Dog and Cat Behavior Changes Due to Aging
Who gets pet behavior changes with aging?
Any pet can develop behavior changes with aging. If your pet has a disease that decreases blood flow to the brain, such as heart disease, behavior changes may be more severe.
If your pet has liver disease, it may also have behavior changes because the liver controls the molecules that circulate in the blood. When the liver cannot rid the body of toxic materials, the toxins enter the brain and alter behavior. This is most apparent one or two hours after eating.
Pets fed diets low in antioxidants, phytonutrients (phyto=plant), and omega-3 fatty acids may experience the greatest deterioration in brain function.
What pet behavior changes occur with aging?
Behavior changes with aging include problems with orientation, social interaction, activities, exercise, grooming, housetraining, sleeping and eating. Here are some examples of these problems:
- Orientation – Pets that aren’t orientated become confused and get lost in familiar locations. They may get stuck on the wrong side of the door, or sit at the hinged side of the door.
- Social Interaction – Pets having trouble with social interaction no longer enjoy being petted and don’t come to greet you like they used to. They may appear depressed. In families with multiple pets, the pets may squabble and the stable inter-pet hierarchy may crumble. Pets experiencing arthritis may become so irritable that they snap at you rather than play with you.
- Activities and Exercise – Your senior pet may have joint pain so that it cannot go for walks, climb onto the bed or jump into the car.
- Grooming – Their coats appear bedraggled, and they don’t clean themselves after eliminating. There is an increase in scruffy or poor coats with diseases such as diabetes and Cushing’s disease.
- Housetraining – Pets may have trouble with housetraining because they cannot jump into the litter box or cannot walk to the door to go outside. Many senior pets lose bladder sphincter control and dribble urine. Many senior pets become chronically constipated and have difficulty passing stool. Straining to defecate causes pain, and these pets associate pain with the litter box and learn to avoid it. Instead, they defecate around the house.
- Sleeping – Aging pets often sleep poorly. They’re restless because of pain, anxiety, changes in their brain sleep center, and because they don’t get aerobic activity during the day to help them sleep. Pets may cry and pace. They may prevent you from sleeping, too.
- Eating – Your senior pet may have a poor appetite (anorexia) because senses of taste and smell aren’t strong, and food loses its appeal. To compound the problem, senior pets may have dental disease and stomach ulcers.