What Is Cognitive Dysfunction In Pets

Feline and canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS) is also known as feline and canine dementia. It is though not the same as Alzheimer disease in humans though the symptoms are in many ways similar, including disorientation and decreased social interaction.MaxxiSAMe liver brain

Canine and feline dementia can be very difficult for the human companions, just as Alzheimer is hard for other family members. Cognitive dysfunction in pets is unfortunately incurable but with early intervention and the right management, it is possible to improve the quality of life for pets with CDS.

What Is Feline & Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome

Cognitive dysfunction syndrome in pets is believed to be caused by physical and chemical changes that affect our pet's brain function as they get older.

Simply put canine and feline cognitive dysfunction syndrome is the result of age-related changes within the brain but dogs and cats brains age in a similar way.

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How Common Is Canine & Feline Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome

Advances in veterinary medicine have increased the live expectancy of our pets. And the older our pets get, the more likely they are to get cats or dogs dementia.

Cats are generally considered senior when they reach 7 to 11 years of age and dogs at 7 to 8 years of age (though this varies between breeds, size, nutrition and lifestyle).

"In one study at the University of California-Davis, 62% of 11- to 16-year-old dogs showed signs in at least one category of CDS. In a pet owner survey, nearly half of dogs age 8 and older showed at least one sign associated with CDS" (CDS In Dogs)

Symptoms And Diagnosis Of Cognitive Dysfunction In Pets

Many diseases that are common in older pets have similar symptoms as CDS, e.g. diabetes, brain tumors, and hypothyroidism. 

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Problem behavior resulting from pets' dementia can also be mistaken for behavioral problem. Feline and canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome is therefore likely to be both under-diagnosed and under-reported.

The diagnosis of feline and canine dementia is in a way a diagnosis of exclusion, i.e. by ruling out any other potential medical reasons for the declined cognitive function.

The most common symptoms of feline and canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome are:

Disorientation or Confusion

This can be very stressful for both your pet and you. It is heartbreaking to watch your pet wander aimlessly, appearing lost and confused. Your cat or dog may not recognize familiar people and get "lost" in a corner or behind a door. He may ask to go outside and then appear to have forgetting the reason for going outdoors. We can only imagine how difficult this must be for the owner.

Decreased Social Interaction

Your relationship will suffer as your pet may crave less attention and even refuse petting. He may not respond to verbal cues or even his name. Your dog may become less enthusiastic when greeting you and he may eventually stop greeting you at all when you come home.

Your pet's relationship with other humans and other pets will also change. Your previously friendly happy go lucky dog may suddenly become tense, anxious, and even aggressive.

Change in Activity

You may notice increase in aimless activity, like pacing or wandering, and decrease in purposeful activity, like playing.

Change in Sleep - Wake Cycle

Your pet is likely to sleep more overall. He may sleep less at night as there may be general confusion between day and night.MaxxiSAMe liver brainLoss of Housetraining

Your dog or cat may lose his housetraining skills. He may forget to "ask" to go outdoors so there may be accidents indoors.

The above symptoms made you cringe, right? Feline and canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome is a serious condition and very stressful for both the pet and its owner. It is unfortunately not curable.

Most common clinical signs of cognitive dysfunction at baseline (A Roundtable Discussion)

Increased total amount of sleep during a 24-hour period 83.3%
Decreased attention to surrounding, disinterest, apathy 77.8%
Decreased purposeful activity 75.0%
Loss of formerly acquired knowledge (including elimination behaviors)   72.2%
Intermittent anxiety (apprehension, panting, moaning, shivering) 61.1%

However, with early intervention and the right management, the quality of life for pets with cognitive dysfunction syndrome can be improved.

Next: What Can You Do About Feline & Canine Dementia

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