What is Isolating Himself?
Since dogs are such social creatures, it is rare to see them distance themselves from their family. But sometimes, a dog may isolate himself by spending less time interacting and playing with family members, sleeping and hiding in a less trafficked area, and becoming unresponsive to contact or commands. Behavioral changes may also be present, such as depression or lethargy. These signs may point to an underlying condition that is causing your dog to want to spend more time alone, which could include:
- Heart disease
- Other Illness
Why Isolating Himself Occurs in Dogs
Your dog may be isolating himself because of a mental or physical condition, the reason of which could vary.
Anxieties and fears are commonly seen in dogs, and can develop due to a number of reasons, such as poor socialization or trauma. Along with hiding and cowering, fearful and anxious dogs can exhibit behaviors such as trembling, whining, barking and grooming excessively, and even incontinence. Common conditions like noise anxieties could cause your dog to stay away from noisy situations, even if that means avoiding the family.
Dogs can be victims of depression, just like humans, and can show the same kind of detached behaviors. Major life changes can cause depression, such as a move, an addition to the family, or the loss of a companion. Mourning is common for dogs who have lost a friend, causing changes in appetite and activity, and possibly restlessness as he searches for his lost companion. Other signs of depression include decreased or absent social interactions, anxiety, or an increase in sleep. Another reason for depression in your dog may be due to a chemical imbalance in the brain.
Heart disease can be congenital, but is also often acquired through a lifetime of general wear, injury, or infection. It includes diseases of the valves, heart enlargement, and heart failure, and can lead to death. When the heart cannot function properly, the body is deprived of oxygen and fluid can leak into the airways, causing coughing and gagging. The reduction in oxygen transport results in a reduced stamina, fainting, a loss of appetite, and various behavioral changes, all of which can be misconstrued as isolation behaviors or dullness. While the body can compensate for many months, the signs will eventually progress into a life-threatening condition unless medical attention is sought.
There are many other types of illness and disease that can cause behaviors related to depression, a lack of activity, and seeking isolated areas. Due to a physical discomfort, your dog may be unable to play or move like he normally would. If he is suffering from an illness, he may be quieter than usual, have a decrease in appetite, and hide. This is a behavior that dogs in the wild exhibit called fasting or natural hygiene, which allows the body to concentrate its energy on healing itself rather than moving or digesting food. Such medical problems that can cause this reaction include cancers, infections, poisonings, and various diseases of the respiratory, neurological, autoimmune, and digestive systems.
Pain is a real condition for some dogs. Joint, bone and muscle problems, as well as various traumas and injuries, can cause pain that results in a reluctance to move. Older dogs can suffer from arthritis and a decrease in muscle mass, which can cause limping and a reduction in movement, jumping, and even comfortable sitting. Dogs may be unable to follow their family members around the house due to pain associated with it, and may choose to lay still, or far from situations which may cause them further pain.
Aging can be tough for our furry companions. While humans can complain of the various problems they are experiencing, our dogs simply can’t tell us that they are having trouble seeing, hearing, or understanding their surroundings. Because of conditions of deafness or vision, they may seem unresponsive to family members whom they did not see or hear. They may have decreased movement due to physical conditions. Cognitive dysfunction may cause confusion as they forget where they are, and can be accompanied by increased vocalization and changes in sleep and eating habits. An older dog who often sleeps away from the family may have gotten lost, or was just too tired to get up when a family member moved to another room.
What to do if your Dog is Isolating Himself
If you have noticed your dog spending more time alone and refraining from social contact with you, take a look at all the behaviors and habits he has been displaying. Signs involving elimination, appetite, movement and behavioral changes, as well as his age and medical history, can give important clues as to why he is isolating himself.
Your veterinarian will first collect information from you about any and all signs your dog has displayed, including any changes in behaviors. If the reason may be anxiety or depression, your vet may ask about situations that trigger or may have caused those conditions. A full physical examination and a series of tests may be recommended to help determine a possible physical cause. These can include everything from blood, urine, and fecal tests, to X-rays and ultrasounds. If heart function is in question, then an electrocardiogram may be used to assess heart health.
Treatment follows the cause. For physical reasons, various treatments could be available, including fluid therapies, surgeries for cancer, medications for pain, appetite stimulants, or ACE inhibitors for some heart disease. Diets may be modified, and supplements can be added for some conditions. For elderly dogs suffering from pain and loss of muscle mass, creating a central place for the dog to be safe and relaxed with the family can help, as can non-skid rugs on slippery surfaces.
For mental reasons causing isolation behaviors, your veterinarian may recommend a number of possible treatments. For some anxieties and depressions, anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications can be prescribed. Training exercises are recommended that can help desensitize and recondition your anxious dog to react less to triggers and remain calm. For depression involving a loss of a companion, adding opportunities for positive and joyful interactions with your dog can help to ease him through this sad time. These can include extra walks, playtimes, and general attention. In some cases, a new family member can help.
Prevention of Isolating Himself
There are many conditions that are seemingly impossible to predict, no less prevent. But ensuring your dog receives routine physical exams can often catch serious physical problems early on, giving you the opportunity to treat them before they cause such behavioral changes.
Good socialization during puppyhood can help prevent many types of anxieties and fears in your adult dog. If there is a big life change coming, prepare your dog in advance. For a move to a new house, take your dog to visit the home a few times before the move. While there is no way to prevent the death of a loved one, be sure your dog knows that he still has companions by spending lots of extra time with him.
Cost of Isolating Himself
The cost for isolating behaviors can vary considerably, and depend wholly on the cause. For medications and training for anxiety and fears, costs can range from $200 to $1500. More serious illnesses, such as poisonings, pancreatitis, and heart disease, can range from $2000 to $10,000. A condition of an enlarged heart averages around $3500. Overall, treatments can range from $200 to $10,000.
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Isolating Himself Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
6 found helpful
6 found helpful
Over the past few months our dog has started going to his bed in our room in the evenings instead of laying on his bed in the living room with us. I am pregnant and due in January so I would assume this is why (this is our first child), this is the only thing that has changed. We have been acclamating him to baby items slowly over the past few months. Any advice?
Dec. 22, 2020
Dr. Sara O. DVM
Hello. Some dogs just feel that they are safer in the other location. My dog loves to sleep in our closet so much that we have actually put one of her beds in there for her to sleep on. You can try closing the door to the other room and force her to spend more time out. Also, give her treats and give her a lot of attention. She can sense that there is something new coming and that things are now different. Give her time and she will warm up to the new baby.
Dec. 22, 2020
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1 found helpful
1 found helpful
Why is he acting different? His been isolated today.
Sept. 28, 2020
Dr. Michele K. DVM
Thank you for your question. Without being able to see him, there can be so many reasons for a dog to be 'quiet', it isn't possible for me to say what might be going on. If this continues and he is still not himself, it would be a good idea to have him seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible, as they can examine him and see what might be going on.
Oct. 8, 2020
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