Cognitive Dysfunction

Do you have a dog or cat 8 years of age or older?  If so this following information may be of importance to you and your pet’s life together.

  • Both humans and animal populations are getting older due to advances in improved diet and health care.
  • Over 14% of all adults over 71 years of age have Alzheimer’s which means there are currently 820.000 cases of Alzheimer’s currently in the UK.
  • Animals over 8 years of age have been shown to suffer from cognitive dysfunction, which has many parallels with Alzheimer’s.
  • The senior dog population (those over 8 yrs. of age) is estimated at 3000000 in the UK, and the senior cat population at 2500000 (which is 30%of the total cat population).
  • As dogs and cats age, the number showing signs of cognitive dysfunction increases dramatically, as to the severity of the signs.
  • Most dogs show some signs of this condition from 10 years of age, but the pathological process behind the signs has been show to start from 8 years of age.

The age related behavioural changes identified in this condition are:

Behavioural Category

Example

Activity

Increased wandering, pacing, restlessness. Depression or apathy

 

Disorientation

Decreased recognition of familiar people, pets or places.  Getting lost in familiar locations

 

Interactions change

Decreased interest in interaction or play.  Inappropriate vocalisation, e.g. Barking for no apparent reason.

 

Sleep pattern alternations

Restless sleep or waking at night.  Increased daytime and total sleep.

 

House training

Indoor elimination at random sites.  Decreased or no signalling of intent to eliminate.  Going outdoors but elimination indoors upon returning.

 

  • Some of the same pathological changes found in humans with Alzheimer’s are also found in dogs and cats, and affect multiple structures in the brain.  Protein plaques that are found in man with the condition are also seen in dogs, and more diffuse plaques are found in cats with CD.
  • In one study 75% of senior dog owners reported at least one of the behavioural changes consistent with CDS but only 12% reported their concerns to their vet, most fearing euthanasia was the only option for age related behavioural changes, (this is not the case).
  • It is important to rule out other medical causes of behavioural changes, which can be done with physical examinations and blood tests if required. 
  • There are assessment scorecards available at My Pets Vets reception which can help us not only diagnose the condition, but assess the disease progression, and the therapeutic response.
  • This condition is progressive and irreversible, so on-going treatment for the rest of the animal’s life is required.  It has been shown that treatment that is started at the earliest stages of disease has the highest chances of success.
  • There are a number of options available for treating this condition, and helping to improve the clinical signs shown.

There are other things that you can do to help your pet, in addition to medical help, these include:

  • Keeping your pets weigh at the correct level.
  • Practice simple commands e.g. sit, stay, down and come, and make sure you reward successful responses with petting, treats of play.
  • Play recall games and ball games – use rewards to encourage
  • Use a treat ball, or puzzle bowl to help stimulate your pet’s brain.
  • If your dog has started house soiling then you need to help them relearn the rules, so take them outside frequently and praise and reward them if they toilet outside. DO NOT punish your pet if they soil in the house as this makes matters worse.

Don’t let Cognitive Dysfunction destroy the emotional bond between you and your pet, make an appointment to come in a chat to a member of the team at My Pets Vets by either popping into the surgery, or phoning 01942 677979.

7th March 2016

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