Isolating Himself in Dogs

Veterinary reviewed by: Michele K.

Why is my dog isolating himself?

Veterinary reviewed by: Michele K.

Why is my dog isolating himself?

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:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression 
  • Heart disease
  • Other Illness 
  • Pain 
  • Age

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.

Anxiety

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. 

Depression

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 

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. 

Other Illness 

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 

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. 

Age 

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.

arrow-up-icon

Top

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.

arrow-up-icon

Top

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.

arrow-up-icon

Top

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.

arrow-up-icon

Top

Worried about the cost of treating your pet's symptoms?

Pet Insurance covers the cost of many common pet health conditions. Prepare for the unexpected by getting a quote from top pet insurance providers.

Isolating Himself Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

dog-name-icon

dog-breed-icon

Yorkie terrier

dog-age-icon

Ten Years

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

Has Symptoms

Trembling, Wanting To Be Alone

Our Yorkie has recently, in the past couple of days, been very detached and has been trembling regardless of where we are in the house. He also doesn't want to cuddle like he used to. The only big difference is that we got a new boxer puppy a couple of weeks ago. He was showing this behavior when we first introduced the boxer into the home so we aren't sure if that is the problem or if there's something else.

Aug. 7, 2020

Owner

answer-icon

Dr. Michele K. DVM

recommendation-ribbon

0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. It sounds like the boxer puppy may be the cause of anxiety for your dog. I think you have a couple of options. You can wait and see if it gets better, you can get anti-anxiety medication from your veterinarian, or you can hire a trainer to help them learn how to get along. I hope that all goes well for both dogs.

Aug. 8, 2020

Was this experience helpful?

dog-name-icon

dog-breed-icon

German Shepherd

dog-age-icon

Nine Years

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

Has Symptoms

Isolation, Hip Pain, Depression

I have a erman Sheperd that my daughter rescued from living in a truck at the age of 8. My daughter recently had to move to Missouri for a job, and now, even after 3 months, Dakota(our dog) wants to be outside all the time. She finds a shady spot and lays in it and moves from shade spot to shade spot. She comes in at night and sleeps downstairs, as the stairs are too hard for her. Even if I carry her up, she will eventually leave and go back downstairs to be alone. She is very friendly and gentle, but she is old and her back leg is weak and she has a hard time standing sometimes. Help?

Aug. 5, 2020

Owner

answer-icon

Dr. Michele K. DVM

recommendation-ribbon

0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. It is very common for older dogs to have arthritis, joint and muscle pain, and this can be quite debilitating for them. There are very effective medications available that may be able to make her more comfortable again and able to enjoy her life. It would be best to have an appointment for her with a veterinarian, see what they find on examination, and find out if there are medications that would be appropriate for Dakota. I hope that she feels better soon.

Aug. 5, 2020

Was this experience helpful?

Need vet advice?
Five starsFive starsFive starsFive starsFive stars

2,708 satisfied customers

Learn more in the Wag! app

Five starsFive starsFive starsFive starsFive stars

43k+ reviews

Install


© 2022 Wag Labs, Inc. All rights reserved.