Dogs are more expressive than most pets, and those with a good quality of life display a plethora of signs naturally to communicate that they’re truly happy. However, some of these signs in your dog aren’t always what we interpret them as, and a few imply poor quality of life.
Here are 10 signs that your dog has good quality of life:
Like Homo sapiens, Canis lupus familiaris can have good and bad days. Also, you must always assess a dog’s wellbeing holistically, neither ignoring one red flag nor assuming that a particular sign supersedes everything else. Keep reading to decipher if your dog has a good quality of life.
1. Full Range of Motion or Mobility
A healthy dog with a good quality of life shouldn’t have any mobility problems.
Look for visible changes in your pet’s movement or limited range of motion, even if the signs are subtle. A noticeable sign may not always imply a serious health issue, but it’s a cause for concern.
For instance, consider the probability of intervertebral disc disease (IVDD). This degenerative disease, slipped or ruptured disc, and other orthopedic problems affect the mobility of the following:
- Cocker spaniel
- German shepherd
- Lhasa apso
A dog may keep its head low, arch the back, fail to be reliably steady on all four limbs, knuckle one or all paws, struggle to walk naturally and be reluctant to stand, move, or jump. Such disc or spinal problems may be cervical (neck), thoracolumbar (back), or lumbosacral (lower back).
Disc disease in dogs has five distinct stages, so detecting the early signs is more desirable.
Look out for hind leg weakness, dragging, and crossing. Also, stiffness, unusual sensitivity to specific movements or postures, and labored walking or jumping are red flags in this context.
Orthopedic Problems in Dogs
Dogs are vulnerable to:
- Osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disc
- Hip dysplasia
- Cruciate ligament
- Muscle atrophy
- Slipped disc
- Ruptured disc
- Intervertebral disc disease
Contrary to popular perception, arthritis is common among aging or older dogs and younger ones.
Degenerative myelopathy is a disease usually affecting older dogs. Spinal cord and nerve degeneration impair limb strength and coordination, a reason why aging dogs change their gait, lack natural balance, and experience other mobility issues.
Such diseases are progressive, so you can and ideally should spot the subtle or evident signs much earlier than a severe stage.
Signs of Limited Range of Motion and Mobility Issues in Dogs
Here’s a checklist you can use to diagnose mobility issues in your dog:
- Is your pet limping or walking slower, given its age and breed?
- Is your dog struggling to stand, sit, lean, and move around?
- Is it slipping or sliding while walking, running, or getting up?
- Is the dog shifting its weight to either the front or hind legs?
- Are its legs swaying or nails scraping on the floor or ground?
- Is your dog reluctant to take the stairs or jump onto the car?
Sustained stiffness, physical signs of pain, heightened sensitivity to touch, and other telltale signs like screaming, howling, and whining are relatively easier to detect. A slightly modified gait may be tough to spot unless you observe specifically to read such subtle signs.
2. Sprightly Behavior
I started this guide with an acknowledgment of the abundant observable signs in dogs and the potential misinterpretation of a few. Behavior is the most complicated attribute of dogs, as most of us expect the popular breeds to act, react, and engage in distinct but expected ways.
Whining, screaming, and howling can be the signs of a limited range of motion and mobility issues, pain, or disease. However, those can also be normal behavior if your dog is simply vying for attention.
Only you, the owner, and a vet can assess and understand the difference.
Consider the most common characteristic of dogs, barking, and its practical interpretations. Your dog will bark whenever it’s excited, interacting with people and animals, playing, and trying to draw your attention.
In contrast, a dog also barks when it’s bored, anxious, alert, or threatened.
You’re probably familiar with the distinct barks in different situations. Use this understanding to know if your dog is behaving normally or there’s something odd about the sounds. Also, a dog barking excessively without evident triggers warrants an investigation, because something is amiss.
Behavioral Problems in Dogs
A dog will behave differently when there’s a trigger, which could be external or internal, and both reflect some aspects of your pet’s quality of life. An odd behavior once or a few times when there are external triggers isn’t an alarm, but recurring anomalies are concerning.
Dogs are vulnerable to a few phobias, including separation anxiety, and various types of aggression.
A dog’s aggression may be due to:
- Fear or threat
- Possessiveness or resource guarding
- Protectiveness or territorial sense
- Predatory instincts
A trained pet dog with a good quality of life isn’t aggressive.
You may also find your dog repeating certain actions, reactions, or behaviors that aren’t strictly normal. An abnormality could be due to a disorder, be it neurologic, compulsive, or behavioral.
Also, a dog may or may not have a clinical condition for odd behaviors. The specific triggers could be settings, people, other animals, and a dog’s physiological state and psychological health.
