If your pet seems to be forgetting something they used to know, should you think “Back to School” for them? The short answer is: probably not.
Believe it or not, cats and dogs, like people, also can suffer “cognitive dysfunction” (i.e. memory loss like Alzheimer’s disease) as early as 11 years of age. Sometimes age-related changes may look like memory loss, but aren’t.
About Senior Cats
According to the American Association of Feline Practitioners, a cat is considered a senior at the age of 11 (60 in human years) and geriatric at the age of 15 (76 in human years).
If your cat is no longer using the litterbox, it may not be a problem with their brain. It’s possible your cat is getting arthritis, diabetes or has kidney disease. That’s why talking to your veterinarian about any problem your cat has with using the litterbox is worth a visit.
The other thing to note about cats is that they are extremely good at hiding their illnesses. No matter how well you think you know your cat, they may be sick without you knowing it. Regular veterinary visits with your cat can help with detecting problems and treating them before they become so bad that your cat suffers.
About Senior Dogs
It’s a little trickier to estimate when dogs are considered a senior or geriatric. That’s because dog breeds vary in size. As a general rule of thumb, the bigger the dog, the shorter their lifespan. For instance, very large breed dogs like Great Danes may be seniors as early as 5 years of age, while small breed dogs like toy poodles may not be considered seniors until the age of 10. Ask your veterinarian if your dog may be considered a senior or not.
If your dog is peeing indoors and this is not typical, it may be a sign your dog has joint problems (e.g. hip dysplasia), hormonal changes or memory loss.
Just like people, dogs can get cataracts and lose their hearing. This may appear as if your dog is ignoring you and “forgetting” they know basic commands like sit, stay and come. A veterinarian can help diagnose the problem and suggest treatment plans, if available.
What to do and When
According to Dr. Feltes of The Behavior Clinic, located in Olmsted Falls, “if the problem behavior is increasing in frequency, intensity or has lasted more than two weeks;” seek the help of your veterinarian and consider a consultation.
If you need more information on this topic and others, contact me at 216-920-3051 or [email protected].