Topic of the Month (September)

Abnormal Behavior Associated With Common Medical Disorders

Almost every illness affecting animals causes a change in normal behavior patterns. In fact, many diseases such as urinary tract disease, hypothyroidism (low thyroid levels), dental disease, or neurological disorders go unnoticed until an animal shows behavior changes. Decreased activity, decreased grooming, withdrawal from social interaction, a sudden or gradual change in temperament, and hiding are common signs of illness in pets. Changes in feeding behavior, including increased or decreased appetite and even a sudden change in food preference, should prompt veterinary attention.

Although a behavioral change may be the only obvious sign of an underlying illness, not every behavioral disorder is associated with a medical problem. It is often necessary to investigate the possibility of a hidden physical disorder before a behavioral problem can be clearly diagnosed and treated. Excessive thirst, shadow chasing, head shaking, inappropriate urination or defecation, abnormal tongue or swallowing movements, and scooting (dragging the anal area against the ground) are just a few of the many behaviors that may be caused by a medical problem. Any concern you may have regarding your pet, no matter how small it may initially seem, should be reported to your veterinarian as soon as it is discovered.

© Stefanie Schwartz 2011