With pets living longer these days, they have a greater chance of developing cognitive dysfunction, an age-related neurobehavioral disorder similar to Alzheimer’s disease (i.e. dementia) in people. In dogs, the disease is called canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD), while in cats, it is called cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS). These disorders can be harmful to the pet, the family, and the bond they share.
How Prevalent Is Cognitive Dysfunction?
For Dogs: In studies published by the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, researchers have found that 28% of dogs age 11-12 years had some level of CCD, and 68% of dogs age 15-16 years had more predominant levels of CCD. Similarly, research published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience found that CCD affects up to 60% of dogs (mostly age 11 years or older).
For Cats: According to research published in Today’s Veterinary Practice, 28% of cats age 11-14 years showed signs of CDS, and 50% of cats age 15 years and older showed greater signs of CDS. Similar research published in Topics in Companion Animal Medicine found that almost one third of cats age 11-14 years showed at least one behavioral problem related to CDS, and 50% of cats age 15 years or older showed several behavioral problems related to CDS.
Here Are Five Signs That Your Pet May Have Cognitive Dysfunction:
- Disorientation, including appearing lost in a familiar environment, less ability to recognize familiar people, getting stuck in corners or behind furniture, or staring at walls or into space.
- Changes in social interaction, including being less responsive to or affectionate with family members, increased irritability, intolerance with being left alone, and increased aggression.
- Changes in sleep-wake cycles, including sleeping more overall, sleeping less at night, and unusual behaviors, such as wandering and vocalizations at night.
- Changes in activity, including pacing and restlessness, aimless wandering, loss of interest in food, and repetitive behaviors.
- House soiling, including urinating or defecating in the sleeping area (or other area of the home), eliminating inside right after being outside, and not signaling to go outside.
Can Cognitive Dysfunction Be Reversed?
While ongoing research offers hope, CCD and CDS are not yet considered reversible. As with many health issues, prevention is the best course of action. The sooner you detect any signs of cognitive dysfunction, the sooner you can speak with your veterinarian about the options to minimize the symptoms and slow the progress – and keep you, your pet, and your family happy!
If your pet is displaying any of the above behaviors, make an appointment to speak with your veterinarian about whether your pet may have CCD or CDS.
You can also download our Complimentary Cognitive Dysfunction Awareness Kit, complete with tools you can use in your practice to further education on the signs of cognitive dysfunction.