5 Behavior Changes You May Notice in Your Senior Dog | PetFirst
5 Behavior Changes You May Notice in Your Senior Dog
Pet Care & Health

5 Behavior Changes You May Notice in Your Senior Dog

by PetFirst Pet Insurance
9 months ago

No one wants to admit that their canine companion that has been with them for many years is aging. Oftentimes, you might not even notice behavior changes that occur gradually as your pet ages.

Sometimes changes in your senior dog’s behavior indicate that he is in pain or has an underlying medical condition that needs treatment. Some behaviors need a little correction or mean your dog needs some extra TLC from you. As we age, we all experience some decline in physical ability and cognitive function6.  

If you are aware of potential behavior changes, you can seek treatment early for possible medical conditions. Most importantly, knowing what behaviors to expect will help you make your furry friend’s senior years the best they can be.

With that in mind, here are five behavior changes that are common in senior dogs:

Bumping, falling, or hesitating

If you notice your dog bumping into things, falling, or hesitating on walks or going up or downstairs, he may have vision loss. Loss of vision is normal in older dogs.  While most dogs adapt to vision loss quite well, it is not unusual for some older dogs to show signs of fear.

If your dog’s eyes look cloudy or appear irritated, these may also be signs of vision loss. Ask your vet what you can do to make things easier for your pooch.

Speaking up

Has your dog become more vocal with age?  You might notice frequent barking, whimpering, or crying.  There are several reasons your older canine companion may do this.

  • Your dog may be trying to let you know he is in pain. 
  • Your dog could start speaking up more could be confusion resulting from cognitive impairment
  •  Your dog may also become more vocal if he is losing his hearing.
  • Some senior dogs also may be experiencing anxiety. There are a variety of prescription and non-prescription sprays and (non-shock) collars that can calm anxiety.  

If you notice your senior dog has become more talkative, speak to your veterinarian to rule out any possible medical conditions. Then ask if medication for anxiety or a calming collar might help.

Decreased energy

Does your dog appear to be less enthusiastic about things that used to excite him, such as greeting you when you return home, playing fetch, or going for a walk?  As your dog gets into his golden years, he may not have the boundless energy he did when he was younger.

If you notice a sudden lack of interest in activities, have your dog checked out by your vet to rule out an underlying medical condition.  

Your pup should still get some level of daily physical activity to help with movement and stimulate his mind.  It’s okay if he no longer climbs the steep hills or runs the half-marathons with you. He will be happy to just get outside and be with you.

Sleeping more

As your dog ages, you may notice him sleeping more during the day. Older dogs need more extended periods of uninterrupted sleep, so it’s best not to wake him.

It is also possible that your senior dog is sleeping during the day because he isn’t getting a good night’s sleep. Some older dogs will overreact to noises that never bothered them earlier in their lives, according to PetMD.

Loss of senses, such as vision and hearing, which affect all older dogs to some degree, can also impact how deeply one sleeps. If you suspect your dog isn’t sleeping through the night, try adding an extra walk and an extra game to tire him out. Additionally, let him out to go potty right before bed.

Increased anxiety

Some senior dogs develop new fears or anxiety; This may include separation anxiety that did not previously exist.  

A dog suffering from separation anxiety may follow you around and show visible signs of nervousness when you are getting ready to leave7. In your absence, the dog might be destructive, particularly around doors and windows.  He may not eat anything while you are gone.  He may also soil the house or crate.

If your dog displays signs of separation anxiety, talk to your vet. Once the vet rules out underlying health conditions, you may want to consult a certified behaviorist.

As your dog’s vision declines, it becomes more difficult for him to make his way through the world.  Shadows and objects may appear scary to him – be mindful of this. Keep rooms and hallways clear, so he has an easier time navigating his way. It’s important to understand that he is afraid.

Speak with your vet regularly 

Always report changes in your dog’s behavior to your vet. – don’t just assume they are part of the aging process.  Some acts are your dog’s way of alerting you that he isn’t feeling well. It’s common that behaviors related to aging can be managed or treated. 

You can also protect your pet’s health by making sure he is covered with a Pet Insurance Policy from PetFirst Pet Insurance1.

Here at PetFirst1, we know accidents and illnesses happen to all pets. PetFirst Pet Insurance1 can help cover unexpected vet visits2 and can provide peace of mind. PetFirst Pet Insurance1  has cat and dog insurance policies2 as well as Senior Pet Insurance Policies2 to fit every budget. Consider getting pet insurance for your furry friend today.




1 PetFirst Healthcare, LLC (“PetFirst Pet Insurance” or “PetFirst”) is the program administrator authorized to offer and administer pet health insurance policies underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company, a Delaware insurance company, with its main office at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, or New Hampshire Insurance Company or The Insurance Company of the State of Pennsylvania, each with its main administrative office at 500 West Madison Street, Suite 3000 Chicago, IL 60661. For costs, complete details of coverage, and a listing of approved states, please contact PetFirst Healthcare, LLC.

2 Like most insurance policies, insurance policies offered by PetFirst Healthcare, LLC contain certain exclusions, exceptions, reductions, limitations, and terms for keeping them in force.

6 Checklist for Cognitive Dysfunction

7 Specific Geriatric Behavior Problems and Their Behavioral Treatment: Anxiety-Including Separation Anxiety 

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