Just like children, pets grow up too, sometimes too fast. One minute they are little puppies that we can play with on our lap, filled with energy, bouncing and being their cute selves and the next minute they are too big to sit on our lap. They are growing gray hair and have trouble getting around the house, which is a very sad thought.
These changes are natural but it does not make them any less painful and heartbreaking. And because our furry friends will not be able to verbally communicate what they are feeling, it is up to us to be aware of any behavioral changes they may display.
The Root of the Behavior
One of the most noticeable things senior dogs exhibit is increased barking. Stress in aging dogs tends to cause more vocalization such as whining, howling and barking. This may be a result of separation anxiety but it could also be your aging dog’s way of getting your attention. However, it can also be a sign of cognitive dysfunction.
Senile barking is something very common. As a matter of fact, just like clockwork, elderly canines seem to bark on schedule. Sometimes aging dogs know exactly what they are doing but there are other times when they seem like they are completely unaware that they are barking for hours on end. Most of these senile dogs bark early in the morning when they wake up and also in the late afternoon.
Canine cognitive dysfunction can be likened to Alzheimer’s in humans and it is usually exhibited by dogs in several behavioral changes including soiling inside the house, barking, and changing interactions with the pets, as well as people in the household. Their aging brain leads to difficulty in coping with their environment.
Although what is coined senile barking is the most common reason, there may also be other causes of increased barking in elderly canines. Elderly dogs have partial visual or hearing loss and this causes them to be startled more easily and they are more concerned about their environment, in general. Their increased barking may be a sign of concern over their current situation.
Arthritis and joint pains are very common in aging dogs. It could be an old injury that flares up every now and then. You can give your dog glucosamine and chondroitin supplements while he is still young to prevent joint pain. When joint pain does happen, you can ask your veterinarian to prescribe anti-inflammatory pain relievers. Lifestyle changes such as shorter but more frequent walks, more swimming, and orthopedic beds are also beneficial.
Encouraging the Behavior
Oftentimes, elderly dogs also have medical concerns and this makes it difficult to pinpoint exactly what is causing the increased barking. Behavioural and medical issues might overlap with each other. Experts recommend starting with a thorough medical exam from the veterinarian so that any medical concern can be addressed right away. Some of the most common medical concerns are anxiety, pain, and loss of vision or hearing.
Knowing this, it might still take some trial and error to figure out exactly what is causing the increased barking. Fortunately, there are some simple interventions every dog owner can do. A dog-appeasing pheromone collar is widely sold in pet stores today and putting it on your pet releases a calming scent and it lasts for about a month.
Elderly dogs need a different diet compared to younger canines. It is important to increase essential fatty acids in an elderly dog’s diet. Add more Omega-3 and Omega-6 but do this slowly because if introduced too quickly, they can cause diarrhea.
It is also a good idea to limit your elderly dog’s access to the entire house by confining him in a specific place with the use of a crate. This safe and familiar space can easily become your dog’s retreat and for you, it means less space to watch over.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Does consistent or increased barking indicate that your dog is suffering? Experts say it is difficult to tell, but the best course of action to take is one of understanding. Understand that just like aging humans, aging dogs have changing needs. They get cold more easily now and that is exactly the reason why older dogs want or like more cozy beds. It is no longer easy for them to regulate body temperature.
So, do check out your dog’s space so you can help keep his body temperature up, minimize muscle and joint stiffness, and stave off illnesses. Monitor your dog’s environmental temperature and be on the lookout for signs of being chilly.
Relate to your aging dog so you can determine why he is barking more. Once you truly understand what is causing his increased barking, you will be able to address it correctly. Be compassionate because just like aging humans, aging dogs need understanding, attention and care. Think of all the pleasant years you have had with your dog and think of all the joy he has given you. A little care in his advanced years is not too much to ask.
By a Chow Chow lover Jhoana Carla de Toro
Published: 03/04/2018, edited: 01/30/2020