People often think that because they love dogs, they understand them – especially their own. That’s often not true. They are, after all, a completely different species, even if they do sleep in your bed and watch all the same TV shows you do.
That’s why it can come as a surprise when an older, gentle, well-behaved dog suddenly bites someone. Maybe a senior dog who’s lived next door for years bit you. Perhaps a friend’s dog who’s always been good with kids bit your child when you brought them over for a visit.
It’s not uncommon for dogs to be more prone to biting as they enter their senior years. They may bite for several common reasons. Understanding those reasons can help people prevent their dog from biting – and help people avoid being bitten.
Dogs may bite when they’re in pain or discomfort
Senior dogs can suffer from arthritis, dental problems, digestive issues and any number of other conditions that cause them pain or discomfort – even when they have proper veterinary care. If someone approaches them when they don’t want to be touched – especially if they touch a tender area – they may respond by biting.
Their cognition and senses are declining
Just like people’s, dogs sensory and cognitive acuity decline as they get older. Just as with people, this decline is more precipitous in some than others. If a dog doesn’t see and/or hear well, it can be easy for someone to startle them even if they assume the dog knows they’re there. This can cause a dog to bite.
Older dogs can experience various levels of cognitive decline as well. There’s even a condition called canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD), which is similar to Alzheimer’s disease.
Owners of senior dogs have an added responsibility
None of these things excuse an owner from responsibility if they don’t take appropriate precautions. This often includes cautioning people to be careful about touching or startling their senior dog.
If you or a loved one has been bitten by a senior dog, it’s important to know what your options are for seeking the compensation you need for medical treatment and other expenses and damages. Often, an owner’s homeowner’s insurance will cover injuries caused by pets. Whether they have insurance or not, you have a right to hold a negligent owner accountable.