CDS is caused by degenerative, age-related changes within the brain that result in a decline in memory, awareness and learning in our senior pets. These physical changes in the brain cause symptoms of dementia and can be compared to Alzheimer’s disease in humans.
What pets may be affected?
Signs of brain changes are the first clue to diagnosing CDS and studies suggest that 73% of dogs over the age of 7 years are showing some of these signs. It is estimated that 68% of all geriatric dogs are experiencing some form of CDS, while 33% of cats 11-14 years old and more than 50% of cats 15 years and older are experiencing age-related cognitive decline.
Signs of cognitive dysfunction may be different for each individual pet but paying close attention to your pet’s habits and how they have changed as they age can help your veterinarian properly monitor your pet’s behaviour changes.
Things to look for:
- Confusion – often concerning their surroundings, staring, wandering or going to unusual places.
- Changes in memory and learning – not responding to previously learned commands and even house soiling.
- Changes in normal activities – no longer doing activities that pet usually did in the past and/or doing new, unusual (often repetitive) activities.
- Changes to social relationships – often decreased interactions with family members or other pets in the household.
- Alterations to sleep schedule – such as waking during the evening, increased anxiety or restlessness.
- Decreased responsiveness to stimuli – decreased interest in previously enjoyed activities such as walking, playing and eating.
After ruling out other possible causes for changes to your pet’s behaviour, you and your veterinarian will develop a plan to manage and help slow down the onset of CDS. After diagnosis, the first step is to change the pet’s diet to one that is rich in antioxidants, such as Hill Prescription Diet b/d, which will help to slow the physical changes in the brain. Medication and supplements have been clinically proven to either treat or slow the progression of CDS. Unfortunately CDS cannot be cured but early detection, management and slowing the onset of the disease can help improve your senior pet’s quality of life!
What can you do?
- Monitor your pet’s behaviour as they continue to age and report changes to your veterinarian.
- Exercise plays a crucial role in combating CDS. Leash walking dogs helps them use all of their senses while engaging senior cats with new toys and activities can be very beneficial.
- Enrichment through puzzles and toys such as food manipulation toys and games for both cats and dogs can help mentally stimulate them. Learning new tricks or practicing old ones for dogs helps as well.