First, rule out physical illness. / Jason Edwards / Getty Images
Q: Our 16-year-old mixed-breed dog often is confused and anxious — it’s like she has Alzheimer’s — plus she has started coughing. She was given her annual exam three months ago and was 100%. She drinks water but hardly eats; she urinates but has fewer bowel movements. Does a cough mean heart condition?
A: Please run, don’t walk, to your veterinarian. I am very concerned about your dog.
Anytime there’s a change in behavior, rule out a physical explanation before assuming there’s a so-called behavior problem. That’s especially true for older pets.
Although older dogs might experience Alzheimer’s-type symptoms, referred to as canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome, those symptoms generally don’t include a change in eating habits. Coughing is unrelated to cognitive dysfunction, but heart disease is absolutely a strong consideration.
Dale is a certified dog and cat behavior consultant. Read more and ask questions at pets.usaweekend.com.