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Behaviour Changes in Aging Pets

Behaviour Changes in Aging Pets

Fortunately, nowadays, our pets can be with us for a long time. With proper nutrition and care, they can live to a ripe old age. When is our pet considered old? That question is difficult to answer. It depends on the pet itself, the species, and the breed of the animal. Animals that are considered to be seniors are:

  • rabbits older than 7 years
  • cats and small dogs older than 10 years
  • large dogs older than 6 years
  • hamsters older than 1 year

As our pets grow older, various disorders affecting teeth, joints, memory, and issues of the internal organs may occur.

Teeth problems are amongst the most common problems older animals may face. Dental plaque leads to inflammation of the gums and causes pain. This pain can often cause pets to refuse to eat. If your pet doesn’t look and act healthy, do not hesitate to visit a veterinarian. Not following up on the tooth infections can cause serious health problems with the liver, heart, and kidneys as the infection spreads.

When an animal gets old joint, anomalies such as arthrosis can start to occur. Large breeds are more susceptible. An animal’s breed is partially responsible for the occurrence of arthrosis; however, the greatest influence is inadequate exercise and nutrition. Arthrosis is accompanied by pain caused by movement. As initial symptoms begin to appear, your pet will begin to tire more easily and its movements will become generally stiffer. Over time, your pet may develop a limp. In cats, specifically, you may notice reduced activity, less mobility (it doesn’t jump as often as it used to), and less frequent grooming.

Make sure your pet gets regular exercise to prevent the onset of arthrosis. If it is less mobile, make sure it always has food and water available. Take into account the weight of your animal. If the animal is overweight, that will additionally burden the joints. Therefore, consult your vet about the proper diet for your pet. A diet with a higher amount of omega-3 fatty acids is usually advised.

The organs and hearing, sight, smell, and taste also grow old. If you notice that your pet has problems with its vision, try to minimize the number of things in its environment. Leave only the bowl with food, water, and necessary furniture. Secure your home so your pet does not get hurt. Also, due to problems with the hearing organs, it may have problems with balance and orientation. Hearing loss is usually noticed when the pet begins to respond poorly when you call it or does not hear a command.

Kidney and heart problems are very common in seniors. Usually, the first symptoms of kidney failure can be excessive water intake and more frequent urination. Your pet may also experience a loss of appetite, vomiting, and weight loss. In heart conditions, you may notice that your pet gets tired more often, is coughing, and possible losses of consciousness. If you suspect kidney or heart disease, visit your veterinarian. In these cases, your pet’s life may be extended with adequate nutrition and medicines.

As a rule, the elderly are less active than the younger; they sleep more, play less, and run less. They need longer breaks and are more bothered by heat or extreme cold. Because of hearing loss, there is often a sense of fear and an aggressive response to an unexpected approach or touch. The pet’s ability to adapt to changes in schedule or environment may also be reduced.

Metabolic changes, as well as liver and kidney aging, can result in delayed excretion of metabolic products which can manifest in pronounced behavioral changes such as extreme aggression. Sudden behavioral changes are usually indicative of problems with the organs, in which case a veterinarian should be consulted.

Some animals develop cognitive dysfunction. This disease is similar to dementia in humans. The first symptoms are usually suppressed and imperceptible. The animal is disorientated, it cannot find doorways, it is forgetful, has a new and unexpected reaction to acquaintances (non-recognition, aggressive behavior), changes behavior towards people and other animals, returns to previous behavior patterns (e.g. dog bites like it did as a puppy), etc.

How to take care of an aging animal?

Regular veterinary checkups are extremely important. In a detailed examination, your veterinarian will check your pet’s health, offer nutritional advice, and prescribe medication, if necessary. Maintain a regular exercise schedule for your pet. Regular walks on familiar terrain, small tasks, and simple exercises are enough. Do not burden your pet! Mental health exercises are important as well. Teach your dog simple tricks, repeat these learned tricks, and do not be angry with your pet if it cannot remember everything.