Cognitive Dysfunction

Has your pet ever done something out of the ordinary and you hear yourself thinking “he’s just getting old?” Perhaps you thought your furry family member is going senile? Well, you may be right; there is a condition of animal senility called Cognitive Dysfunction.

Cognitive dysfunction has a similar appearance to Alzheimer’s disease in humans. Owners may notice changes in their beloved pet such as changes in activity level, new patterns of interaction with their family, new sleeping patterns and excessive vocalizing.

The mechanism behind the cause of cognitive dysfunction is not known, but research suspects it is similar to humans – a build-up of sticky proteins around the cells of the brain which disrupts the transmission of signals.

If you’re worried that your pet may have cognitive dysfunction, it is important that your veterinarian rule out all serious medical conditions first. Your veterinarian may provide you with a checklist, called DISHAA, to help you identify if your pet is exhibiting signs of cognitive dysfunction.

Treatment for cognitive dysfunction includes managing your pets’ environment – providing extra bathroom breaks, a night light or a new daily routine. There are special diets to help your senior pet with cognitive dysfunction that is fortified with medium-chain triglycerides and antioxidants. Ask your vet if one of these diets might be right for your pet.

Watching your special furry family member get older can be hard, but with the help of your veterinarian, you can bring in their golden years with a smile on your face.

Written by: Dr. Leah Kahn, DVM