There are a few potential reasons why your dog may suddenly become very quiet and calm:
- Illness or injury – Dogs often become less active when they are sick or in pain. Changes in behavior can be an early sign of health problems.
- Aging – Senior dogs tend to sleep more and can become more mellow and quiet as they get older.
- Medication side effects – Some medications, like pain relievers or anti-anxiety meds, can cause drowsiness and lethargy.
- Depression – Yes, dogs can become depressed. Major changes in routine, loss of a companion, or move to a new home can lead to depression.
- Hearing/vision loss – Dogs that start to lose their hearing or sight may seem more withdrawn and less engaged.
- Fear/anxiety – Stressful situations like loud noises, strangers, or a change in environment can cause a dog to seem more shut down.
If your dog’s quiet, calm demeanor seems unusual or concerning, it’s a good idea to consult your veterinarian, especially if additional symptoms are present. But in some cases, increased tranquility is simply due to aging or environmental factors. Close observation of behavior changes can help determine if there’s a problem.
When Quietness is Normal
It’s quite normal for dogs to have periods where they are very calm and quiet. Here are some common reasons why dogs experience these temporary changes:
- Getting Good Sleep – After a particularly long or active play session, dogs will often nap and be very mellow upon waking up. Their bodies need time to rest.
- Relaxing After Eating – It’s natural for dogs to seek rest and relaxation after eating a meal. Their bodies are focused on digestion.
- Boredom – Without adequate exercise or mental stimulation, some dogs may become withdrawn and inactive from boredom.
- Contentment – When their needs are met, such as physical exercise, playtime, quality time with owners, etc., dogs feel content and relaxed.
- Maturity – As dogs grow older and move past the “puppy” stage, their energy levels and excitability tend to decrease.
So occasional quietness is usually nothing to be concerned about. However, dramatic or long-term behavior changes always warrant a trip to the veterinarian for an exam to check for underlying medical issues.
When Quietness May Indicate a Health Problem
While short-term calmness is normal, a sudden dramatic change in your dog’s typical energy level and demeanor may signal that a health problem is brewing. Some signs include:
- Excessive lethargy – Sleeping all day and having no interest in walks, play, or treats.
- Loss of appetite – Refusing to eat even highly palatable foods.
- Hiding – Uncharacteristically spending most of the day under beds or furniture.
- Urinating indoors – Loss of housetraining when previously housebroken.
- Unresponsive to stimuli – Being unusually oblivious to sights, sounds, smells that normally evoke curiosity.
- Weight loss – Rapid weight loss despite continued eating.
These types of behavioral changes in combination with lethargy can indicate an underlying medical issue requiring veterinary attention.
Some Possible Causes of Excessive Quietness and Lethargy
- Injury or arthritis causing pain
- Various infections from parasites, fungus, or bacteria
- Gastrointestinal issues like intestinal blockages or inflammatory bowel disease
- Kidney or liver disease leading to waste buildup in the bloodstream
- Endocrine disorders like diabetes or Cushing’s disease
- Cancer or abnormal growths either internal or external
- Neurological disorders like dementia or seizures
- Side effects of medication
- Anemia from blood parasites or low iron
- Dental disease making eating painful
As you can see from the wide range of potential problems, it’s crucial to have your vet examine your dog if you observe troubling behavioral changes accompanied by low energy. Blood tests, urinalysis, x-rays, ultrasound, and other diagnostic tools can uncover the root cause and determine if treatment is needed.
In some cases, the cause may be as simple as switching to a more suitable medication or making lifestyle changes to better meet your senior dog’s needs. Your vet’s input is invaluable.
When to See the Vet
Use the guidelines below to determine if your quiet, calm dog needs veterinary assessment:
- Lethargy and loss of appetite last more than 24 hours
- Normal daily routines like feedings, walk time, playtime are disrupted
- You notice vomiting, diarrhea, obvious pain, or straining to urinate/defecate
- Weight loss exceeds 10% of body weight over a short period
- You observe disorientation, stumbling, seizures, or collapse
- Your dog shows no interest in treats, toys, rides in the car, seeing family, etc.
- Lumps, limping, or other signs of injury are evident
- Your dog hides and is abnormally inactive for over 12 hours
You know your dog best. Trust your instincts if their behavior seems off in a concerning way. Better to have a vet exam determine things are fine than miss early signs of a brewing illness.
Helping a Quiet Senior Dog Stay Happy
If your older dog is calmly sleeping more due to age rather than illness, be sure to provide them with comfortable beds and peaceful rest areas away from household chaos. Maintain a predictable daily routine of feedings, bathroom breaks, and short leisurely walks. Spending quality one-on-one time together through gentle petting and massages helps your dog still feel loved and valued. Keeping their surroundings familiar and stable is also important. Monitor aches and pains that may need pain medication and adapt activities to your senior dog’s needs and abilities. With some adjustments, you can assure your quieter mature dog enjoys their golden years.
When to Try Calming Supplements
Some dogs become much more mellow and calm when taking supplements that have a relaxing or anti-anxiety effect. These products influence neurotransmitters and hormones in the brain. There are a variety of natural supplements and medications used for calming dogs. Examples include:
- Melatonin – Naturally promotes relaxation and sleep
- Tryptophan – Amino acid that increases serotonin levels
- Chamomile – Herbal supplement with mild sedative effect
- Valerian – Herbal product used for anxiety in humans and dogs
- L-theanine – Extracted from green tea that eases excitability
- Prescription sedatives – Benzodiazepines like Xanax and Klonopin
These products can be beneficial for excitable dogs or those suffering from separation anxiety, noise phobias, travel anxiety, aggression issues, or insecurity. Consult your vet before use and start with low doses to assess effects. Monitor your dog closely for excessive sedation. Natural products are preferable over prescription drugs for long term use when possible.
