Bites due to poor health

This week, I want to talk about a very serious topic – biting family dogs. A dog is a non confrontational animal by nature and gets along well with humans and other dogs. So a bite is very uncharacteristic for a dog and really is the dog’s last effort at asking someone to back off. If a dog is feeling so cornered as to bite, we need to examine what is causing him to feel so insecure; and it’s our responsibility as their pet parents not to put them in a situation that makes them feel so desperate.

Dogs bite when stress mounts so high that they don’t see a way out. But realising that the dog is in that situation after the bite happens is a bit too late. As pet parents, we need to get good at reading our dogs’ emotions well, so that we can tell if our dog is stressed early on and take the necessary actions.

To know if your dog is stressed, check for one or more of these odd behaviours – frequent loss of temper, biting the leash or pants, mouthing excessively, copious water consumption, repetitive behaviours like digging, chasing one’s own tail, biting oneself in the same spot, scratching oneself in the same place etc.

Leading causes of extreme stress in dogs that can lead to bites is poor health, pain, hunger, being tied for long hours, being alone for long hours and punishments in the form of beating and intimidation. There are many other things that cause stress in a dog, but today, I want to focus on two things in particular.

Health and pain can be the most elusive of these, since it’s hard for us to spot what’s going on. That’s why I’d like to focus on that today. Dogs can be quite stoic when it comes to expressing pain and discomfort and we too can be a bit blind sometimes in our busy lives. We do not see the signs that tell us that our dog is suffering. Regular visits to the vet will not suffice. These days, vets run so busy that it’s easy to miss out less obvious diseases. But as pet parents, we need to watch closely and be responsible for the animal that is completely trusting us to do right by him.

Behavioural issues that have their roots in health issues will be combined with visible signs of poor health. These can include poor, dry fur, dandruff, bad breath, over or under weight, unclear eyes, funny gait etc. If your dog is falling sick frequently with repeated loose stools, tick and flea infestations, allergies etc. then you need to be concerned about his health.

Common health issues include joint problems like hip dysplasia, allergies, heart issues and hypothyroidism. These days, with all the extensive breeding going on, several of our dogs are coming with these issues coded in their genes. So unless you have one of those hardy Indies, do watch your dog closely for these recurring problems.

Behavioural issues that have basis in ill health cannot be fixed with any amount of behavioural corrections and should not be done so either. An animal in discomfort should not be kept in that state for the sake of the animal and the safety of people and animals around.

So, as responsible pet parents, it is down to us to observe the behaviour of our dogs, identify extreme behaviours and ensure that any underlying health issues are detected and taken care of.
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