senior dog at oakhurst vet

Senior pets are amazing companions. Whether you’ve had them since they were young or they came to you in adulthood, there’s just nothing like the calm, quiet, reassuring presence of an older cat or dog.

Aging pets are familiar with your ways and the rhythms of the household. They no longer have urges to hop fences, wander the neighborhood or jump on strangers. They are just as content to snuggle with you as they are to sniff around in the backyard. In a sense, they finally become the pets you always hoped for.

But there are certain senior pet behaviors that can cause owners to worry.

Fading Abilities

One thing owners may notice as their pets age is the fact that they aren’t as strong or flexible as they used to be. Osteoarthritis and joint tenderness can have a serious impact on an animal’s quality of life. 

  • Keep them at an ideal weight
  • Provide daily low-impact exercise
  • Do brain games together like hide and seek
  • Add nutritional supplements, like omega-3s, to soothe pain and delay the signs of aging

I Can’t Do It Anymore

An aging cat may miss a jump. An older dog may prefer the floor to the couch.

Taking this account, placing non-slip rugs or mats on slippery floors can help pets regain their confidence. Carpet-lined ramps or steps that lead to comfy furniture, beds, or cars are always appreciated, but they may take some encouragement and gentle prodding before ultimately accepted. 

The Senses

In addition to mobility and balance issues, decreased vision is normal in aging pets.

Managing your pet’s environment is crucial to their safety and comfort. Try not to move furniture around as they have a mental map they rely on to avoid obstacles. Place gates at the top and bottom of the stairs or into rooms they could have trouble getting out of. 

What’s Normal for Senior Pets – and What’s Not

While there are many senior pet behaviors that are entirely normal, such as sleeping, sensitivity to touch, decreased activity and so on, there are many signs that shouldn’t be ignored:

  • Obvious changes in cognition, like confusion or disorientation
  • Changes to sleep patterns
  • House soiling
  • Any changes to their previous weight
  • Changes in appetite or water consumption
  • Changes in bathroom habits 
  • Changes in learned behavior
  • Coughing or respiratory issues
  • Sudden weakness or collapse
  • Drooling 
  • Bad breath
  • Seizures 

What Senior Pet Behaviors Tell Us

No matter your pet’s age, early detection of illness or injury is critical to successful treatment and positive prognosis. We recommend two wellness checks every year in senior pets to help prevent and/or treat age-related health conditions. Managing your pet’s pain is important to their overall quality of life. 

If you have questions about confusing senior pet behaviors, please contact us. We’re always here for your best friend at Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital.