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Why older dogs can become prone to biting

On Behalf of | Sep 4, 2022 | Premises Liability

Many dog bites are caused by the unlikeliest culprits. Most people reflexively stay away and keep their children away from large, aggressive-looking dogs — particularly those breeds that have a bad reputation.

People are less likely to fear smaller dogs – even though they can be extremely aggressive and protective of their owners. They’re also less likely to fear older dogs. They often appear to be slow and do not have the keenest senses. However, senior dogs can be prone to biting – even people they’ve known their whole lives.

It’s not uncommon for dogs to bite seemingly unexpectedly and for no reason as they age. However, they have their reasons. Let’s look at a few.

Pain or discomfort

Older dogs can suffer from painful arthritis, stomach problems, dental issues and other conditions. Even when they’re getting proper medical treatment, they can be uncomfortable. Sometimes, they just want to be left alone. If someone tries to pet them when they don’t feel well – particularly if they’re touching an area that’s in pain – they may bite.

Poor eyesight and/or hearing

You may think a dog sees you or hears you as you approach them for a hug, but they may not. They may look like they can see because they’re on their familiar walking path. However, a senior dog may be so startled by an unexpected touch that they bite. 


While many dogs suffer some cognitive loss as they age, others have canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD). That’s a more serious cognitive impairment that’s similar to Alzheimer’s disease. 

Just like people who have dementia, dogs with CCD may not always recognize even people they see regularly. They often may not know where they are, even in their own home, which can make them fearful. All of this can lead them to bite unexpectedly. 

Owners need to be vigilant

People with senior dogs who have become prone to biting have a responsibility to caution those who approach them. Well-meaning friends and neighbors may have no idea that the dog can no longer see or has been suffering from hip pain and is particularly cranky.  

If you or a loved one has been bitten by a senior dog, the owner’s homeowners’ insurance or other policy should cover your medical care and other expenses. However, if you’re having difficulty getting the compensation you need, it may be wise to seek legal guidance.


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