Your pet’s behavior is closely linked to their internal health and unfortunately, this can make knowing the reasons for their inappropriate actions a challenge. Are they behaving inappropriately because of a break in their training, or are they ill and need to visit Neighborhood Veterinary Centers of Wallisville?
Here are five common pet behavior problems that may indicate hidden illness.
#1: Accidents happen—inappropriate elimination and pets
Inappropriate urination or defecation is one of the most common reasons why pet owners seek non-preventive veterinary care. Sudden changes in your pet’s elimination routine can stem from incomplete or unsuccessful house or litter box training, especially in young pets. However, urinary or stool accidents can also be caused by emotional and physical health issues, including:
- Urinary tract infections or inflammation
- Kidney or bladder stones
- Intestinal problems
- Stress and anxiety
- Territory marking
- Kidney disease
- Cushing’s disease
- Severe arthritis
- Cognitive dysfunction syndrome (i.e., senior pet dementia)
#2: Self-destruct—chewing and destructive behavior in pets
Chewing is a natural behavior for puppies and kittens, especially during teething. Recreational chewing can also be appropriate, normal behavior for many adult dogs, but persistent, excessive, and inappropriate chewing or destructive behaviors, such as digging, shredding, or compulsive licking, can signal a deeper problem, such as:
- Stress — Stress is a harmful physiologic state for pets. Chewing, eating, and licking are natural endorphin-releasing behaviors that pets use to cope with stress.
- Compulsive disorders — Repetitive behaviors such as over-grooming can lead to self-harm. These behaviors can stem from unmanaged stress or underlying pain, especially if the pet is focused on a specific area or joint.
- Separation anxiety — Pets who are overly attached to their owners may experience panic attack-level anxiety during separation. Pets may fixate on areas around doorways and windows, to try to escape and find their owner.
#3: Down the hatch—inedible object ingestion and pets
Some pets will eat literally anything, but this odd behavior can be more than a random quirk. Pica is an eating disorder in which dogs and cats crave and consume non-nutritive items, such as feces (i.e., coprophagia), rocks, dirt, paper, fabric, or small objects. Pets with pica are at risk not only for choking, but also potentially life-threatening intestinal blockages.
Although pica causes are not entirely understood, potential explanations for this behavior in adult pets include nutritional deficiencies, lack of enrichment, and anxiety.
#4: What are you looking at? Reactivity and aggression in pets
You likely would be startled to see abrupt personality changes in your pet, but the behaviors should serve as a red flag warning about internal health. Reactivity (i.e., overreaction to stimuli, such as other pets, people, or perceived threats) and aggression (i.e., hostile behavior that seeks to injure or frighten the intended target) requires prompt medical and behavioral intervention to prevent escalation and injury.
From a behavior standpoint, these problems can stem from poor socialization or traumatic events, but the underlying cause is almost always fear. Medically speaking, irritability and aggression can have numerous causes or contributing factors, including:
- Chronic pain (e.g., arthritis, dental disease)
- Chronic illness
- Anxiety and stress
- Neurologic problems (e.g., brain tumor, infectious viruses)
- Hormone imbalance
- Sensory changes (e.g., vision or hearing loss)
- Impaired mobility
#5: An appetite for life—food stealing and pets
Some pets were born as passionate counter surfers, while others develop a sudden and intense appetite in response to a medical condition. Pets crave and require increased food intake during growth, development, and reproduction, but should otherwise have a consistent appetite. Ravenous appetites can lead to disastrous consequences if hungry pets ingest harmful or toxic items, or injure themselves attempting to reach inaccessible food.
Intense and persistent hunger—especially when accompanied by weight loss or other clinical signs—is always cause for concern. Some causes can include:
- Feline hyperthyroidism
- Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI)
- Malabsorption issues (e.g., inflammatory bowel disease [IBD])
- Malnutrition (e.g., after changing to an inappropriate diet)
Misbehavior can be frustrating for pet owners and dangerous for pets, especially if an underlying health problem is causing their behavior. If your pet is experiencing an uncharacteristic personality or behavior change, they should be examined by your veterinarian before consulting a trainer. Unnecessary training, corrections, or punishment may heighten your pet’s stress, amplify their pain, and worsen their condition.
When your pet needs care, turn to your trusted southeast Texas neighbors at Neighborhood Veterinary Centers of Wallisville for timely treatment, expert medicine, and a compassionate approach. Contact our team to schedule an appointment.
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