Dog’s down mood could be a sign of medical condition

When a dog’s behavior changes, it may be due to underlying illness or pain such as from arthritis, veterinarian Alex Herman writes in response to an owner’s concerns about a listless pet. A complete physical exam by a veterinarian along with blood tests and other diagnostics will help determine if illness is present, according to Dr. Herman. Medication, changes in the dog’s environment or behavioral consultation may be needed to help improve the pet’s condition, Dr. Herman adds. San Francisco Chronicle (12/4)


Q: Our 12-year-old dog is a mixed breed whom we  rescued from the streets more than 10 years ago. We assume she had been abused  because of her physical condition. She has always been a somewhat moody dog,  often lying curled up in a ball when she is not the center of attention. She has  seen two other pet dogs die, and it seems to have affected her badly each time.  Now she is getting quite deaf and often lies curled in a ball and refuses to use  her beds, preferring the doormat. She seems truly miserable. Do you have any  suggestions for us?

A: It is unclear whether your beloved dog’s  problems are behavioral or medical. Have her checked by your veterinarian with a  physical exam, red and white blood cell count (CBC), and chemistries to check  kidney function, liver function, electrolytes and thyroid level. Her doctor may  also perform a blood pressure measurement, urinalysis and any other tests that  answer questions raised by her exam.

She may be sleeping by the door because it’s cooler and that makes arthritic  joints feel better. She may not want to sleep on her beds because it is  difficult to position herself. Pain is hard to diagnose in dogs because they are  so stoic. Often arthritis pain is interpreted as getting old or being sad or  tired. If her doctor thinks she is uncomfortable, he or she might want to do  joint radiographs or a trial of pain medication. If she has arthritis, a low,  soft bed may appeal to her.

It may be that she has no medical problems and needs more attention. Owning  a dog is a huge time commitment that can dramatically increase when they age.  They require daily involvement in the form of grooming and play, lots of  affection and exercise, which can be difficult for busy families.

If your dog gets a clean bill of health, a consult with the SPCA’s  behavioral service may help you to understand her and improve her quality of  life. Thank you for taking such good care of her.


Alex  Herman, D.V.M., All Pets Hospital, San Francisco.

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