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Published: Oct 31, 2012

As your pet ages, it's likely you'll notice some changes in behavior. Your dog may slow down a bit, take a longer time on walks, and spend more time napping. Your cat may be more content to curl up on the couch than chase a toy mouse across the floor. While these changes are typically easy to deal with, you may notice some dog or cat behavior problems that could be a cause for concern, according to VCA Animal Hospitals.

What's behind behavior changes
As pets age, they become more susceptible to illnesses that could have adverse effects on their behavior. For instance, diabetes insipidus in dogs can affect a canine's ability to control her bladder. Pain in dogs or cats as a result of arthritis or other joint problems may make pets more irritable. If you suspect a medical problem is to blame for your pet's behavioral changes, then it's essential that you visit your vet for a professional opinion.

There are other issues that could alter the personality or conduct of a pet. Lifestyle changes, such as moving to a new home, can be stressful for an animal who has spent many years living in one location. Dogs and cats are also susceptible to age-related changes in the brain, such as dementia, which can prompt unusual behavior, VCA reports.

Don't lose faith
Some pet owners may think that behavior changes in senior pets can't be treated, or that the issue isn't worth medical attention because the animal is approaching the end of life. But the truth is, many ailments that alter behavior can be treated or cured, and extend the life of your pet. Your vet can run tests that can diagnose problems, and then lay out the options for treatment to help you make an informed decision.

Signs and symptoms to look for
As an owner of a senior pet, you must be vigilant when looking for signs of illness that could explain behavior changes. According to VCA, monitoring your pet's food and water intake, as well as his or her ability to eliminate, is important. Look for lumps or bumps on the animal's skin, and take note of any excessive panting or coughing, as these can all be signs of an illness that need medical attention.