As far as pet problems, I hope you ALL know that you can email me anytime with your pet concerns and I will do my best to help you. My email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org . We do travel a lot so I might not get back to you right away but it really does bring me great joy to help you and your little ones as much as I can.
Today I want to address "Doggy Alzheimer's" or "C.R.S." as my dad calls it. Dad has dementia and he jokes about it but I know from personal experience how disturbing it is to have memory problems. Dogs do get forms of cognitive dysfunction too. Our old Chihuahua "Max" (aka "Peave") is showing sign which are worsening daily. He gets lost, cries in distress, wakes up at night disoriented, etc. These can be signs of cognitive dysfunction or...vision and hearing loss common in geriatric pets. The best way to tell the difference is to have your vet examine them for signs of visual or auditory impairment. You wouldn't believe how many times a client has brought me a blind pet that they had no clue was blind. I mean COMPLETELY BLIND and the pet was dealing so well the owner had no clue. I've owned 3 blind pets now and they are amazing. They adapt to blindness much faster than humans. If the blindness is of a gradual onset, the owner often has no clue. Our yellow lab went blind due to diabetes and I didn't tell my family she was. It was SEVERAL months before they noticed. She was on a full out run, chasing a ball in the back yard and ran into a toy the kids had left out. She knew the yard so well that she could chase the ball by just listening to it and fool them as long as everything was in its proper place. When "Sage" crashed into the toy, the kids looked at me as if to say..."What the...?" I had to explain that she was blind and had been for several months. They didn't believe me till I proved it to them. After that they were better about keeping their toys picked up...for a while.
So...If your pet is crying out at the top/bottom of the stairs, acts lost in your home (especially in low light/darkness), stumbles, or you just suspect vision impairment, flick cotton balls across their field of view and see if they respond. I say "flick" because if you throw them, your hand and arm movements could be detected by a dog with poor vision and they might look in the right direction even if they cant see the cotton ball. It has to be something like a cotton ball so it wont make noise when it hits the floor. Our blind lab could play fetch just fine by hearing where the ball was. Dropping a penny or something that makes noise may trick you into thinking they see it when, in fact, they are looking at the source of the noise just like you do when you hear an unexplained/unexpected noise.
If you think their hearing is going, it probably is. It's very common in older dogs and cats. To check, make sure you use soft noises in various tones. Gentle whispers and hisses should be heard before you can hear them. Don't use my brother's method. When we were in our teens, there were two deaf gentlemen who frequented our father's business. My brother thought they could hear because they read lips so well and managed just fine. To try to prove his point, he would wait till their backs were turned and then drop a phone book on the floor. They would jump and spin around just like someone with normal hearing. To my brother this was proof that they were "faking it". I tried to explain that they could feel the percussion better than we could because their other senses had compensated for their hearing loss. He didn't buy it until one day, with my dad's permission, they lit an M80 firecracker and scared the crap out of my brother. They laughed their butts off and signed something then laughed harder. My point is, a hearing impaired animal is extra sensitive to vibrations/percussion so don't try clapping your hands to test their hearing.
Most veterinarians can test your pet for vision or hearing loss and if there are any doubts, we have specialists in those areas in vet. medicine as well.
Moral of the story:
You can teach and old dog new tricks, but you probably wont need to. They seem to compensate pretty darn well on their own.
Have fun kids, and don't hesitate to write.