What would you think if your senior dog suddenly started lying across your bedroom door every night — something he has literally never done before? Here’s what I told a reader whose dog is doing exactly that.
Q: My dog never goes anywhere but the living room and kitchen. He’s a senior and has arthritis in the hips, so he doesn’t move much, but lately, every morning he is lying in my bedroom doorway. It unnerves me because I know dogs sometimes know when someone has health problems. He didn’t used to do that. Any ideas?
A: You are right that dogs (and cats) seem to have a sixth sense about human illnesses. Among other things, they can sniff out cancer, alert people to oncoming epileptic seizures, and tell when a person’s blood sugar is too low or too high. Those amazing diagnostic skills are likely related to their sensitivity to changes in odor as well as to their 24/7 observations of us. Dogs and cats have keen senses of smell, which may enable them to notice subtle changes in body odor or breath that may be caused by disease.
And pets notice everything about us. Even if we have an underlying disease that isn’t causing obvious symptoms, it may have made enough of a change in us that our pets pick up on it.
In your case, though, I’m guessing that your aging dog simply has a greater need for your companionship. As animals get older and undergo physical changes that may make them feel less steady, they may take comfort from our presence. Your dog may have a desire to be closer to you at night so he moves to the doorway where he likely has a better shot at hearing and smelling you as you sleep.
Any time your dog has a behavior change, it’s a good idea to take him to the veterinarian for a checkup. If he has pain or the beginnings of dementia, your veterinarian can prescribe medication to help.
Read more, including about physical rehabilitation for injured cats, in this week’s Pet Connection!