Sometimes, aggression in dogs a learned behavior, is common in specific breeds, or is the result of poor treatment or fear. However, a previously gentle dog who suddenly begins to exhibit aggressive behavior could actually be struggling with a medical problem. Sudden aggression can be the result of pain or poor hormone regulation. If you think that your dog might have medical problems leading to aggression, learning more about the common medical causes can help you know if your dog needs treatment.
The thyroid gland helps to regulate hormone production in a dog's body. It also helps determine how quickly your dogs can metabolize food into energy. When the thyroid is sluggish, digestive processes slow down and normal hormone levels drops.
Dogs with hypothyroidism become more aggressive because a slow thyroid drastically reduces energy levels. They will not be inclined to play or move around and may grow easily irritated if pushed too hard. Other symptoms of hypothyroidism include weight gain, getting sick more often, and shedding. Low hormone levels also contribute to levels of aggression because your dog will not be able to regulate emotions as easily if the hormones are not balanced.
Brain Tumor or Swelling
Drastic changes in personality can also be attributed to stress on your dog's nervous system, particularly the brain. If a tumor grows in the pre-frontal cortex, learned behaviors like patience and subservience could give way to baser, more aggressive instincts. The tumor can place pressure on areas of the brain, which cause pain (another trigger for unusual aggression) and changes in behavior. The same thing can happen if your dog has encephalitis (swelling or inflammation) in the brain. The increased pressure or sustained neurological damage can cause your dog to act out.
Sometimes, changes in behavior come after a blow to the head or an infection. If this is the case, you should contact your vet right away, as bleeding or swelling in the brain may be the cause. It can be fixed, but should be resolved promptly in order to avoid permanent brain damage or death.
Your dogs may have been exceedingly patient and loving when both eyes were working well. However, if your dog's vision has begun to decline, he or she could resort to aggressive behaviors as a defense mechanism, especially if the dog is caught be surprise or has to navigate a new place without being able to visually process it. If you notice that your dog has increased clumsiness and difficulty doing routine tasks that were previously simple, these are signs that he or she has weakening eyesight. Talk to your vet about possible causes and ways to help your dog make the adjustment to losing his or her sight.
Sometimes, dogs can develop neurological conditions that affect their ability to control aggression. Some dogs can develop behavioral seizures, where their behavior changes from normal to aggressive before they seize. Following these seizures, dogs may lose control over their bowels, drool excessively, and remain in a defensive, aggressive posture for several hours until the nerves are finally able to relax. These episodes may not have the traditional shaking or convulsing that people generally associate with seizures, but should be classified by the above symptoms. Fortunately, this condition is manageable through medication.
Another cause of seizures, although the seizure present differently, is canine epilepsy. Dogs with epilepsy may also become more aggressive before or after an attack.
If your dog has been showing signs of unexpected or unexplainable aggression, you should talk to your local vet clinic about possible underlying causes. In some cases, medication can alleviate suffering and prompt medical attention can save your dog from death or permanent brain damage.
For more information, contact a clinic like the Pet Medical Center – Full Service Veterinary Care.