Age-related Causes for Changes in Pets

As your pet gets older, changes occur in all major organ systems and diseases start to develop. Some are obvious, such as muzzle greying or a  blueish haziness in the eyes, but most changes cannot be seen. 

Same with changes in your pet’s behaviour – some changes may be associated with ageing of the brain or other major organs, and some may be due to a disease.  Some diseases are preventable (obesity and dental disease), while others can be delayed with a good lifestyle and diet.

In all cases, the earlier the problem is diagnosed, the better the curing chances or at least relieve discomfort and delay progressions. 

The following are some important signs to look out for. Talk to your vet as soon as you notice any changes in your pet and do not assume that changes are simply due to “old age”:

Signs Possible Age-related causes
Weight loss – especially rapid weight loss  Cancer, kidney disease, liver disease, heart disease, diabetes
Weight gain – can result in obesity Reduced exercise due to arthritis or cardiac disease.
Excess calorie intake – too much food, snacks or treats
Increased thirst

Diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, Cushing’s disease, cancer, prostate disease

Reduced ability to exercise Arthritis, cardiac or respiratory disease, muscle weakness (various causes)
Aggression Hyperthyroidism
Bad breath (halitosis) Dental disease, kidney disease
Increased sleeping Pain, cognitive dysfunction (dementia)
Barking, anxiety when left alone Cognitive dysfunction (dementia)
Lameness or stiffness after lying down or after exercise Arthritis
Disorientation, staring at walls Brian disease, cognitive dysfunction (dementia)
Inappropriate toileting, loss of toilet training Cognitive dysfunction (dementia), lower urinary tract diseases, kidney disease, diabetes, incontinence
Coughing Heart disease – especially endocardiosis (valve disease) in dogs or respiratory disease (e.g. chronic bronchitis)
Excessive panting or laboured breathing Respiratory disease or cardiac disease
Vomiting Gastrointestinal diseases, liver disease, cancer,
side-effect of medicine (e.g. anti-inflammatory drugs for arthritis)
Lack of appetite Dental pain, major organ system disease, cancer
Difficulty jumping up Osteoarthritis, muscle weakness
Collapse Heart or brain disease


Source: BSAVA 


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