As pet caregivers we can only hope that our pets will live long and healthy lives but this can only happen if we remain diligent in our daily care. Some pets will develop chronic illnesses due to their genetics or accidents may occur that may shorten their lives. But with prompt veterinary intervention we have the best hope to allow our pets to have a long and comfortable life.
It’s not unusual for older pets to develop behavioral problems. It may be easy to blame these behavior changes on age but they can also indicate underlying medical problems. With regular veterinary visits to monitor the progress of aging, these medical issues can be addressed.
Behavior problems can result from changes in your pet’s routine, illness, disease, senility, or cognitive dysfunction. Any change in lifestyle for a pet can be stressful, and as your pet gets older, it is less equipped to adapt to a change in environment.
Sometimes something as simple as the introduction of a new, younger pet to the house, a new family member, or the absence of an individual can drive behavior change.
Medical and degenerative problems can also cause a behavior change in your pet. Diabetes, liver disease, epilepsy, kidney disease, heart disease, arthritis, and endocrine disorders all influence your pet’s behavior and personality.
Degenerative processes in the brain can impact your pet’s personality, memory, behavior and even its ability to learn. A pet may show varying degrees of cognitive function, from minor changes to significant senility.
As your pet ages hearing and sight are affected. Often, this influences its ability to react, sometimes causing it to become fearful.
Keep an eye out for the following symptoms; these may indicate that something is not right with your pet:
• Increased drinking/urination
• Loss of bladder control (dribbling urine or bedwetting)
• Changes in bowel movements or frequent digestive upsets
• Dry or itchy skin
• Sores, lumps, or shaking of the head
• Bad breath or drooling
• Dry, red, or cloudy eyes
• Coughing, excessive panting, or labored breathing
• Lack of enthusiasm for normal activities
• Stiffness or soreness
• Changes in weight
• Tremors or shaking
If your pet is showing signs of age-related behavioral changes, your veterinarian will take a complete history and will conduct the necessary medical tests to rule out organ disease and other age-related conditions that could be the cause of the behavioral changes.
Many behavioral issues can be resolved or controlled. Vigilant attention and early detention, as well as other treatments including medication, supplements, and diets, can help treat or greatly slow the progression of many disease conditions and help your pet live a longer and happier life.