Is your dog whining all the time? One reader wrote in about this particular problem and Dr. Barchas offered up a few answers.
Dear Dr. Barchas,
My older dog (aged 10) has started whining a lot. She has weak back legs, but I can’t tell if she’s in pain or being a pain. She has become very attached to me since I retired last year. When the vet checked her back legs she poked, prodded and rotated them, then said she had weakening and arthritis — and put her on tramadol — but said it was not painful for her. She’s whining as I write this!
What causes dog whining in the first place?
Excessive vocalization (which is a fancy way of saying barking or whining — vets are taught from the start that a normal word should never be used when a fancier word is available) can be a sign of many things. Pain is certainly among them, but it is not the only possible cause of whining.
Dog whining might be a response to pain
Let’s start by talking a bit more about pain and its symptoms in dogs. Acute (or sudden) pain, such as that suffered after surgery, when a limb is broken or when a dog is in the throes of an ordeal such as bloat, usually causes whining. Chronic pain, such as that experienced with arthritis, often does not cause dogs to vocalize.
Therefore, although hip arthritis is very common in older dogs (and may be playing a role in your dog’s hind limb weakness, and may indeed be causing pain), it probably is not contributing to the whining.
Unless you are seeing other symptoms of pain — such as poor appetite, limping, guarding a painful body part, hiding or panting — then it’s unlikely that pain is contributing to the whining. The fact that your dog’s whining has not responded to tramadol, which is a pretty good painkiller, points to the same conclusion.
Fear and anxiety might cause dog whining
Other possible causes of dog whining include fear or anxiety, excitement (my pal Buster whines whenever he thinks we’re near a fetch field), certain metabolic or glandular disruptions, exposure to toxic substances, neurological problems and cognitive changes.
A dog whining from excitement, exposure to toxins, and fear or anxiety is usually transient, and stops when the stimulus that causes it is removed. Ellen, since your dog is whining continuously, it is unlikely that the problem is due to one of these causes.
Dog whining might signal mental issues
That leaves metabolic or glandular irregularities, neurological problems and cognitive change. Unfortunately, I am most suspicious of cognitive change in your dog’s case. Cognitive change is a fancy way of saying deteriorating mental function, also known as dementia (remember what I said a few paragraphs ago about vets and fancy words).
Some of the more consistent symptoms include whining or barking, loss of interest in favored activities, failure to greet or recognize the owner and loss of spatial recognition abilities, manifested by getting lost in formerly familiar environments.
Cognitive change in dogs is similar to dementia in humans in a couple of ways. First, it is very difficult to diagnose. Humans can take cognitive function tests, yet cognitive decline is still hard to pinpoint. Dogs can’t take tests, so a diagnosis by necessity involves some guesswork.
Second, it is hard to treat. A while ago, a medication called deprenyl was much ballyhooed, but ultimately led to generally disappointing results. Hill’s developed a diet, b/d Canine Aging & Alertness, designed to improve cognitive function, but it hasn’t really caught on. (For a while Hill’s marketed the diet ferociously, but now the company seems to be focusing all of its attention on y/d Feline, marketed for cats with thyroid disease.)
There is, however, one key difference between cognitive decline in dogs and in humans. A person with severe cognitive decline may have trouble truly functioning as a person. A dog with cognitive decline can usually still get along. Dogs can enjoy life without being able to drive, read, play chess or engage in other mentally demanding activities.
How to diagnose the issue and stop dog whining
I’d recommend that you investigate your dog’s problems a little deeper. Have your vet run blood and urine tests to rule out metabolic and endocrine problems. Get a full neurological evaluation to assess for other possible causes of whining. If, in the end, your dog is diagnosed with cognitive dysfunction, talk to your vet about the options. Although b/d and deprenyl aren’t always effective, sometimes lifestyle changes or intermittent use of sedatives can make a difference.
Thumbnail: Photography by Irina Kozorog/Shutterstock.
Read more about dog health issues on Dogster.com:
30 thoughts on “Why is My Dog Whining All the Time?”
My dog is 6 years old, he whines all the time. After he is walked he whines too. He doesn’t always eat all of his food, but still gas it available in case he goes hungry and he always has water. He whines when people are eating and he doesn’t have any food, but if you give him some he doesn’t eat it. He whines when we’re working, but if we pet him it subside for a minute and then he starts again even if you’re still stroking him.
I really don’t understand why he whines unless he’s ill, the only other reason I can think of is that we moved house a month ago and maybe he’s not used to it, I would appreciate any help!
Thank you for reading this!
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My dog whines when I get home from work. I took my puppy from a dog foster home about a year ago.
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My dog ellie is a particularly nervous dog but we can’t work out why. probably something bad she experienced as a puppy I guess. Anyway when we are taking her out for a walk she is fine until she sees another dog and then she just sits down and starts to whine. We have tried all sorts of ways to get her out of this habit but to no avail.
I took my puppy from a dog foster home about a year ago. I love him to bits; he has a great personality, and I feel that he loves our family so much, but he barks A LOT… So, leaving home is always a challenge for us. My husband and I were thinking about taking him to ‘doggy school’, but then again, it’s extremely expensive, and the nearest ‘doggy school’ is far away from us. Maybe you have some advice? THANK YOU!!!
We definitely suggest a pro behaviorist in this situation. These articles might provide some insight as well:
A visit to the veterinarian would be advised by me
I recently took a street male dog to the vet for a check-up – for sterlization, teeth check, and generally a complete medical exam. He has been living outside a house for many years (more than 5). The owner of the house told me that the dog prefers to live outside. He gets fed scraps from the house and water. However, his ribs show, and his elbows are rough and hard from the cement.
