When someone mentions old dogs, the first thing that comes to mind is even-tempered and slow-moving seniors who just want to eat and nap in peace. Contrary to popular belief, not all dogs are calm and mellow, at least not all of the time. Some seniors can suddenly shift from slow-moving and peaceful into playful and hyperactive.
So, why is my old dog suddenly playful and hyperactive? Well, the sudden bouts of hyperactivity and playful energy can be due to a plethora of factors, including personality changes, changes in the environment, sensitivity issues, sundowning, dementia, lack of physical and mental stimulation, and pain and discomfort associated with certain age-related conditions.
This article will review these top three causes of hyperactivity and playfulness in old dogs. It will also provide tips on how to calm your unreasonably active dog and spare its energy.
BEHAVIORAL CHANGES IN OLD DOGS
With age, the dog’s brain starts changing and, put bluntly, to work less efficiently. These brain changes lead to behavioral changes.
Generally speaking, all dogs go through the same age-related changes. However, the changes are more subtle in toy and small dog breeds. On the other hand, in large and giant dog breeds, the age-related changes are more pronounced.
Anyway, once your dog enters its senior years, its behavior and personality may change drastically. It can be like your dog transformed into one you can barely recognize.
For example, a dog that used to bark at strangers can become extra friendly. The opposite is possible, too – a playful dog with other dogs can become grumpy and snap when invited to play dates.
The most common behavioral change in old dogs
In fact, the most prevalent change in senior dogs is aggression directed at other dogs. Aggression, as a trait, is surprisingly frequent in older dogs.
Based on prevalent theories, the aggression stems from the fact that older dogs cannot run away from certain situations, nor can they play or fight as efficiently as they used to. Something like a defense mechanism – “if I cannot be good at what I do, I will pretend I am not interested in doing it.”
In addition to aggression, anxiety (of any kind), confusion, and decreased memory and learning skills are particularly common changes in older dogs.
WHY IS MY OLD DOG SUDDENLY PLAYFUL AND HYPERACTIVE?
Many reasons can make your old dog suddenly playful and hyperactive. However, these are the most common.
Routine and environmental changes
As creatures of habit, dogs thrive on routine and consistency. Following patterns gives them a sense of comfort and security.
Although dogs dislike changes in general, young dogs are more easily adaptable. On the other hand, old dogs find it particularly hard to adjust to changes.
For older dogs, even something as simple as rearranging the living room furniture can be overwhelming. Once the senior dog is overwhelmed, he can behave unusually, including initiate play and be hyperactive.
As already noted, the dog’s brain chemistry changes with age, and those chemical changes lead to alterations in the personality and temperament. An otherwise hyper dog can become a couch potato, and a lazy dog can feel like living its second youth. There is no rule which personality traits senior age trigger in your dog.
The previously mentioned brain chemistry may result in increased sensitivity. A sensitive dog reacts to its owner’s emotions strongly and intensely. For example, if you feel excited, stressed, agitated, or angry, the strength of these feelings will have a significant impact on your suddenly overly-sensitive old dog.
In such cases, the emotions are so strong that your dog simply does not know what to do with them. As a response, he starts redirecting to playfulness and hyperactivity.
Pain and discomfort
Pain and discomfort are common companions of old age. Various health issues can trigger them and conditions, including arthritis, irritable bowels, decreased senses, or difficulty defecating.
In these cases, your dog may try to eliminate or mask the pain and discomfort by bouncing and jumping around. It is not an efficient mechanism, but it redirects your dog’s focus and prevents him from thinking about the pain and discomfort.
Insufficient physical and mental stimulation
Due to physical limitations, as the dog ages, it may need decreased amounts of physical activity. However, in terms of mental stimulations, old dogs need to be adequately challenged.
An old dog lacking mental stimulation is likely to be overly playful and hyperactive to compensate for the insufficient stimulation. Just because your dog is old does not mean that you cannot organize some fun body and mind-stimulating activities.
WHY IS MY OLD DOG PLAYFUL AND HYPERACTIVE AT NIGHT?
