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Bad behavior or health issue?

Is your dog acting up or behaving out of the norm? Many animal behavior experts estimate that 20 percent of problem behaviors may be caused by a physical health issue.  For example, does your dog refuse to follow a command that they already know or is showing aggression or anxiety? This can be caused by pain arising from arthritis, allergies, ear infections, or dental problems. Joint pain prevents the dogs from moving away from perceived threats, it makes them act defensively. Common signs of arthritis include weight shifting, reluctance to jump or go up the stairs, swelling or heat on the joints and muscle atrophy. Ear infections can be very severe and cause the pet to over react when touched anywhere near the head. The dog might shake the ears or have a head tilt. Decayed or fractured teeth can cause deep infections and excruciating  pain that can prevent your pet from eating, from playing or from chewing. Infections are very taxing to the immune system and causes lethargy and loss of stamina.

Or, do you know a dog who has regressed in their house-training and started having accidents? A bladder or urinary tract infection is frequently the cause. Urinary infections can be easily diagnosed at the veterinary hospital with a microscope and the cure is achieved after a course of antibiotics. Oftentimes, the cause of the infections are crystals or stones which might need surgical removal. Another cause of urinary accidents could be kidney disease, in which the pet loses the ability to concentrate the urine by filtering the blood and thus needs to constantly urinate. A simple blood analysis can determine if the kidneys are still working and there are many treatments available to manage them if they are not doing their job.

Has your dog suddenly become picky with his food? You may figure he’s bored with what he’s eating, and while this could be the case, appetite changes are more often due to a hidden gastrointestinal problem. The reason a normally hungry dog becomes reluctant to eat is often because he’s suffering nausea, acid reflux or a stomach ache. Some dogs might even start gnawing on household objects to try to alleviate the anxiety that can come with nausea, but unfortunately this behavior may be misinterpreted as destructiveness.

If your dog becomes lethargic, “not all there”, depressed, or irritable? Hypothyroidism may be the cause of those symptoms. This disease affects a lot of middle age dogs and it easy to diagnose with bloodwork. It is also easy to treat with just hormone supplements. When your dog’s personality changes, especially without a clear cause, dog owners should consult with their veterinarian before hiring a dog trainer. Be specific about the dog’s behavior when talking to the vet— mention every detail, no matter how small. Sometimes all the little details combined can make it clear what is going on. Once the health problem is diagnosed, your vet may recommend a medical procedure or prescribe a medicine that will help reduce your pet’s bad behavior, and in turn, you can finally get your peppy, loving dog back!

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