Pets with behavior changes as a result of aging often wander about confused. Pets that were independent may become clingy. Some pets snap when you try to pet them. Pets appear uninterested in food, their environments, and in themselves. They're restless at night. They lose their housebreaking habits.
Behavior changes that occur with senior pets include problems with orientation, social interaction, activities & exercise, grooming, housetraining, sleeping, and eating. Below are some examples of these problems:
Disoriented senior pets 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.
Dogs and cats 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, your 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.
Your senior pet may have joint pain so that he or she cannot go for walks, climb on the bed, or jump into the car.
Pets with grooming problems have coats that appear bedraggled, and they don't clean themselves after eliminating. There is an increase in scruffy or poor coats with certain diseases, such as diabetes and Cushing's Disease.
Pets may have trouble with housetraining because they cannot jump into the litter box (cats) or cannot walk to the door to go outside (dogs). Many senior pets lose bladder sphincter control and dribble urine, commonly known as incontinence. Many senior pets also become chronically constipated and have difficulty passing stool. Straining to defecate causes pain. In cats, associating pain with the litter box makes them learn to avoid it, so they defecate inside your home.
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.
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.
Any pet can develop behavior changes with aging. If your dog or cat 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, he or she 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 1-2 hours after eating.Pets fed diets low in antioxidants, phytonutrients, and Omega 3 fatty acids may experience the greatest deterioration in brain function.