Health Clues in Your Dog's Behavior
Susan McCullough for The Dog Daily
The Chappell family was puzzled: Why was their house-trained mixed poodle, Molly, now wetting her bed during the night? Ten-year-old Molly had never done this before, making it seem like the once well-mannered canine suddenly decided to misbehave.
"We couldn't understand why Molly was forgetting her house-training," recalls Stan Chappell, who lives in Vienna, Va. "It was frustrating -- especially for my wife, who ended up having to launder Molly's wet bedding every morning."
What the Chappells didn't realize was that Molly's bed-wetting wasn't a house-training issue at all. "Many cases of behavioral problems have a medical origin," says Dr. Andrew Luescher, a veterinary behaviorist and director of Purdue University's Animal Behavior Clinic in West Lafayette, Ind.
Here are some common apparent canine behavioral problems and their possible medical causes:
Pain or discomfort can prompt a dog to become grumpy toward people or other pets. For example, an older dog that develops arthritis may snap when touched in a newly-painful area. "This happens in people, too -- you're much more likely to snap at your spouse or co-worker if you have a headache or feel crummy," points out Dr. Karen Sueda, a veterinary behaviorist who practices at West Los Angeles Animal Hospital.
Pain isn't the only physical trigger of aggression. Experts also cite seizures, low levels of thyroid production, brain tumors and liver disease as possible causes of aggression. Another cause of aggressive behavior could be the loss of sight or hearing. For example, a dog that becomes deaf may snap or bite if surprised by a person or animal approaching it from behind.
A dog whose behavior appears to be compulsive and/or harmful, such as excessively licking one spot, biting their fur or other forms of self-mutilation, or constant head shaking, may simply be trying to deal with discomfort on the skin or in the ears. "Many of the behaviors that are directed to the self…are due to dermatological disease," notes Dr. Luescher. "And repetitive behavior may be caused by neurological disease."
"Of all the cases that I see, house-soiling is probably the most common problem that has a primary medical origin," says Dr. Sueda. Endocrine [hormonal] and kidney disease may increase a dog's need to eliminate. Additionally, older dogs that develop arthritis or spinal cord disease may suddenly find it more difficult to use stairs or the dog door to go outside and eliminate.
Other causes of house soiling can be as simple as a urinary tract infection, or as complicated as an older dog developing a condition called canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome, which is very similar to Alzheimer's disease in humans.
Because behavior problems -- particularly behavioral changes -- in dogs often have physical causes, it's important for any pet exhibiting unwanted behavior to be examined by a veterinarian, says Dr. Sueda. Generally, if the causes of the behavior are eliminated, the behavior itself will cease.
That's what happened with the Chappells' bed-wetting dog. When the behavior persisted, the family took Molly to her veterinarian for an examination. The veterinarian explained that as spayed female dogs like Molly grow older, they lose estrogen. The lower supply of estrogen then leads to a loss of muscle tone in the urinary tracts in these dogs. The result, all too often, is that such dogs wet their beds during the night.
Molly's veterinarian prescribed a short course of a synthetic hormone called diethylstilbestrol (DES) to replace her lost estrogen. The medicine did the trick. Chappell reports, "After that, Molly never wet her bed again." In this case, as for many others, the good dog seemingly gone bad was really just a sick puppy needing appropriate medical treatment.
Exercise With Your Dog to Prevent Obesity
Jennifer Viegas for The Dog Daily
According to the National Pet Obesity Awareness Day Study conducted by 95 veterinary clinics nationwide, more than 44 percent of all dogs are overweight or downright obese. The fat stats for people in America are even higher, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting that around 67 percent of adults are heavier than they should be
Is Your 'Natural' Dog Food Truly Natural
Elizabeth Wasserman for The Dog Daily
You are probably concerned about putting 'natural,' or minimally processed, foods on your dinner table, and that standard now extends to what's in Fido's bowl. That's why you look for recognizable ingredients, such as chicken and carrots, when choosing commercial food for your dog. However, there's still some confusion about what constitutes a 'natural' dog food.
Vitamins and Minerals Your Dog Needs
Kim Boatman for The Dog Daily
Is improving your health on your list of new year's resolutions? This year, don't forget to include your dog on that list as well. But first, find out which vitamins and minerals your canine needs and where to find them.
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Karen Asp for The Dog Daily
Selecting the right kibble for your dog can be an overwhelming task. After all, there are dozens of choices on the market these days. To help simplify your decision, ask yourself these seven questions
Canine Conduct - Sniffing and Whiffing
Amanda Harrison for The Dog Daily
Is your dog like a shopaholic at a rummage sale, smelling anything and everything that comes its way? You are not alone. As every dog knows, the best way to get the scoop on anything is through its nose.
It turns out that your dog's brain isn't all that different from your own. Dr. Nicholas Dodman, director of the behavior clinic at Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, North Grafton, MA, has been studying compulsive behaviors in dogs, horses and cats for decades. And for years he's been encouraging using these animal models to help understand what's going on with people
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