Temperament Change in Old Age

by Jamie
(Rochester, NY)

Is Old Age Making Your Shih Tzu Grumpy?

Is Old Age Making Your Shih Tzu Grumpy?


My shih tzu, Oreo, is 10 years old. I've had him since he was a puppy and he has always been a very well behaved dog. He's not a fan of being picked up by children and will give a warning growl if someone comes near him to pick him up without his permission.

However, the last few months I've seen a change in his temperament. He is grumpier for no apparent reason. My boyfriend will be petting him and they are getting along great, then all of a sudden Oreo will break out into a vicious growl for no apparent reason. He will even try to snap/bite at him.

This is typically unusual behavior (especially since it's unprovoked) but is becoming much more frequent.

I was wondering if this is normal for this breed or something I should follow up with my Vet.

Thank you!

Reader Comments

Karen says - This usually means something is going on with him physically. He might be in pain. Had a shihtzu that did the same thing as he aged. It turned out with mine that he was ill. His teeth were bad & he had kidney stones. I would check him out at the vet.

Another reader says - I was going to say the same thing, a vet visit is in order. 10 isn't that old for a tzu, they can live 15 years or more, but i would take him for a check up.

Our Answer

There is something about the eternally puppy-like face of a Shih Tzu that lulls us into forgetting they’re susceptible to the health problems of old age. At 10 years old Oreo is definitely a senior canine as Shih Tzus generally live between 11 and 16 years. But it’s not normal for a formerly lovable and well-balanced dog to growl or bite when he hasn’t before.

It definitely sounds as though your little lion is trying to tell you that he’s not feeling well, and a visit to the vet’s office is in order.

Many of the common ailments in older Shih Tzus aren’t necessarily visible. The only way our four-legged companions can communicate their discomfort is through a good dose of snarls and snaps.

If Oreo’s carrying a few extra pounds, if he’s slowed down on walks, takes a few extra moments to get up from a nap or is unwilling to jump up to places he once reached easily it’s possible he might be suffering from osteoarthritis.

Arthritis is the most commonly under-treated canine disease, according to Dr. Coates of PetMd. And what a shame, because there are several helpful treatments that can ease the pain of this debilitating disease.

Other health problems that might be plaguing Oreo include patellar luxation (dislocation of the kneecap), hip dysplasia, dental or eye problems – all common problems with the Shih Tzu breed.

Along with other breeds like Dachshund and Pekingese that have elongated backs and short legs, Shih Tzus are categorized as “chondrodystrophoid” dogs. Unfortunately their unique formation can lead to intervertebral disk disease (back problems) as they age.

Of course, it’s always possible that the problem isn’t age related at all; perhaps there’s a foxtail lodged in his ear or digestive problems are making him grouchy. In either case, it sounds like some expert medical intervention is needed.

How lucky you are to have raised Oreo from a puppy and share the last 10 years with him, and how lucky he is to have a human companion who cares about his well being as he gets older. Even if he is suffering from an age-related health problem Oreo may still have several years of life ahead of him.

Tell your vet about the changes you’ve noticed. A simple medication or treatment may be all it takes to get your pup back in good spirits, ready to give and receive many more years of love and affection.

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