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Dog and Cat Behavior Changes

Dog and Cat Behavior Changes

As your pet’s owner and companion, you know your dog or cat best. Sometimes you can pick up on subtle behavior changes in your pet. These changes can be caused by many things and can range in severity from being uncomfortable to a severe, underlying medical issue.

Cats are especially good at hiding signs of illness, so a behavior change can be the first sign of a serious disease. Early diagnosis and treatment can lead to a better prognosis and increase the number of treatment options available to your pet.

Signs to Watch for

While we can provide expert veterinary care and treatment, you know your dog or cat better than most people. If you notice that your pet is acting differently in any of the following ways, it’s best to reach out to your veterinarian to rule out, or diagnose and treat any medical causes:

  • Change in energy level: Your pet just doesn’t have the same get-up-and-go. Your dog or cat doesn’t get as excited with the opportunity to go on a walk, participate in playtime or feeding time.
  • Hiding: Is your pet hiding under the bed more? Has your pet stopped greeting visitors like it used to?
  • Changes in your pet’s sleeping habits: Is your pet sleeping more? Is it harder to wake your pet? Is your pet sleeping less?
  • Lack of appetite: Has your pet stopped eating or is not all that motivated to eat?
  • Not listening: Has your pet stopped listening to you? Is it harder to get your pet’s attention?

Again, changes may not be so obvious but it may be that you just notice something different and can’t pinpoint exactly what it is.

Possible Causes for Behavior Changes in Dogs and Cats

While each pet is unique and may respond to conditions differently, the following situations are good starting points for pinpointing the source of behavioral changes in your dog or cat:

  • Anxiety: This includes storm phobias, noise phobias, separation anxiety or a change in the household (new baby, moving, new pet, new roommate, etc.).
  • Aging or Sense-related Causes: Your pet may be experiencing hearing or vision problems due to age or breed predisposition.
  • Injury or pain: Your pet may be suffering from something as simple as a scratch in a sensitive area to more complex issues like arthritis, hip dysplasia, back problems, etc.
  • Skin issues: Allergy-related conditions, fleas, ticks or mites might be bothering your pet, which is why it’s important to understand your pet’s skin health and take preventive measures against parasites
  • Infection: A urinary tract infection, respiratory infection, intestinal parasites, skin infection, etc., are also possible culprits for changes in pet behavior.
  • Underlying medical condition or internal organ dysfunction: This may include heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease, cancer, diabetes, gastrointestinal issues, hormonal imbalance, etc.
  • Toxins: The ingestion of poisonous plants, household toxins and even human foods could be making your pet sick.

Need more information?

If a behavior change persists or if it is severe and you notice any clinical signs such as vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, sneezing, limping or scratching, take your pet to your local Banfield veterinarian.

You can also browse our pet behavior center for more information on your dog or cat.