Cognitive Function Dysfunction Syndrome (Doggy Dementia)

More and more dogs and cats are living well into their senior years and just like  elderly  humans, pets can suffer from a kind of dementia called cognitive dysfunction syndrome, or CDS. CDS is a syndrome associated with brain ageing. It leads to changes in a pet's responsiveness, learning, memory and can cause anxiety with age. Following are the most common signs of Dementia in dogs.


1. Getting "lost" in corners or on the wrong side of a door

This is a common complaint with Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome in dogs. Some dogs may stand head-first in a corner or at the hinge side of a door, waiting for it to open or standing helplessly; unable to figure out the next step.


2. Pacing or anxiousness

The loss of "purposeful activity" -- pacing and wandering around the house, often anxious, with no other symptoms (i.e. overactive bowel or bladder).


3. Loss of Housetraining

Canine seniors with dementia may forget about going outside to do their business as they always used to. A medical problem - urinary tract infection, gastrointestinal problems - must always be ruled out first before assuming it is a behavioural (dementia) problem. Your dog may not be aware that they are 'leaking,' or may purposely seek out places to void in the house, unaware that this is not normal behaviour.


4. Doesn't greet family members as before

A dog with cognitive dysfunction often will not seek out human companionship, sometimes walking away while being petted. Also noted: no longer greets family members upon arrival.


5. Barking for no reason

This may be because they no longer recognize family members or because they are "lost" in the yard or behind a door. There is an element of general confusion too, which could cause barking, especially at night.


6. Loss of appetite

Senior dog may "forget" to eat and lose interest in food. Geriatric animals have little reserves -- please see your vet if your pet is not eating or has a decreased appetite.


7. Sleep irregularities

A dog with cognitive dysfunction may  sleep more than normal, or have night and day reversed; sleeping in the day and awake (and confused) at night.


8. Doesn't respond to voice commands as before

The first thing to rule out here is hearing loss, which is quite common in senior dogs. In the case of cognitive dysfunction, the dog cannot process the command and act on it as before. The dog may even be confused about his or her name when called.


9. If you notice some of these signs with your pet

Keep a log of what behaviours you have noticed, the timeframe or how often you notice these behaviours, and make an appointment with us to discuss.


As noted above, the first step for any behaviour problem is to rule out any medical causes first. For example, if your dog is urinating in the house and never did this before, we will want to rule out urinary problems before addressing senior dementia changes. For dogs suspected of having senior dementia, we may prescribe medications, diet or  supplements that may be helpful with common signs of dementia. Some dogs are helped with Adaptil to reduce senior dementia-anxiety.




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