Behavioral Signs of Poor Quality of Life in Dogs
All dogs have a few natural tendencies, irrespective of breed.
Your dog may like to chew, dig, chase, and jump more often than you might prefer, but these are its natural behavior. You have a problem if your dog does anything unusual for its age and breed and repeats that anomaly.
Two common behavioral signs of poor quality of life in dogs are aggression and pensiveness. All types of unusual aggression indicate something is wrong, and you must investigate. Identifying and removing the trigger can remedy your dog’s aggression.
Likewise, pensiveness is a sign of depression, anxiety, boredom, lack of stimulation, and any significant change. Unfamiliar surroundings, negative or poor socialization, inconvenient settings, uncomfortable environments, and changes in diet or daily routine are common causes of a dog’s pensiveness.
Also, health issues, including genetic problems or traits, can make a dog pensive.
It’s alright for a dog to be pensive at times, but it should spring back to life and activity when you engage with it, during playtimes, or bonding, in general. Similarly, aggressive playfulness like pulling on a leash or snatching a toy isn’t a red flag, but growling and shifting its weight to the front limbs while poising itself as if it’s ready to attack are signs you should watch out for.
3. Routine Hunger and Thirst
Any significant change in your dog’s hunger and thirst routine is odd unless there’s a causal factor.
For instance, some changes in food or water intake following exhaustive activities and on leisurely days are normal and expected. However, sudden and unexplained excesses or loss of appetite and thirst are worrisome, and quality of life is one integral causal or facilitating factor.
First, you must eliminate a few common triggers, such as a change in the type and quantity of food, timing, and water quality. Also, pet dogs can be picky about their food preferences, and they prefer eating and drinking normally in familiar or comfortable settings.
Significant changes in the immediate environment can trigger a change in their food and water intake and frequency.
Dietary Signs of Poor Quality of Life in Dogs
A healthy dog with no evident trigger, such as illness, medication, vaccination, and dental disease, may eat or drink less than usual if it’s unhappy, brooding, anxious, depressed, and afraid or threatened.
A dog may not eat or drink normally if there’s an aggressive pet around.
Also, there are dietary ailments to worry about. Dogs are vulnerable to anorexia, obesity, muscle atrophy, and hypernatremia. Anorexia, obesity, and muscle atrophy symptoms are generally not subtle, but the trouble is that the signs become evident as the conditions develop and worsen.
Three conditions, in particular, don’t always have telltale signs, and they can lead to more complex problems. These health issues are hypernatremia, polyphagia, and psychogenic polydipsia.
All such problems may have medical or nonmedical causes, sometimes both, so let’s discuss this further.
Hypernatremia (Lack of Thirst)
Hypernatremia in dogs is a lack of thirst, which happens due to excess sodium in the blood. This impaired thirst may be due to the prolonged unavailability of water. Also, high sodium intake through foods or treats and increased water loss from the body can cause hypernatremia.
Psychogenic Polydipsia (Excessive Water Intake)
Psychogenic polydipsia has many medical or physiological causes and a few related to the quality of life. For instance, behavioral problems and a high salt diet can influence a dog to drink more water than usual or necessary.
Another bothersome cause or facilitating factor is diabetes.
Increased thirst or hunger, often both, and abnormal consumption patterns may imply diabetes. Also, a dog may have polydipsia and diabetes if it drinks a lot of water and urinates frequently or at odd intervals, including inadvertently relieving itself in the room or wherever it’s in real-time.
Polyphagia (Overeating or Excessive Appetite)
Polyphagia or overeating due to excessive hunger often coexists with polydipsia (high water intake) and polyuria (frequent urination). Excessive appetite could be due to medication, aging, poor nutrient absorption, and insulin deficiency, among other causes.
Behavioral problems may gradually lead to conditions like polyphagia and thus reflect poor quality of life. Readily accessible treats and familiar people overindulging a pet out of affection can trigger and sustain such behavioral problems.
A common cause is treating a begging dog.
A dog begging for treats or foods at odd times and getting rewarded will persist with such acts. Thus, it may be hard for you or anyone to keep an accurate tab on the food and water intake. If you respond to this begging once and a few times, your dog will develop a behavioral problem.
4. Regular Sleep
A healthy and happy dog will sleep blissfully. The daily average is around 12 hours, but many dogs may sleep longer or less, depending on their age, size, and breed. Larger and older dogs tend to sleep more.
However, you must assess the pattern and posture alongside the duration.
Healthy dogs with a good quality of life don’t need much support for regular sleep in their natural positions. However, a dog may prefer a place other than its bed. Dogs with physiological issues, such as orthopedic problems, and psychological triggers like anxiety, fear, or stress, may not get the requisite sleep in their blissful state.
