Pets can develop a number of health conditions as they age, and that fact probably doesn’t surprise you. After all, the same thing happens with humans. You might be wondering if pets can develop something similar to Alzheimer’s. And the answer is yes, there is something called Cognitive Dysfunction that sometimes occurs in older cats and dogs.
But unlike us, pets can’t talk and tell us what they’re feeling. Our job is to observe their behavior in order to correctly diagnose medical conditions. The challenge with Cognitive Dysfunction is that the symptoms can overlap with other conditions, also associated with age, so a professional evaluation by a veterinarian is necessary to uncover the cause(s) of your pet’s concerning behaviors.
In dogs, Cognitive Dysfunction can appear after about ten years of age. Dog owners often notice the following symptoms in their pet:
- Urinating or defecating in the house and other inappropriate locations
- Anxiety or aggression that seems new
- A change in activity levels
- Changes in sleep habits
- Social interaction shifts from the usual
In cats, generally over twelve years of age, Cognitive Dysfunction can manifest the following symptoms:
- Excessive meowing/yowling
- Urinating or defecating outside of the litter box
- Unusual aggressiveness
- Apathetic attitude
- Less playful than before
As you might imagine, the above symptoms can also indicate pain or other problems, so we definitely recommend that you seek a professional opinion rather than simply assuming your pet is just getting old and cranky. If your pet is diagnosed with Cognitive Dysfunction, medications can be helpful for symptoms such as anxiety or sleep problems.
The study of Cognitive Dysfunction in pets is leading to new treatments to help dogs and cats live longer, happier lives. Prescription diets and certain supplements are emerging that appear to help with Cognitive Decline, and behavioral modification can be used to address certain concerning behaviors.
If you suspect that your pet’s mental faculties are giving way to age, do contact us right away so that we can rule out other conditions. And if Cognitive Dysfunction is indeed the culprit, we can help you and your pet continue to enjoy your relationship as their health changes.