Behavioral changes in older pets are very common. Age related changes are usually seen after five to seven years of age, depending on breed and individual factors. Many problems derive from illness or organ system dysfunction and others are seen in normal aging.
Arthritis, spinal disc disease and similar painful conditions alter the mobility of the pet and can cause muscle loss, defecation and elimination problems, stiffness, lameness and reluctance to move. Painful animals are also irritated and less social. They often have trouble sleeping and eating and will sometimes yelp for no apparent reason. On rare occasion they might become aggressive, even towards their owner or family members.
Senses gradually deteriorate, slowly detaching the pet from the environment. Decreased vision, hearing and smelling abilities, can create confusion, disorientation and fear. Pets may vocalize without being aware of it, jump when they feel something is wrong or refuse to move. They may also show aggression when surprised and loose interest in food due to inability to taste and smell properly.
General regression of major systems such as cardiovascular, respiratory and digestive can culminate in function loss and diseases involving the respective system. Pets can exhibit breathing difficulty, coughing, exercise intolerance, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation.
Nervous system senility or disease can result in behavioral modification, incontinence, disorientation and aimless long distance roaming. Pets are less responsive and have general decline in functionality.
Metabolic alterations may be related to diseases such as Thyroid disease, kidney disease, liver disease, pancreas disease and adrenal gland disease. They negatively impact the pet and often cause serious illness.
Senior pets should have a thorough physical exam every six months. A complete blood test, fecal and urine test should be done at least on a yearly basis. Abnormal findings and specific diseases are treated accordingly. Treatment may include behavioral correction, environmental modifications, nursing, medications, dietary therapy and sometimes surgery.[Back]