Vet said he is blind in left eye. Vet couldn´t do sterilization until his blood count improved, and the teeth cleaning. Which all was done in due course, and he is now in good shape. For a large dog, his weight is 20.5 lbs.
However, since I brought him to my house today, he is continually whining, wanting to go back to where he was ¨living¨. I would rather he didn´t, I would very much love to keep him with me. I have a 27.5 metre back yard for him to enjoy, and a Yorkie and PittX to play with. I think he is a PittX as well.
How do I stop him from whining. I pet and hug him as much as I can. I take him to the back yard for a bit and then back inside a few times. This will be the first day/night. I would appreciate any suggestions. Thank you so very much.
Hi there Claire!
Thanks for reaching out. Here is an article for more information on how to help introduce your dog to a new home:
Angela, my dog has taken to whining in his older years. And it’s his way of communicating to me he wants something. And, like you said, it’s often when he wants me to come to bed with him. I find the whining to be a bit bossy as he doesnt stop till I do what he wants, like a late night snack if he feels he didnt get enough at supper time.
My dog whines when I get home from work. He does the loud whinning and does a little dance with it. Once we go for our daily walk he’s fine. My other dog whines when she’s trying to get my attention for something that she wants which is normally food.
I have two dogs. One of them whining, i didn’t know what to do actually. This article helps me to know more and what to do. Thanks
I would have your FRIEND go see a doctor. Sometimes dogs sense it if something is wrong with us! His whining towards your friend might be trying to alert him to a problem with him!
I took my puppy from a dog foster home about a year ago. I love him to bits; he has a great personality, and I feel that he loves our family so much. BUT he barks and whines A LOT. . So, leaving home is always a challenge for us.
My husband and I were thinking about taking him to ‘doggy school’, but then again, it’s extremely expensive, and the nearest ‘doggy school’ is far away from us. Maybe you have some advice? THANK YOU!!!!
Hi Jennie — These links might be helpful:
Hi.. I have a 16 year Staffordshire bull terrier.. I moved in with my friend approximately 3 years ago and my dog loves him everytime my friend comes home from work my dog will sit screaming and winging and he gets really loud but soon as my friend goes to bed my dog stops also my doesn’t do the winging when my friend is at work.. What could this be?
Hi Sharon — Sorry to hear about your struggles. We suggest contacting a behaviorist and vet. Best of luck!
my dog is seven years old and she was always a quiet dog never really barked whined or howled but like a week ago she started whining constantly and doesn’t stop until I go lay in my bed it doesn’t make any sense does anybody know why
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My 3 year old Cocker Spaniel had a seizure 1 week after her lasl pup left! Why??
My pomchi is a whiner but i have isolated 2 main causes. After the cat has been fed outside and miss pomchi has gobbled her own meal, she starts whining because she wants to go outside and “check” cats dish. She whines in the car because she wants to go out and have a walk.
One of my dogs is a whiner. Like one of the pics of the dogs in this article, my Rosie looks at me and whines. That’s her form of communication. I then try to figure out what she wants. I’ll say word after word until she reacts to one: potty? outside? water? treat? din din? If she’s standing, she’ll sit when I start saying the words, to indicate “that’s not it.”
Other times she’ll whine to tell me something specific, and I usu. know what it is. If my other dog has been out in the back yard for too long by himself, my Rosie will start whining. It’s time for me to check on my other dog. Or it’s thundering.
My other dog doesn’t whine at all. Instead, he’ll touch me w/his paw until I guess what he wants. If his collar is caught on something or he’s too far away to paw me, he’ll bark a normal bark until I guess (he wants to come inside, or his collar is caught on something).
My 12+-year-old Pibble/Beagle mix Bonnie (a rescued tripod, whose abuse-shattered left foreleg necessitated amputation – exacerbated when she was attacked by another dog while recuperating in shelter, post-surgery) has been a member of our forever family (comprised of 2~3 humans, 5 canines and 1 feline who believes himself to be the alpha canine) for ten years, now…
In addition to coping with her missing limb, she has developed benign lipomas – one of considerable substance and size on her left rear flank, and the other (more pliable) tucked into her right foreleg “armpit”.
My superb vet is reluctant to operate, concerned that sedation may prove a greater threat at her age than the lipomas themselves.
For the past few months, Bonnie – never one to be silent – has become increasingly “vocal”in the most exuberant fashion upon our return to the house.. whether our absence was mere minutes, or hours in duration.
In addition, while luxuriating on the sofa next to us, she will occasionally “whine”… almost rhythmically, as though in concert with her breathing pattern.. but does not appear to be in any pain, nor exhibiting any of the symptoms you’ve described in this article… and will cease when asked to do so.
Her enthusiastic greeting and vocalizations clearly demonstrate her recognition of us, and her tail wags constantly throughout these demonstrations…
She sleeps in a “pack-pile” with her adoptive siblings (all manner of mixed breeds, rescue from prior abuses – both physical and psychological.. who’ve joined us here in MN from AZ, CA, GA, MO, OH and WI) atop the master bed with me, and everything”s copacetic from temperament and relationship standpoints.
At times, both she and her sister Casi appear to exhibit declines in aural capacities… believed to be “selective”, as the words “treat” and “dinner” , and “outside” have no problem eliciting immediate responses.
Could it simply be that she’s just more demonstrative in her senior years (at least, with respect to her vocalizations)?
What else might precipitate her whining, absent the causes listed here in your article?
Thanks for your continued excellence in sharing your wisdom with those of us similarly smitten with members of the canine genus!
Did you find out what was wrong? My dog is doing the same thing only in the middle of the night she sleeps right next to me so I can hear it a couple times. Like you said with their breaths she whines and stops when I bring attention to it. Thanks
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