Changes in Aging Pets

I thought we’d talk about changes in an aging pet. This is not a favorite topic for most pet owners but an important discussion none the less. Having just a little information makes the situation easier to manage and handle when our four legged family member hits senior status.


The progressive loss of both vision and hearing are common in aging, or senior, pets. The loss of these senses may go undetected until your pet is placed in an unfamiliar environment. For example, you may not notice your pet is having difficulty seeing until they bump into furniture after it has been rearranged. There are several things to do to help your pet adjust to the loss of one or more senses.Keep your pet leashed to explore and learn any new environment or outside environment that is not fenced. This is especially true when traveling or relocating to a new home. A pet that has lost vision and/or hearing should never be allowed to roam unattended outdoors and should be observed closely by the pet owner. Also, block off stairs or areas of danger so a pet does not accidentally fall or hurt themselves. Teaching a wait or stop command for blind pets can help them learn that a danger is in front of them and to wait for assistance. With these minor adjustments, your pet’s quality of life need not be affected by the loss of a sense.

Dental Disease

Dental disease is common in senior dogs and cats. Not only can dental disease be painful and affect appetite and activity, but it can also lead to disease affecting vital organs, such as the heart. Signs that your pet may be affected by oral disease are bad breath, changes to eating habits, unusual tongue movements, excessive licking, and pawing at the mouth. The impact of dental and periodontal disease should not be taken lightly. If detected early and tended to quickly, damage can usually be treated and often repaired.


Arthritic changes are extremely common in senior dogs and cats. Signs that a pet may exhibit when experiencing arthritis include lameness, abnormal gait, slowness to rise, sit or lie down, behavior changes such as aggression, or even inappropriate elimination due to the inability to posture. These changes may be more significant in obese pets because of the added stress incurred on major weight bearing joints. The size of your pet is also a factor in how arthritis will affect their life style. For example, a lean cat with arthritic hips may maintain mobility longer than that of a large dog. Arthritic cats may have trouble jumping from surface to surface or when entering the litter box. Dogs may experience trouble going up and down stairs. When your pet does experience arthritis, it is important that you ensure these physical limitations do not impede access to food, water or litter boxes. You can further extend your pet’s comfort and ease of mobility by building a ramp to get in and out of cars or litter boxes and ensuring only well padded bedding is used to cushion any bony protrusions. There are lots of options for supplements and pain medications to maintain mobility. Early intervention is key!


Though a pet may have no history of separation anxiety as a result of being left alone or away from its owner, senior pets may begin to demonstrate this behavior characteristic as a result of cognitive decline or senility. Senility can be exhibited in several forms including increased vocalization, destructiveness, self-inflicted wounds, pacing, spinning, panting, trembling, seeking out the owner, excessive grooming, and inappropriate urination or defecation. In senior dogs changes in behavior can result from discomfort that occurs with aging or an un-diagnosed medical issue. For example, inappropriate urination can be a pet’s way of telling their owner they are suffering from a bladder infection, kidney disease, neurologic disorder, diabetes or a variety of other medical issues. If you notice changes in your pet, please schedule a visit to the clinic.

Organ Health

As pet’s age, we can see decline in organ function. The kidneys, the liver, heart, lungs are all susceptible to damage as pet’s age or are exposed to toxins. Regular exams and monitoring of normal behaviors can help detect that there may be an issue. Regular blood work can help catch organ problems before they become life threatening.

Good News

Yes, there is good news. The veterinarians at Gentle Care Animal Hospital commonly treat these symptoms of aging and can provide our clients with treatment plans. We have the diagnostic tools and resources to accurately assess the symptoms and provide the best treatment plan. We perform dentistry in clinic. We have medications for arthritis inflammation and pain. We have specialized diets to aid in the treatment of obesity or chronic disease. We can also help you manage any behavior or senility issues that may arise.

Thanks for reading! Let us know if you have any questions or concerns!