My dog that I've had for years is suddenly showing signs of aggression. What should I do?

I have received dozens of emails about behavior alteration every year. One reoccurring theme is the sudden onset aggression or biting in family pets. There is only one answer to this. Take your dog to a great diagnostic veterinarian as soon as possible.

Unhappiness and warning growls are the only signs our speech deficient pets have of telling us they hurt, are sick, or that something is wrong. Expect extensive blood work, urine analysis, possible x-rays or other tests.

Sudden loss of housetraining is often either a parasite or bacterial infection or bladder infection.

Growling and biting when trying to pet your own dog often times is a sore spine, arthritis in joints, infected teeth, infected ears or other infection.

First signs of other diseases too, pancreatitis, cancer, is pain and unhappiness.
Strange behaviors can be epilepsy onset (seizure disorders), cognitive decline in older pets, or other organic brain lesions (stroke, aneurysm, etc...)

No behaviorist should ever even want to speak to you until your dog has been completely medically cleared.

Behavior change, especially sudden onset, needs to be medically addressed immediately. Please see your vet first, then contact your behaviorist if your pet is cleared medically and still displaying unacceptable behavior.

Written February 2007 by Elizabeth Riddle, President of the Central IL GSD Rescue