Also, dogs are vulnerable to a few sleep disorders.
The Correlation of Quality of Life and Sleep Disorders in Dogs
Lack of exercise, physical activity, and mental stimulation may lead to insomnia in dogs, albeit this condition isn’t as common among canines as it’s in humans. Dogs snore, but they’re not too loud.
An unusually loud snore is a symptom of sleep apnea or other respiratory issues.
Similarly, it’s normal for dogs to sleep at their scheduled times and a while after exhaustive activity. However, a dog shouldn’t collapse immediately after exercise, playing, eating, or any intense adventure.
An abrupt collapse and instantly falling asleep is a symptom of narcolepsy.
Loud snoring, sleep apnea, narcolepsy, insomnia, physical activity during sleep, and rapid eye movement or REM disorder are diagnosable and manageable conditions. Appropriate lifestyle changes or essentially a good quality of life can address most of these issues in your loved pet.
5. Interest in Favorite Activities
A dog rarely needs a special invitation to embark on an adventure, especially when it comprises one or several favorite activities. One instance when you may find your dog indecisive about an adventure is when it has to choose between two ongoing activities, both being favorites.
Dogs have poor short-term memory, usually lasting for about 2 minutes.
However, most dogs do develop long-term memory through repetition. This means that your pet remembers everything you have trained it to do through repetition, including all the fun experiences it has associated with certain activities. Whether it’s going to the park consistently or jumping into the backseat of the car for an adventure, they will remember their favorite things.
A dog isn’t happy or has a health problem if it passes on an opportunity to have fun.
The Role of Memory in a Dog’s Quality of Life
Another instance when your dog may not want to engage in a particular activity and behave quaintly is a triggering factor arising out of negative memories. Dogs remember stuff through associative memory, and if this association is negative, the dog remembers it as a threat.
Thus, you may find your dog interested in an activity at a given place but not when it finds itself in an inconvenient setting or amidst unfamiliar people. These instances don’t always reflect the poor quality of life.
However, there may be a few negative memories that you can address.
Those raising pups are probably aware of all associated memories of their dogs. Understanding the triggers is essential, such as specific sounds, objects, places, lights, smells, and other stuff that dogs can sense and form an associated memory of two related or unrelated experiences.
Health Impact on a Dog’s Activity and Quality of Life
A dog may not be expectedly ardent about a favorite activity if it’s in pain, on medication, and suffering from a health condition. Usually, lack of interest is an early sign of an underlying health problem.
However, a dog may try to endure the pain and participate in activities and socializing.
Like many animals, dogs have an ability to conceal their pain because it’s a sign of weakness that projects them as vulnerable to predators. As pets, a dog’s willingness to have fun may supersede its pain if the latter is bearable, but you’ll notice the symptoms sooner or later.
Health and quality of life are interrelated, and it’s similar to the chicken and egg conundrum. All the orthopedic, behavioral, dietary, and sleep problems discussed in this article until now have a direct impact on activities and vice versa.
Thus, poor quality of life can be the cause of many problems or a consequence of other issues, including medical and nonmedical conditions.
6. Sociable With Familiar People and Pets
An unhealthy and unhappy dog may not be as sociable as it used to be, even with familiar people and pets.
Your pet doesn’t have to isolate itself to be less sociable. A dog may hang around, but it might not engage as actively or receptively as expected. For example, it may no longer rush to the door and jump on a familiar person or have a ball when it’s pampered by all.
Sociability isn’t identical to a dog’s sprightly behavior in general.
In most cases, a dog changes its behavior in a new setting or amidst unfamiliar people. However, it should develop a degree of familiarity with the place, people, and other pets in the new environment, which isn’t a given.
In the absence of triggers such as moving to a new house or town, you have to zero in on the possible health issues your dog may have, physiological or psychological. Also, review if there are other changes in its life that may serve as a trigger that you’re not considering immediately.
Healthy, happy, and sprightly dogs tend to be sociable even with unfamiliar people and animals.
Unhappy dogs with or without underlying health conditions can be less excited about social interactions. This sign should tell you that you need to make its life a tad more satisfying.
7. No Unusual Reclusiveness
Lack of interest in socializing isn’t identical to being reclusive. However, if your dog self-isolates and repeats this act often or frequently, you must intervene and try to understand the problems. Pain and discomfort are usually the common physiological triggers.
The other vital causes are stress, anxiety, fear, boredom, absence of mental stimulation, and depression.
Stress may be due to the immediate environment, interactions with people and animals, diet, hydration, and other external factors. Likewise, fear and anxiety may also be rooted in any of these surrounding elements. Ideally, your first response should be to rule out medical problems.
