While it can be somewhat sad seeing our canine companions reach their senior years, as long as you are there to assist your old dog during this life stage, you can still enjoy many years together. Just because your old dog is starting to display some strange behavior, it does not necessarily mean you need to be alarmed.
To help you, we list some reasons why dogs begin to act differently during their senior life stage. Not only will we explain what is happening to your dog on a biological level, but we will also list some of the things you can do to help your pooch if they start acting weird.
Table of Contents
- Reasons Why Dogs Begin to Act Strangely as They Age
- Loss of Sight
- Neurological Decline
- Hearing Loss
- Joint Issues (Osteoarthritis)
Reasons Why Dogs Begin to Act Strangely as They Age
Loss of Sight
As dogs age, they become far more prone to partial and even full blindness. If you notice that your dog seems clumsier than they used to be, or if you find that they struggle to find toys, treats, and other objects that they used to locate quickly, there is a good chance that your old dog is acting weird due to a loss of eyesight.
While all senior dogs are vulnerable to full and partial blindness, certain breeds have an elevated risk. For example, Siberian huskies, French bulldogs, and boxers all have a heightened risk of suffering from blindness, but they are far from the only breeds at risk.
What Should You Do for a Dog Losing Their Sight?
If you suspect your dog is gradually losing its eyesight, you do not have to be overly alarmed. Dogs can adapt quite well to blindness, as their impressive sense of smell and hearing can compensate for their loss of sight.
Create a Stable Environment
You can help your dog by ensuring its environment remains as stable and familiar as possible. Avoid moving furniture around and try to take your pooch on the same walks, rather than changing the route.
Use Your Voice
You can also help your dog find their way around by using your voice more often. A few simple prompts, like “Over here, Sparky”, can help your dog find its bearings.
Visit Your Vet for an Analysis
It is also important to book an appointment with a veterinarian, as they can assess the sight issue and determine whether anything can be done. They can also offer plenty of tips you can use to help your specific dog.
Just like aging humans, senior dogs can suffer from neurological decline or dog dementia. Unfortunately, this can negatively impact their memory and brain function. You may notice that your senior dog seems confused more frequently or forgets simple commands or where they left a toy.
What may seem like a misbehaving dog could be evidence of some form of canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome. Unfortunately, some of the most popular dog breeds are at a heightened risk of neurological decline, so it is far from uncommon. In many cases, the symptoms are similar to how Alzheimer’s disease is displayed in humans. As you can imagine, these issues can result in behavior problems in numerous situations.
What Should You Do for a Dog that Seems Confused?
See Your Veterinarian
First, take your senior dog to see their veterinarian as soon as possible. Some issues cannot be cured, but there are various treatments, specialized diets, and supplements that can slow your dog’s neurological decline.
Create a Safe Home Environment for Your Dog
You can also help your older dog adjust by making sure that your home is more accessible for your dog and, more importantly, a safer environment.
- Avoid Injury Around Stairs: For starters, you may want to block access to stairs with a dog-proof baby gate. The last thing you want is for your dog to have an accident around a staircase, as they could severely injure themselves.
- Potty Pads: Potty pads near doors can help, as your older dog may lose the ability to hold it in like they used to.
- Nightlights: Nightlights around your house can also help, as this will help your dog navigate your home without bumping into walls and doors.
You can also take your dog on more senior-friendly walks, meaning shorter walks on less challenging routes.
Senior dogs are also at risk of partial and full hearing loss. Much like humans, hearing loss is very common in senior dogs.
Your dog’s hearing loss could explain many seemingly strange behaviors, including not responding to commands or simply seeming like they are spaced out. Some dogs will also bark more frequently when they cannot hear, as the inability to hear themselves can be extremely confusing for a dog.
What Should You Do for a Dog that is Deaf or Hard of Hearing?
If you suspect your old dog is deaf or just suffering from partial hearing loss, you can do quite a few things to help your dog overcome their impairment and confusion.
Don’t Sneak Up On Your Dog
Avoid sneaking up on your dog and startling them, as this can be confusing and scary for older dogs. Some people will wear heavier shoes around the house, as the vibrations on the floor can help your aging dog tell when you are approaching.
When you go to get your dog’s attention, or wake them up from a nap, lightly stroke them or tap on their foot, rather than trying to get them up by using their name.
Use More Body Language
You can also try using your hands for signals and commands rather than your voice. While you are not going to teach your dog sign language, being more expressive with your body can help your pooch adjust.
As always, speak with your veterinarian, as they will be able to tailor advice to your specific pooch.
Joint Issues (Osteoarthritis)
Many senior dogs also experience joint-related issues in their old age. As the dog ages, the joints can weaken, making it painful and more difficult for your dog to move like they did during their younger years. This health issue may be the underlying cause of your dog’s weird behavior.
Is Your Dog a Large Breed?
Larger breeds are at a much greater risk of developing severe forms of osteoarthritis. They also tend to suffer from hip and elbow dysplasia, drastically reducing their mobility.
Is Your Dog Overweight?
Obesity will also put your senior dog at a much greater risk of joint issues, as will severe injuries to the ligaments.
Does You Dog Avoid Walks or Walk Slowly?
If your dog seems very slow when you go on walks, or they seem to struggle with basic tasks that they did with ease in the past, there is a good chance they are suffering from joint pain.
You may notice they struggle to climb on furniture or even stand up. What may seem like simple lethargy could be a sign of canine osteoarthritis.
Is Your Dog Grumpy?
The dog may also seem far more irritable than usual, which could be because they are in pain.
Does Your Dog Struggle to “Pee” or “Poop”?
Some older dogs suffering from joint issues even struggle to urinate and defecate, as posturing can be difficult. This can lead to accidents in the house.
What Should You Do for a Dog with Osteoarthritis?
Unfortunately, there are no known cures for osteoarthritis, and it tends to be a progressive disease, meaning it will worsen as the dog gets older.
Several supplements can slow down the progression of joint issues and help ease some of the pain your dog could be experiencing.
- Glucosamine and Chondroitin tend to be some of the most effective joint supplements.
- Omega-3 supplements can also help slow the progression of joint pain.
Fortunately, supplements are easy to give to a dog, as they can be added to food in a powdered form or given as a capsule. These supplements are also readily available and surprisingly affordable.
There are also several other anti-inflammatory supplements you can try giving to your dog, so it is a good idea to speak with your veterinarian.
Certain prescription medications can also help your dog manage the amount of joint-related pain they are experiencing. Often, these take the form of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Your veterinarian will go over your options and could prescribe a medication that will help your dog manage their specific form of joint pain.
Manage Your Dog’s Weight
Your veterinarian may also recommend putting your old dog on a weight management diet, as reducing the dog’s body weight can help ease the strain placed on their joints.
Make Your Home Accessible
Finally, you can help your dog by making your home easier for them to navigate.
- Using ramps and small sets of stairs to help them get onto their favorite couch can help your dog.
- Elevated food and water bowls can also make it easier for your dog to eat and drink without experiencing pain.
Take Your Dog on Easy Walks
More frequent but much shorter walks on less challenging routes can also help your pooch get its exercise without having to experience unnecessary pain and discomfort.