As in people, age brings not just physical but also mental decline. Senescence and senility often go hand in hand.

Many people remain unaware that their Pet may be suffering from such cognitive impairment as they age. Even veterinarians will often miss discussing these symptoms during check ups.

According to research, as many as 1 in 7 dogs over the age of 8 will manifest signs. This article aims to explain some of the signs to look for that could represent such impairment.

Much like with Alzheimer’s disease in humans, Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (or CDS), is the result of an irreversible degeneration of the brain. A classification system derived by The Purina Institute has assigned these to 6 main categories. Here are the signs to look for…

  1. Disorientation: Your pet may get stuck or have difficulty maneuvering around objects. They may go to the hinge side of the door by mistake. They may stare blankly into space or at walls. They may not recognize familiar family members and may get lost even in their home or yard.
  2. Interactions: Your pet may be more irritable, fearful or aggressive than normal. They may show less interest in social interactions such as greeting you or being petted.
  3. Sleep/wake cycles: You pet may be restless or pace through the night. They may also vocalize through the night.
  4. Housesoiling, learning and memory: Your pet may be less able to learn new tasks OR recall previously learned tasks or even their name. They may start to soil indoors or fail to signal you that they need to be taken out for the bathroom. It may be harder for you to get your pet’s attention or they may be more easily distracted.
  5. Activity: Your pet may play less and be less interested in going for walks/exploring. On the other hand, they may actually demonstrated increased activity including aimless pacing/wandering. They may also commence repetitive/stereotypic behaviors such as circling, chewing, licking or stargazing.
  6. Anxiety: Your pet may be more anxious when separated from you or other family members. They may be more reactive to visual or auditory stimuli than they were previously. They also may seem fearful of new places or unfamiliar environments.

If you feel like you pet is showing some of these signs, it is important to discuss them with your family veterinarian. Whilst dementia is, unfortunately, not curable, there are some ways that it can be slowed and that symptoms can be significantly improved. Drugs such as selegiline or dietary supplementation of MCT oil (as with Purina NeuroCare) are some possible options to help to ameliorate signs of this distressing disease.

Should you try these options and still feel that your pet’s Quality of Life remains reduced, euthanasia may become the option that is in the best interest of your pet. If you are unsure, call and speak with a HomeHeart Veterinarian to help you decide whether it may be time to consider this option.