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Ask VetTechErin Your Own Question
VetTechErin, Licensed Vet Tech
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 681
Experience:  Published author in veterinary medical journals and on the Veterinary Information Network with a focus in toxicology
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My 18yr old dog which is blind & deaf and now starts howling

Customer Question

my 18yr old dog which is blind & deaf and now starts howling night & day this problem started about 8 weeks ago
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Dog
Expert:  VetTechErin replied 2 years ago.
Hi there!
My name is ***** ***** I would be happy to help you with your question about your dog.
Have you been to the vet, and have they done any tests?
Does he have any health concerns such as heart problems, seizures, or other issues?
Have you noticed any signs of illness or other changes in behavior?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
He has a problem with is back legs and struggles puting his right back leg on the ground. He also has a growth growing near his penis.
Expert:  VetTechErin replied 2 years ago.
Thank you for taking the time to answer those questions for me. In a dog, changes like you are seeing in Sam are typically either medical, or behavioral. I think this is a mix with both.
Crying out tends to be a sign of pain, disorientation/confusion, anxiety, and can generally be disruptive to our sleep patterns as well!
Based on what you have described, I think the chances are likely that you're seeing changes in his behavior in relation to his age (18 is a pretty advanced age for any breed of dog). As dogs get older, they undergo changes to their capacity to think, remember, sleep during normal times, the grow irritable .. just like an older person.
General restlessness at night is something that is extremely common in older pets and people. As their bodies start to decline with age, they have aches and pains, sometimes they have a desire to eat more frequently or need to go to the bathroom more often. A dog who had difficulty seeing and hearing may become started at strange sensations and be reacting out of fear.
It is always a good idea to first get him checked at a vet to make sure that everything medical is being identified and treated. Vets have medications to help treat cognitive changes in old dogs, and checking to make sure he's on the appropriate pain medications, anxiety medications, and is not suffering from any illness is going to be a big part of making him comfortable at night.
Simply getting him on anxiety medications may help a big deal, but you may also want to try some at-home measures such as pheromone therapy. You can purchase diffusers like DAP ( which release calming pheromones to help relax a frightened pet. This can be helpful, especially at night when you're not around to immediately soothe him, it may keep him from howling and keeping you up.
With an older dog, training can sometimes work to help curb the behaviors that crop up, and while it may seem strange to enter almost a second puppyhood with your dog, training him can help give him something to focus his energies a little bit, too. There is a really good article from the ASCPA virtual behaviorist on training dogs with issues with howling. These training methods work for all forms of vocalization as well:
You are likely going to start to see more changes in your dogs behavior over time, but keep in mind that these are all perfectly normal changes in dogs as they age. Report all these changes to your vet as they crop up, as your vet is going to be your best resource to providing you with drug therapies and the like to help ease a good deal of the discomfort that comes with aging.
If you have any further questions or concerns, please feel free to hit reply, and I'd be glad to answer any follow-ups you have.