Good Candidates for Calming Aids
Consider calming supplements or medications for dogs exhibiting these behaviors:
- Constant barking, whining, pacing, spinning
- Destructive chewing, digging, scratching due to stress
- Aggression towards visitors, strangers, or other animals
- Panic during car rides, vet visits, grooming, storms
- Trembling, hiding, clinging to owners
- Escaping enclosures or roaming due to anxiety
Products with mild calming effects are not sedatives, but can take the edge off a highly anxious or stressed dog. They help dogs better tolerate triggers and stressful situations. Used occasionally or daily, they promote a more relaxed, less reactive state of mind. This allows for positive behavior modification training to address the underlying cause of the anxiey.
When Calming Aids Should be Avoided
Calming supplements and anti-anxiety medications are not suitable in these situations:
- For young puppies under a year old – Their brains are still developing
- In place of proper training and behavioral intervention – These products only complement behavior modification, not replace it
- In dogs with severe organ disease – Their bodies may not metabolize the chemicals properly
- With dogs on seizure medication or very old dogs – Risk of excessive central nervous system depression
- As an alternative to exercise and mental stimulation – Your dog still needs daily activity tailored to their abilities and needs
- When dogs must stay alert like hunting, working, or competing in trials – Do not use if slowed reflexes or drowsiness could lead to injury
- For prolonged or daily use in most cases – Unless directed by your vet for special circumstances
Additionally, if your dog’s anxiety, fears, or unruly behavior are worsening despite product use, discontinue them and seek guidance from an animal behavior specialist for more effective behavior modification techniques.
Natural Calming Options to Try First
Before resorting to prescription anti-anxiety medications which can have more side effects, try these natural options that can take the edge off a stressed dog:
- Daily exercise to stimulate mood-boosting chemicals in the brain
- Massage to release tension and relax muscles
- Stretching and yoga to increase body awareness and breathing control
- Acupuncture or acupressure to restore balance to the nervous system
- Calming essential oils like lavender and chamomile provided in a diffuser or collar
- Herbal supplements like valerian, ginger, chamomile, hemp, and L-tryptophan
- Pheromones to promote relaxation in the form of sprays, diffusers, or collars
- Soothing music designed specifically for calming dog anxiety
These holistic options are affordable and have additional health benefits. They are great natural first steps before considering prescription medications. Having a predictable daily routine, a quiet safe space to retreat to, and mental enrichment through food puzzles, chew toys, and training games also helps maintain a calm settled state of mind.
Using Medication for Anxiety or Aggression Issues
For dogs with severe, unrelenting anxiety, fear, or impulse aggression issues, prescription anti-anxiety or mood stabilizing medication may be warranted in addition to training and behavior modification. Some commonly used medications for dog behavior problems under veterinary guidance include:
|Medication||How it Works||Common Uses|
|Alprazolam (Xanax)||Fast-acting benzodiazepine that dampens nerve cell overactivity in the brain||Panic reactions to storms, fireworks, travel|
|Clonidine||Lowers blood pressure and stress hormone levels||Noise phobias, sleep aid|
|Prozac||SSRI that boosts serotonin levels in the brain||Separation anxiety, OCD behaviors, aggression|
|Buspirone||Serotonin receptor agonist that calms anxious dogs||Generalized anxiety, situational stress|
|Gabapentin||Rebalances GABA neurotransmitters||Chronic anxiety, phobias|
These drugs ease a dog’s terrified state by dampening areas of the brain involved in fear and emotion. This takes the edge off so the dog can focus on behavioral training and learn to better cope with triggers. Close monitoring and vet guidance is imperative with psychiatric medication. Usage as an addition to behavior modification gives dogs their best chance at managing anxiety issues.
Homeopathic Flower Essences
Developed by holistic veterinarian Dr. Edward Bach in the 1930s, flower essences are herbal tinctures that aim to address the emotional roots of anxiety, stress, and fear in pets. These natural plant and flower extracts in purified water are believed to restore emotional balance when a few drops are added to drinking water, sprayed in the mouth, or rubbed into the ears. Examples include:
- Rescue Remedy – Contains star of Bethlehem, clematis, cherry plum, impatiens, and rock rose. Used for stabilizing extreme emotions and comforting fearful dogs.
- Aspen – Made from the aspen tree. Eases vague anxieties and apprehension when no real threat is present.
- Mimulus – Derived from the mimulus plant. Helps timid, nervous dogs overcome known fears and phobias.
- Vervain – Sourced from the vervain herb. Calms overexcitement and dogs wound up by daily stressors.
While clinical evidence is limited, many dog owners and holistic vets report noticeable positive effects from flower essences. They can be safely used long-term and may help highly sensitive dogs prone to anxious, nervous behavior. When paired with training, they are another gentle tool for supporting emotional wellbeing.
If your once active, energetic dog has suddenly become very calm, lethargic and quiet, communicate any concerns to your veterinarian, especially if other symptoms like appetite loss or obvious pain are present. Underlying health problems often cause behavioral changes in pets. With older dogs, increased tranquility and restfulness is common and expected as they age, but sharp declines in energy still warrant an exam. For anxious, stressed dogs, natural supplements can provide relaxation before considering prescription anti-anxiety medications, which require close vet monitoring. Get to know your dog’s normal baseline behavior so you can notice when quietness seems abnormal and potentially related to a medical issue or emotional distress. With attentive care and training, a quiet calm dog can enjoy increased comfort, security, and contentment.