Separation Anxiety in Senior Dogs

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Dog owners often believe that separation anxiety is a condition lhat only arises in dogs when they are young, and therefore, they assume that their elderly dog is spared from the condition, since the dog has never exhibited any signs of such condition up to the present day. However, changes can take place and it is not unusual for an elderly dog to start becoming clingy, following the owner around the house, and pacing anxiously when he perceives the owner is about to leave the house. This can be a part of the aging process.

Indeed, accordine to veterinarian Holly Nash, separation anxiety is one of the most common behavioral problems encountered in senior dogs. But why would this only occur when the dog is older and has never had such a problem before? The causes may indeed be clearly linked to the aging process and are therefore the main culprit of these behavioral changes.

  If your senior dog becomes extra clingy, he could be developing separation anxiety.  
Causes of Separation Anxiety in Older Dogs

A big role is played by vision or hearing loss. A dog who loses one or both of these senses can become increasingly anxious when left alone. If we put ourselves in a deaf dog’s shoes (or should I say paws?), we would understand why a dog may feel particularly vulnerable being left alone, since he would be unable to hear noises that could signal danger. The dog would also be prone to startle and become anxious when he does not hear well and finds himself face to face with something scary, or when he does not see well and is touched without notice.

Another contributing factor if your senior dog appears more anxious, paces in the night, and is now also suddenly starting to soil your home, is a medical condition known as “Canine Cognitive Dysfunction“ (often abbreviated as CCD), the doggy equivalent of Alzheimers.

So yes, elderly dogs may start suffering from separation anxiety, but it is more likely linked to a loss of cognitive or sensory functions or other health ailments compared to the classic causes of separation anxiety seen in younger dogs.

This is why it’s important to have a senior dog undergo a wellness exam to exclude potential hearing loss or vision loss, or even CCD, which may be contributing to the dog’s clingy behaviors and anxiety about being left alone. Most vets today recommend twice yearly vet visits for senior dogs in order to make an early diagnosis and treat conditions accordingly.

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