Senior Pets and Brain Aging in Dogs and Cats with Dr. Marsha Reich


As cats and dogs age, veterinary behaviorist Dr. Marsha Reich discusses behavior problems related to their aging on the national Steve Dale’s Pet World radio show in a two-part conversation:

Among cats, it turns out 90 percent over 12 years have arthritis, so odds are good that behavior changes are actually associated with pain or discomfort.  Some cats won’t follow you around, clearly prefer not walk up or down stairs or may “complain” overnight. When that litter box is up or down stairs, getting to that box may be challenging. Even stepping into that box can be painful.

As for cats, getting increasingly finicky as they age,  often there’s an explanation which may commonly be dental disease. That overnight yowling can be feline cognitive dysfunction syndrome (feline Alzheimer’s) but may also be GI, dental or hyperthyroid disease (or a myriad of other issues), including simply being hungry.

Dr. Reich explains why she loves older dogs, though they may become more irritable – but usually, for that issue, there’s a medical explanation (often arthritis).

It turns out that dogs age like we do. Learning throughout life is beneficial for us and the same is true for dogs (and cats) to keep their brain stimulated. Enrichment is necessary for dogs and cats – and walking on-leash in new areas is incredibly enriching for dogs. Scent games inside the house is another, says Dr. Reich. Scents can also be used as “warning signs,” which she explains.

Here’s more information on a brain aging in dogs, canine cognitive dysfunction (which is like Alzheimer’s or brain decline in humans).