October 2016 – Cognitive dysfunction in dogs and cats

As our pets age, they sometimes can develop a form of dementia known as Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS). This is also thought of as the canine and feline equivalent of Alzheimer’s disease in people. Although not all dogs and cats develop dementia, many will develop some degree of cognitive decline after age eleven. In fact, recent studies report that 85% of cases go undiagnosed or unreported simply because the pet owner does not recognize the signs of dementia or assumes symptoms are just a normal stage of aging in their pet. They then fail to discuss symptoms with their family veterinarian who can recommend a treatment plan.

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It’s important to note that if signs of cognitive dysfunction are recognized early, there are many interventions that can be taken to help reverse the symptoms including adjustments in their diet, adding supplements, enhancing environmental enrichment (such as walks, interactive toys, and training) or administering medications.

Signs of cognitive dysfunction in cats and dogs:

  • Disorientation: Wandering from room to room or staring blankly at a wall or just into space
  • Interaction changes: Extremes in affection or detachment
  • Sleep changes: Wandering at night accompanied by increased vocalization (in cats)
  • Housesoiling or soiling outside the litter box
  • Activity level changes
  • Increased anxiety

If you suspect your pet is suffering from cognitive dysfunction, fill out this Questionnaire and take it along to your next veterinarian appointment. The first thing your veterinarian will do is rule out medical causes, such as arthritis for missing the litter box. Like many behavioral diseases, a diagnosis of cognitive dysfunction is a diagnosis of exclusion – rule out medical causes first and then consider other behavior conditions.

Recommended Reading:

Keeping your pets fit with regular exercise

Why environmental enrichment is important for cats

Some pet behaviors may be related to hidden illness

Belle Mead Animal Hospital, Your Other Family Doctors

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