A comprehensive health checkup should reveal if your dog has a medical condition.
This step is necessary because you don’t want to initiate any nonmedical remedies before knowing they’ll work. Once you know a dog is healthy and probably sad or depressed, thus reclusive, you can plan activities, schedule time, and dedicate some resources to rekindle its sprightly self.
8. No Exercise Intolerance
Exercise intolerance is generally due to health conditions unless you’re training a dog to do something beyond its capacity, subject to the breed and age. However, some level of exercise intolerance may be due to diet, hydration, sleep disorder, and behavioral problems.
The type, quality, and quantity of food may or may not be the root cause.
Dogs can suffer from nutrition deficiency if they have a gastrointestinal condition affecting the absorption of nutrients. Many acute, progressive, or chronic diseases can also have the same effect, including cancers.
Also, some dogs are prone to weight gain and obesity, whereas a few breeds don’t fare well in specific climates like the hot and humid tropics. Furthermore, dogs are vulnerable to irregular heartbeat, cardiovascular problems, pulmonary disease, anemia, and hypothyroidism.
Exercise intolerance is common for unhealthy or diseased, aging, and obese dogs. If there are no such triggers, poor quality of life is the potential cause and also a consequence as a result.
Consult a vet to rule out health problems before making changes to diet and lifestyle.
Unsuitable diet and lifestyle changes may worsen undiagnosed or untreated health conditions. Besides, many serious diseases necessitate a few changes alongside medication, symptom management, including pain, and overall caregiving. Thus, all other lifestyle interventions or changes to cure exercise intolerance and improve quality of life must be complementary.
9. Proactive and Natural Curiosity
Dogs have a bouquet of instinctive actions and reactions, many of which are essentially due to their proactive and natural curiosity. A curious dog is healthy and has a good quality of life. Also, the normal sprightly behavior of dogs is driven by this innate curiosity. Furthermore, dogs are naturally territorial.
Thus, they have to be fully aware of their immediate surroundings.
If your dog loses this proactive and natural curiosity, you’ll notice that its instinctive actions and reactions aren’t as sharp, prompt, or expressive. An aging or ailing dog tends to get lethargic, which can also impact how it exercises natural curiosity and various instincts.
Lack of Curiosity in Dogs Is a Definitive Sign of Poor Quality of Life
A dog lacking curiosity has a poor quality of life, isn’t as sociable as it should be, and needs an intervention. The solution depends on the exact problem. An otherwise healthy young dog may do better with dietary and lifestyle changes, stimulating activities, and more bonding time.
The other common factors causing a decline in curiosity are fear, stress, anxiety, depression, fatigue, and incident-based trauma. While a dog doesn’t replay episodic memories of trauma like us, they can remember the elements associated with the stressful and probably painful incident.
Such severe instances require special care, like in the cases of many rescued dogs.
There’s one other critical factor in this context. Some pet owners discipline their dogs to the extent that they forget or withhold their instincts, including curiosity. For example, a dog repeatedly disciplined for chewing, digging, playfulness, and other exploratory habits may abandon those practices entirely.
They may need a special nudge to regain their curiosity.
10. Optimum Real-Time Vitals
Like all mammals, dogs have a range for healthy real-time vitals, such as heartbeat, respiratory rate, and body temperature.
- A small or medium breed dog’s pulse rate can be anywhere from 70 to 140 beats in sixty seconds, and it may breathe 15 to 30 times per minute.
- A large dog’s pulse rate is 50 to 120 beats per minute, and it takes 15 to 30 breaths at the same time.
- The body temperature of almost all dogs is around 100 to 102.5°F (37.78 to 39.17°C).
All these vitals will spike a little or a lot depending on the level of activity and stimulation, both mental and physical. A significant aberration in these vitals calls for a visit to the vet. An unhealthy and unhappy dog may have consistently unusual vitals, whether high or low.
Real-time vitals should be optimum, not just the measurements in ideal settings.
The vitals of an unhappy but healthy dog with a poor quality of life can stabilize somewhat in a calm place, especially when you are present, pay attention, and shower some love. The real-world vitals are important, particularly when your dog is stressed, anxious, depressed, exhausted, or afraid.
Generally, you’ll notice more than one telltale sign of your dog having poor quality of life. However, all pet lovers should look for the subtle signs when the problem or its impact is yet to be grave.
Here at Plush Paws, we know that you only want the best for your pup. We carry products that can enhance yur dog’s quality of life, bringing comfort and happiness on all of life’s adventures. A dog’s health and wellbeing will worsen if you allow the poor quality of life to linger, so make sure you have everything you need to keep them as content as possible!
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