Cognitive Dysfunction in your pets


A Note From Dr. Ed:

It should be no surprise to those of us that have geriatric pets that they too can suffer from dementia.  In pets we refer to this set of clinical signs as cognitive dysfunction(CD).  Cognitive dysfunction refers to the geriatric onset of multiple behavioral problems that cannot be attributed to specific medical problems.  These CD behavioral changes can be categorized as disorientation, decreased responsiveness to family members, loss of prior housetraining, disturbances in the sleep-wake cycle, and decreased activity.  As is the case for dementia in humans, the clinical signs can vary with each individual pet.

 In my personal practice not a day will go by when I am not asked to give advice to the caretaker of a geriatric pet on management of cognitive dysfunction.  I will frequently spend time discussing the similar experiences we have all had with geriatric family members.  Believe it or not, our pets show many similar clinical signs.  I find that many of my clients become very frustrated with their pets suffering from CD. Why do they growl at me now?  How come they are using the bathroom in the house?  “They don’t even act like they know me anymore.” What’s up with that behavior? I can tell you there is help and hope for your older pets.
Before you go to your veterinarian and quiz he or she about the available drugs for CD, change your expectations a bit.  Much like people with dementia, your geriatric pet simply can not be expected to do what they once could.  Change the environment to a simpler and more easily negotiated living quarters.  Take your pet out more frequently for bathroom breaks.  Be consistent with your daily activities and above all learn patience.  

I know your veterinarian will gladly spend time with you discussing the medicine options for CD.  Lastly, try to remember how many years your beloved pet has diligently been at your side and try to give them a bit of a break.  Much like myself as I have gotten older, there are still flashes of the young man locked in this old man’s body- you just have to look really closely!! 

Our information is not intended to replace the advice of your veterinarian.  Do not use this information for diagnostic purposes. Always take your pet to your veterinarian to obtain a diagnosis and course of treatment.