Old black dog in the grass
© Pixabay

Old Dog Syndrome – Signs your dog is getting older

By Dawn Parrish Content Writer

Updated on the

As our dogs ’coats turn grey and they begin to lose their vigour for life, this could be due to Old Dog Syndrome. Just like humans, as our bodies slow down, several changes take place.

What are the symptoms of old dog syndrome?

As our pets age, they often suffer a reduction in many functions. Their senses of hearing and vision, general awareness and ability to remember things often deteriorates. Likewise, their memory can decline. This weakening of bodily functions can cause an instability in their sleeping and wakening cycles. They will probably be sleepy through the day yet more restless during the evening. You may notice your dog begins to wander aimlessly, is sometimes dizzy, begins to stare at objects or even appear to bark at nothing. Certainly, as his activity levels decrease, your pet’s appetite and self-care may reduce. Similarly, he may appear to be more anxious for no specific reason.

Dizziness is a symptom of old dog syndrome © Pixabay

Other signs to look out for

As a result of his advancing years, your dog may appear to be less interested in human interaction. If it seems like he isn’t bothered with affection or even becomes clingier, don’t worry. These are all changes that can affect a dog as he approaches his senior years. As his owner, understanding these adjustments your pet is going through, and dealing with them compassionately, will certainly help him to adapt.

Physical changes as your old dog ages

As a result of maturing years, this ageing process will affect your pet just like it does with humans. These are some changes to behaviour that are caused by physical issues:

Loss of Appetite

If your usually hungry dog suddenly stops enjoying his mealtimes, this is a normal sign of old dog syndrome. Of course, any sudden loss in appetite or eating habits could be caused by serious health issues and requires further investigation. As dogs get older, their senses decrease, and their perceptions of taste and smell can become duller.

House training habits

Your dog has probably been house trained since he was a pup, but with advancing years, house-soiling can be an issue. Old dog syndrome can certainly lead to incontinence, which is more prevalent in bitches than male dogs. Both canine cognitive dysfunction and disease or illness can make your dog want to go to the toilet inside.

Emotional changes as a result of old dog syndrome

Of course, as dog’s age, they don’t just have physical changes to contend with, but both psychological and emotional fluctuations too. With old dog behaviour, emotional triggers like pain can make your pooch snappy and grumpy. He might suddenly appear to be frightened by normal, everyday things. Likewise, small issues that have previously made him anxious, now appear as enormous terrifying problems.

Any major changes to their environment can similarly make your anxious dog rather jittery or jumpy. Even more likely to cause anxiety in an older dog are separation issues. He may not like you to be out of his sight and appear very clingy.

Depression is a senior dog health problem

Yes, it’s true, our pets can become depressed too! Advancing years and changes to your pet’s demeanour probably aren’t easy on him. Chances are that he’s suffering some pain, and is almost always tired. Perhaps he isn’t enjoying his food and he probably doesn’t want to run around and play. All of these factors affect your dog’s quality of life and as a result, make him unhappy and depressed.  

Sleepiness is a symptom of old dog syndrome © Pixabay

Excessive barking for no reason

As a dog ages, they tend to become more vocal. Even more so if they have previously just been an occasional barker. By doing so, your pet may be expressing pain or the need to urinate again, or that he is anxious or confused.

Some owners can be quite scared to see the dramatic changes of this old dog syndrome affecting their pet. This is particularly true in a more senior dog. As the dog gets older, the possibility of a more serious health condition increases. One of the most important points to remember when dealing with changes to behaviour in old dogs is that the prognosis is usually very good. Your senior dog should continue to live a happy and prolonged life with your care.

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