Being playful, hyperactive, or restless at night is a whole different story. Night restlessness is more common in older dogs and is usually associated with three underlying issues.
All older dogs suffer from arthritis, but large and giant breeds are particularly affected. An older dog with arthritis will have a hard time getting up, sitting down, and finding a comfortable sleeping position.
Together, these limitations lead to sleep deprivation. If your dog is sleep-deprived, he is likely to compensate through hyper behaviors.
Sundowning in dogs
Sundowning is a common Alzheimer’s disease symptom. It describes the unusual sense of agitation and discomfort Alzheimer patients feel when it is getting dark.
As unbelievable as it sounds, sundowning is common in older dogs too. Sundowning is a syndrome that manifests with recurring confusion and extreme agitation that develops when dark falls – between late afternoon and early evening. If your dog is affected by this syndrome, he is medically termed as a sundowner.
Sundowner dogs are prone to exhibiting an array of different and unusual behaviors, including extreme playfulness and hyperactivity.
Just like Alzheimer’s disease, dementia is an age-related condition that impacts a dog’s life significantly.
A senior dog with dementia will become forgetful. He can forget where its food and water bowl stand, which bed is his, or even where he is supposed to pee. In terms of playfulness and hyperactivity, your old dog can even forget his stamina is not as endless as it used to be, which will result in hyper episodes and playfulness.
WHAT TO DO IF MY OLD DOG IS SUDDENLY PLAYFUL AND HYPERACTIVE?
The first thing you need to do if your old dog suddenly has unreasonable energy outbursts is to have him checked by your trusted vet. As mentioned, sudden playfulness and hyperactivity may be masking an underlying issue or stem from an age-related change.
In both cases, the vet’s pieces of advice or even prescription medications can help improve your senior dog’s quality of life.
Next, you will have to learn how to calm down your overly energetic old dog in the long run. As tempting as it seems to let your dog behave exuberantly and recklessly as it used to, the sudden hyper bouts have a jo-jo effect.
Namely, old dogs do not have the go-all-day stamina once had, and as soon as the bout is over, they will feel drained. What is more, considering their joint and bone issues, being too active can trigger injuries.
CALMING DOWN A SUDDENLY PLAYFUL AND HYPERACTIVE OLD DOG
The best way of calming your senior dog down is being there and offering your support. Just because your dog is old does not mean it no longer appreciates your presence, calming praises, and pep talks.
Here are some valuable tips on how to help your suddenly playful and hyperactive old dog.
Help your dog navigate through senior years
If your old dog is forgetful, remind him frequently of the things he forgets. If your dog misses being physically active, find activities that are not too demanding. If it is sore and in pain, talk to your vet about pain management.
Be mindful about your old dog’s diet
Senior dogs have different nutritional needs than puppies and adult dogs. For that reason, there are dog food formulas explicitly designed for old dogs. These formulas have modified protein contents and certain compounds that could improve cognitive function in older dogs.
Consider calming medications
If your older dog is hyperactive to the point where it can have a damaging effect on its overall health, it is advisable to consider calming medications. Please talk with your vet and see what they advise.
There are many different types of calming medications for dogs – from natural and holistic to traditional. Plus, they can be used on an as-need basis.
Practice regular checkups at the vet’s office
An older dog that is generally healthy and does not suffer from any chronic condition should be examined by a licensed veterinarian at least twice per year. If your dog has some chronic ailments, the frequency of vet visits should be significantly higher.
When it comes to older dogs, things can go sideways really fast. Catching health issues early on positively impacts the outcome.
As a responsible dog parent, you are well-aware of the changes that come with your dog’s old age. Old age is not a disease on its own, but it is related to many health conditions and physical limitations.
Therefore, as dogs grow old, they become mellower, more placid, and reluctantly engage in physical activities. However, short bouts of hyperactivity and playfulness are not uncommon in senior dogs.
Seeing your senior dog express some of its puppyhood behaviors is cute, but you should not encourage these sudden bouts. In fact, if your old dog is suddenly playful and hyperactive, it is best advised to calm him down as being hyper will drain its energy.