What is Cognitive Dysfunction?
Cognitive Dysfunction, also known as age-related dementia or senility, is a condition that causes confusion and disorientation in your pet. Similar to Alzheimer’s Disease in humans, protein deposits (amyloid plaques) build up in the brain, affecting areas of cognition and understanding. Many other conditions can mimic Cognitive Dysfunction such as: hypothyroidism, diabetes, tumors, arthritis, and hearing and vision loss. It is important that your veterinarian rules out other medical reasons for your pet’s symptoms.
What are the symptoms of Cognitive Dysfunction?
- New or worsening anxiety, fear, or aggression in a normally happy pet.
- Relationship changes between your pet and other members of the household (human or animal).
- Getting lost in familiar areas or asking to go outside/inside and then appearing confused as to what to do next.
- Soiling in the house, having accidents, or reverting to puppy behaviors.
- Excessive vocalizing (barking, whining, meowing, etc.)
- Confusion between day and night – sleeping pattern changes.
- Panting, pacing, or restlessness, especially at night.
Is my pet more at risk than others?
Senior pets are at highest risk for developing Cognitive Dysfunction, and the risk increases with each passing year. Large breed dogs are considered seniors at 5 – 7 years old, while small breeds with longer lifespans are considered seniors at 10 -12 years old. There are no known breed predispositions.
How do you test for Cognitive Dysfunction?
There is no specific test to diagnose Cognitive Dysfunction. The most common method of diagnosis is based on owner observations within the home. A physical exam, bloodwork, urinalysis, and possible radiographs should be performed to eliminate other causes for your pet’s symptoms.
What are the treatments?
There is no cure for Cognitive Dysfunction, but there are medications, supplements, and diets that can help reduce symptoms and delay the progression of the condition. Early detection is key, as treatment is more effective in the first stages of the disease process. Keeping your pet mentally and physically stimulated (within their limits) will also help to lessen the progression of mental decline. Your veterinarian will discuss with you the best method of treatment for your pet.