Do pets get dementia?

If you have a long term relationship with your cat or dog, you might have noticed a few behavioral differences as your pet’s body and brain respond to aging. Your pets normal aging behavior is similar to normal human changes. As your cat gets older, he may walk slowly and play less. Your dog may react in different ways to the same old situations and interact less with you.

These normal changes aren’t necessarily dementia. But as many pets age, they also experience significant cognitive dysfunction and dementia-like symptoms.

Is it Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome?

When a pet experiences significant cognitive decline, veterinary scientists refer to it as Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome. Studies have shown that both cats and dogs display initial cognitive issues beginning at age 11. Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome problems become more widespread among pets as they age. There may also be a genetic component that predisposes your cat or dog to develop this condition.

CDS usually becomes noticeable as cats and dogs experience changes in their brains. An Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine article, “Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome,” discusses the presence of amyloid plaques in dog’s brains as young as age 9. The plaques are similar to the condition associated with a human Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

Researchers have found no evidence of the tangles found in human brains where an Alzheimer’s diagnosis has been confirmed. They have determined that a likely CDS association with free radicals in the body and a breakdown of enzymes in the brain.

How can a pet owner identify CDS?

As you are with your cat or dog every day, you’re in the best position to look for the early signs. A Gerontology article, “Cognitive Aging in Dogs” uses the acronym DISHA to simplify dementia’s clinical signs:

  • Disorientation
  • Interaction changes
  • Sleep-wake cycle disruption
  • Housetraining: incontinence and elimination issues
  • Activity, agitation, and anxiety differences

Learn more about normal pet aging behaviors

If you’re concerned about your aging pet, it’s a good idea to talk to your veterinarian. You can learn more about your pet’s normal aging behavior. If you notice an extreme shift from expected age-related changes, you’ll be able to identify the signs of a more serious cognitive condition.

Contact Hebron Veterinary Hospital

There is no cure for CDS but your vet can help you cope with your pet’s behavioral changes. Give us a call at (860) 228-4324 or visit our contact page. We’re happy to answer any of your questions about aging and how it affects your pet’s health.