lapses in behaviour?

It’s incredibly common for older dogs to seem like they’ve forgotten skills they learned early in life. 

Most behavioural changes in senior dogs can be chalked up to a medical or cognitive issue. 

Here’s what you need to know to help your senior dog thrive in their later years.

Why Your Senior Dog Is Having Accidents

Your senior dog was potty-trained as a puppy, and it’s been years since they peed or pooped in the house. All of a sudden, you’re coming home to accidents again. You may even catch your senior dog relieving his or herself indoors even though they’ve recently been outside. 

First, you’ll need to rule out medical incontinence. Urinary tract infections, stones or tumors can make your dog feel the need to urinate, even if there is only a small amount of urine in their bladder. 

Neurological issues, certain medications, and hormonal changes, particularly in females, are all possible reasons why your dog might have accidents. 

No matter what, do not punish your senior for having potty accidents. Your vet may or may not be able to treat the underlying condition. If they can’t, the best thing to do is keep your senior comfortable. 

Potty pads, doggy diapers and waterproof furniture covers can all help you keep your home clean when you have an incontinent senior.

Grumpiness Or Aggression In Senior Dogs

Has old age brought out a grumpy side in your senior? They might growl or snap at younger dogs, children, and other family members that they once tolerated. 

Unexpected aggression, growling or general orneriness can often be attributed to vision loss, hearing loss, neurological issues or hidden pain. An urgent vet visit is in order if your senior dog is experiencing such a change in disposition. 

Make sure your senior dog always feels safe and secure. Use baby gates or crates to give them space from rowdy younger dogs or other pets. Instruct children to be kind, quiet and gentle around the dog, and only approach with permission, never unsupervised. 

Is Your Senior Dog Suffering From Canine Cognitive Dementia (CCD)?

Just like humans, dogs can develop dementia in their later years. 

Symptoms of Canine Cognitive Dementia (CCD) include:

  • Becoming fearful of familiar people and objects
  • Getting lost in their own home or yard
  • Getting stuck in corners
  • Having accidents not explained by an underlying medical issue
  • Worsening symptoms at night (sundowning)

Though there’s no cure for CCD, fresh food and nutritional and holistic supplements can slow its progression. Antioxidants like Vitamin E and C have both been shown to be helpful in managing symptoms. 

You can add these in the form of supplements or add whole food sources in the form of fruits and veggies such as carrots, spinach, blueberries and raspberries. Pureed produce are easiest for your dog to digest and break down into nutrients to be utilized by their body.

Teaching new, brain-training games can also help your senior with CCD. Hide-and-seek, hide-the-treat, and simple food puzzles can all be helpful. Even just taking your dog for mindful walks exposes them to new stimuli to keep their mind active. 

How To Support Your Older Dog In Their Later Years

For your senior dog, the best thing you can do is make sure they feel safe and loved, even if they make mistakes. 

Provide the best possible food, quality of care, and most of all, patience, for your aging senior. They have spent most of their life being your most loyal friend. Remember that while their needs are changing, they still love you just as much as the day you first brought them home. 

Learn More About Dog Behaviour

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If you have any questions about your dog’s behaviour, send us a message or give us a call at 647-749-8931. 

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