Education Blog

22 September 2017

Is My Pet Sick or Just Getting Older?

As our pets get older, we expect them to slow down as part of the aging process, but how much slowing down is too much? Do you know the signs to watch out for in senior pets that separate aging from discomfort and illness?

A pet’s senior years can be loosely defined as the last 40% of their anticipated lifespan for their breed and size.  The symptoms below are often thought to be normal in older pets, but that’s not usually the case.

 Slowing Down

“Slowing down” is often overlooked as a symptom since it can develop slowly, but it may be the first symptom of arthritis or illness in an older pet.  A good physical exam by your veterinarian will detect problems early on when they can be more successfully treated with diet, medications, and even laser therapy.


Changes in behavior or loss of housetraining/litter box training can be associated with senility, however, these symptoms are also red flags for kidney and bladder diseases, or arthritis, which make it more difficult or painful to reach their normal potty area.   A good physical exam, blood testing, and radiographs may help in diagnosing the true cause.  Once determined, therapy to correct or manage the condition, as well as modifications to your home environment can make your pet more comfortable and reduce accidents.

Changes in Appetite

Any change in appetite is abnormal.  While it could be insignificant, it may indicate a more serious problem, especially if accompanied by other symptoms.  Monitoring weight is critical in older pets, and is usually easier to measure, especially in multi-pet households.  Increases or decreases in appetite often indicate a metabolic illness, which can be confirmed with blood testing, and treated with medications and special diets.  Many prescription diets exist for pets that are very tasty and used to manage everything from kidney disease to arthritis.  Your veterinarian can recommend the perfect diet for your pet’s golden years.

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Lafayette Veterinary Care Center