Older dogs and behavior changes… What we should know.

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As Jesse, my yellow Labrador, get’s older I am noticing changes in her behavior. Not only is she slowing down and unable to hear, but I am noticing other behaviors that are new.

Last night I was trying to sleep and Jesse kept wining and barking. Although she was laying right next to me on her dog bed, she would just randomly bark. She didn’t need to go out so I just pet her, letting her know I was there, until she stopped. We also find her randomly staring off into space and barking for no reason.

My yellow Lab, Jesse, 12 Years old (passed away in April 2019)

What happens as a dog gets old?

As dogs age they will most likely develop Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS) or Canine Cognitive Decline (CCD), starting at age 10-ish for Labradors or large breeds. This is similar to Alzheimer’s in humans. As the dog brain ages, the chemicals in the brain decrease. This can cause:

  • Disorientation or changes in learned behavior
  • Anxiety or fear
  • Sleep Interruption
  • Soiling in the house
  • Confusion
  • Compulsive behaviors

Anxiety, fear and compulsion can be one of the first signs of Cognitive Dysfunction. They can also start to forget commands or wander around in what has always been familiar territory.

How do I know if my old dog is in pain?

Pain can also cause behavior changes in your dog and humans often can’t tell when their dog is in pain. They don’t cry and may not always limp so paying attention to signs like withdrawal or aggression are important. Aggression in an older dog, that is usually sweet and calm, could be a sure sign they are in pain. I am grateful Jesse has not shown any aggression! I have blogger friends that suggest CBD oil for dog pain but I haven’t tried it.

Duke, our old rescue Great Dane lived to be only 9.

How do you treat an old dog?

If you recognize any of these changes in your dog, talk to your vet. There could be other medical conditions going on and treatment options available. For example, if they are having accidents in the house, it could be due to a medical condition.

Once the dementia behaviors start, there is little we can do to reverse them but we can slow them down and help them to be more comfortable.

  • Exercise is important and can help them stay mentally and physically fit! Using their brains so they stay stimulated helps slow down the process. So keep working with them!
  • Nutrition is also key! I wrote about how bad commercial dog food is. You need to know what they are eating. I feed my dogs Taste of the Wild and they absolutely love it. I have also seen healthy changes in them since I switched! (autoship from chewy for free shipping and 5% off)
  • Omega 3 supplements can help there immune system as a source of heathy fatty acids. (Taste of the wild has this)
  • Melatonin can help for dogs that have trouble sleeping at night. It can aid them if they start having their days and nights mixed up.
  • Milk Thistle is good for their eyes and liver.
  • Trending recently is CBD oil for pain. I have not tried this but I read on AKC to make sure you buy organic and not to price shop. You want the good stuff.

What is considered old age for a dog?

Facts are that dogs age a lot faster than humans, it’s inevitable. In general, larger dogs, like Labradors, age faster than smaller dogs. I have a post on dog breeds that give the life span for the top 10 most popular family dogs. You can read that for more of an idea for how long they will live. An older Chihuahua might be 18 years of age but an older Labrador Retriever might be seven. Regardless, it’s good to know the signs and treatments that can help.

It’s also relieving to know they are connected to us by the soul. So it may be a shorter time they are with us in this lifetime, but they are always with us!

I hope you found this helpful. Many blessings to you and your dogs as they grow older!

Our herd of Labrador Retrievers, plus our rescue hound.
Missing from the picture, Lacy, our Silver Lab.

Dog Bless!

The Dog Connection ~ Holli

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Reference: AKC Kennel Club

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46 comments

  1. Senior dogs, while still cute, need to be cared for differently because of the changes in their body. These are great information you have here on how to keep senior dogs healthy.

  2. Right now I have little babies (2 and 1) but I hate to think of the growing older – we love our furbabies so much!! Thank you for this helpful post!

  3. My step-dads dog is getting pretty old and no longer really likes to be pet because he has a few fatty lumps, but we’ve learned how to still interact with him without irritating him.

  4. Your dog reminds me much of our yellow lab that we said goodbye to two summers ago. She definitely took a piece of my heart with her. Unfortunately she was only 10. It always seems too soon, no matter how old they are. We now have a sweet Chihuahua that is middle-aged. This is great information to help usher her into her senior years. P.S. We also feed Taste of the Wild. Great food!

  5. I remember going through this with our old dog when I was a child. Not a great time for anyone. Thanks for the information, it’s helped me understand some things.

  6. Our old Golden Retriever had arthritis, so I gave him over the counter supplements for it (recommended by the vet). It can be so hard when our furry family members become older–keeping them as healthy as possible, comfortable, and loving them is key.

  7. OMG ! I did not know dogs can have this issue too. I always learn lot from your posts. I talk about it with my family . Thank you for giving out exercise and diet tips that can slower it.

  8. This made me tear up reading it. My fur-babies are 6 and 4 and I hate to even think about them getting older and not being around someday.For now, they are both very high energy and ornery as can be! It is so important, though, to know what to look for and how to care for them as they transition into their older years.

  9. Thank you so much for this post, my Frenchie just turned 9 and I am keeping an eye out for any change in her behaviors

  10. It’s hard to find experienced people on this subject, but you sound like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks

    • I know the feeling. I can’t wait to get JJ, our new yellow lab, home. Losing Jesse was so hard!!! I am glad you are able to educate yourself while your pup is young though! Plenty of time.🐾❤👍

  11. Very informative! I’ll have to watch out for these signs/symptoms when my dog gets older.

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