Your pet is your constant companion so you’ve picked up on their quirks and habits over time. Any change in their behavior can serve as a clue to an emotional or physical problem that needs to be addressed, while problem behaviors can be a result of an unmet need. 

By being aware of subtle changes in your pet’s behavior, you can seek help from your Pioneer Animal Hospital veterinarian to diagnose, treat, and manage any issues. Here are three key reasons why you should always discuss your furry friend’s behavior with your veterinarian. 

#1: Behavior changes in your pet can indicate many things

Your pet typically exhibits the same behavior patterns day after day, so a change in those habits is their attempt to communicate with you. Whether it’s through body language, vocalizations, or altered routines, pets use behavior to convey their emotions, needs, and discomfort. Behavior changes in your pet may indicate:

  • Distress or discomfort — Sudden or unusual behavioral changes in pets can be indicative of various underlying issues. For example, increased aggression might signal pain, fear, territorial behavior, or neurological problems. Changes in appetite or sleep patterns might be linked to pain, digestive issues, metabolic disorders, or emotional stress. 
  • Stress or anxiety — Pets can experience a range of emotions, including stress, anxiety, and depression, and behavior changes can provide insights into their emotional well-being. For example, a dog who suddenly becomes clingy or exhibits destructive behavior when left alone may be experiencing separation anxiety. Cats may urinate outside the litter box or engage in excessive grooming when stressed. Identifying and addressing the underlying emotional triggers can help improve their quality of life and prevent the development of chronic behavioral problems.
  • Physical discomfort — Pets may show behavioral changes in response to physical discomfort or pain, becoming irritable, restless, or lethargic, depending on the nature and severity of their discomfort. For instance, a cat experiencing joint pain caused by arthritis may react aggressively when touched in sensitive areas. Or, a dog with an ear infection may growl or nip when their sore ear is handled.
  • Underlying medical conditions — Behavioral changes in pets should never be dismissed as mere quirks or passing phases. They could be early indicators of underlying medical conditions that require prompt attention. For example, changes in urination habits could signal urinary tract infections, kidney disease, or diabetes. Excessive scratching or licking might indicate skin allergies or parasitic infestations. 

#2: Behavior discussions can detect early health issues in your pet

Behavior changes in your pet can be early warning signs of hidden health problems. Discuss unusual or changed behaviors with our team so we can better care for your pet by :

  • Diagnosing early-stage disease — Pets often exhibit subtle behavior changes before physical signs of illness or disease become apparent. These behavioral changes can serve as early warning signs of underlying health issues. By recognizing and addressing these changes promptly, pet owners can potentially prevent disease progression and improve treatment outcomes. 
  • Ruling out underlying health issues — Behavioral changes in pets can be multifactorial, with various underlying medical conditions potentially contributing to altered behavior. Our Pioneer Animal Hospital veterinarian will work to rule out or diagnose any health issues that may be causing or exacerbating the behavioral changes. This may involve conducting diagnostic tests such as blood work, urinalysis, imaging studies (e.g., X-rays, ultrasound), or specialized tests depending on the suspected condition.
  • Identifying specific conditions — Certain medical conditions can manifest through altered behavior in pets. For example:
    • Arthritis — Pets suffering from arthritis may show mobility changes, reluctance to jump or climb stairs, stiffness, and decreased activity levels. 
    • Dental problems — Dental issues such as periodontal disease, broken teeth, or oral tumors can cause pets to avoid eating, drool excessively, or develop changes in chewing habits.
    • Hormonal imbalances — Conditions like hyperthyroidism in cats or hypothyroidism in dogs can affect metabolism, energy levels, and behavior.
    • Neurological disorders — Pets with neurological conditions such as seizures, vestibular disease, or cognitive dysfunction may exhibit disorientation, tremors, gait changes, or altered mental activity.

#3: Your pet will experience an improved quality of life

Veterinarians possess expertise in animal behavior and can provide valuable insights and solutions to address behavioral issues, in addition to enriching your pet’s life. By discussing your pet’s behavior and daily activities, our team can provide recommendations on:

  • Environmental enrichment — Environmental factors play a significant role in shaping your pet’s behavior. We can recommend environmental enrichment strategies that provide mental stimulation and fulfill your pet’s natural instincts by supplying interactive toys, offering puzzle feeders, or creating safe spaces to retreat to when they feel stressed or overwhelmed.
  • Behavior modification strategies — For more complex behavioral issues, we can recommend behavior modification strategies aimed at changing undesirable behaviors and reinforcing positive ones. Behavior modification techniques may include desensitization and counterconditioning protocols or habituation exercises, tailored to your pet’s individual needs. In some cases, pharmaceutical aid may be needed to help ease your pet’s stress, anxiety, or fear and allow them to learn new skills.

Remember, your Pioneer Animal Hospital veterinarian is a valuable resource in understanding and addressing your pet’s behavioral needs, so don’t hesitate to initiate these conversations if you have questions about your furry companion. Give our team a call to schedule an appointment.