Maybe while visiting friends, you went over to give a quick smooch to their dog whom you’ve known for years — since he was a puppy — and he bit your face. It’s not that uncommon, unfortunately, for dogs to react in ways that are unusual for them, like growling and biting, as they get older.
That doesn’t mean that a docile, friendly dog will become a snarling, raging beast in their senior years. However, there are reasons why an older dog may react in an aggressive manner to a friendly, non-threatening gesture.
They’re in pain or discomfort
Older dogs often suffer from joint pain, stomach issues and a myriad of other conditions that cause them to just want to be left alone. Someone trying to pet them – particularly if they touch an area that’s sensitive — can cause an aggressive response.
Their senses aren’t sharp
It’s not unusual for older dogs to become hard of hearing or to suffer from eye issues like glaucoma and cataracts that hamper their vision. If a dog doesn’t see or hear you approaching, even a gentle touch can cause them to snap.
They have cognitive decline
Some dogs suffer more decline than others as they age. Some stay sharp until their last days. Others suffer canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD), which is a type of dementia. Dogs with CCD may not always know where they are, even when they’re at home. They may not recognize people they’ve known for years. This confusion can lead them to become aggressive.
None of this means that if you’ve been bitten by an older dog, it was your fault. Dog owners have a responsibility to caution people about their dog’s condition(s) and perhaps to keep them in a separate area when they have guests if they have any concerns about the risk that their dog might bite.
If you or a loved one has been bitten by a senior dog, you should get the medical care you need. Typically, you can get compensation through the dog owner’s homeowners’, renters’ or umbrella insurance. If they’re uninsured, you may need to seek compensation directly from the owner. If you’re having difficulty getting the compensation you need, it may be wise to seek legal guidance.