Most dogs ten to live between 10-12 years, while cats can live up from 15-18. When you spend over a decade with a pet, it can be difficult to watch things change in both behaviors and personality as he gets older. Like humans, pets can lose mobility, motor functions, sensory awareness and the general pep and energy they had in the earlier stages of life. Acquaint yourself with the challenges that face pet owners when their dog or cat become seniors.
Changes to Expect in Elderly Pets
Communication: As they grow older, pets can become much more vocal in their communication. Some dogs who were habitually much quieter can bark, wail or howl whenever they feel alone, disoriented or uncertain. This can also occur if they are in pain, or are suffering from soreness and discomfort.
Incontinence: Muscles relax and lose the ability to contract with as much force as they once did, and this is often what causes aging pets to become incontinent. This may particularly happen at night if a dog gets up to go to the potty patch or to let himself outside, if his eyesight or depth perception though the loss of hearing is impaired, he might have trouble getting to a safe place to urinate in time, resulting in that unpleasant puddle you’ll find in the morning. Dogs and cats also struggle with a slew of health issues as they get older that affect the frequency of when they need to urinate (especially if there are kidney issues, or even tumors). If your pet becomes incontinent it is not because they are suddenly just disobedient but rather that they are unable to help it.
Sensory limitations: Blindness and deafness are common in aging pets. As a dog becomes hard of hearing, or his sight starts to fade, the frustration can increase, along with a lack of responsiveness, etc. Dogs and cats often experience heightened fear and anxiety in this process as the sensory skills they relied upon for so long are diminishing. Find out from your vet about how to deal with blindness or how to approach deafness in pets.
Mobility: Swollen joints, strained spines, arthritis, and nausea are just a few of the physical discomforts older animals can suffer from. This can make even basic movements a great challenge. Something as simple as jumping up on the couch, following their owner upstairs, or climbing the cat tree might become too painful to do. Likewise, if there is throbbing, persistent and chronic pain it can also cause animals to pace, roll, lick, rub and walk in circles. If your cat or dog starts doing this, take them to the vet to find out if there is a way to treat whatever ailment they may have.
Some other aspects of their movement might be noticeably different as well. The dog or cat might stagger, pace or wandering around. They might also bump into objects or walls because of an equilibrium imbalance or struggles with their depth perception.
Demeanor and Behaviors: Senior dogs are more likely to get spooked, or be extra sensitive to new visitors, smells and objects —anything that interrupts the normal ebb and flow of their daily lives might be very upsetting. This can cause all kinds of unusual behaviors, such as nervously pawing, panting, chewing, digging and crying. Cats can over-groom, and lick their fur to the point of hot spots. Some pets will start eating bizarre objects (as found in pica), or destroying furniture or other household goods. If this begins, it might be wise to put up some boundaries in your home where you’d like to keep the animals out. Dogs also have been known to stop eating when their owners are away, or to mope around for hours when left alone. Aside from acting in an agitated manner, a dog might also become irritable, less friendly and amiable. They might snap if they are petted in a tender area, or if they are having stomach pains and their bellies are rubbed. This could result in aggression, or behaviors that were previously unfamiliar to you, or uncharacteristic of your pet. Try to be patient with them and respectful that your dog will likely not appreciate it if someone tries to play with them in an energetic way, or make their daily walk particularly long, or wrestles and pets them with too much force.