Cats and dogs can experience cognitive decline as they age just like humans. We want every pet to live each day to the fullest, but dementia can make this difficult. While we ask you to be aware of any behavioral changes as your pets age, here are a few common signs of dementia in senior felines and canines. Please also note that these symptoms could also be caused by other medical problems (ranging from various tumors to infections), so please consult with your veterinarian if you notice any of these symptoms in your pet.
- Getting lost in familiar areas: If your pooch has forgotten the way to the back door or how to get around the couch, take it as a sign that they are struggling to process what is around them. Even if you’ve lived in the same home your pet’s whole life, it may be difficult for him/her to recognize surroundings. This can be a result of the brain not processing information as quickly and/or decline in vision and hearing senses.
- No longer responding to training: Does your dog no longer sit or give high-fives anymore? Has your cat seemed to have forgotten how to groom herself? These can also be symptoms of cognitive decline, once other medical diagnoses are ruled out.
- Urinary and/or bowel incontinence: Your pet may have “leaky pipes” and as a result may be unable to control when he relieves himself. Sometimes this happens when your pet is conscious and trying to hold it (but failing) or it may happen while she’s asleep and has no idea it’s happening.
- Anxiety and stress: Losing vision, hearing, or problem solving abilities can be very stressful to a pet. Even if your pet can still see or hear, mild vision or hearing loss can be very frustrating. This may manifest itself as unusual vocalization patterns, pacing, excessive panting, or even aggression.
- Unable to sleep normally: If your pet has always slept through the night with you and you now find her pacing at 3am, it could be a sign of dementia. This also applies if your pet that is normally awake and ready to go during the day is all of a sudden in bed and snoring.
While dementia may seem scary and like it’s the “beginning of the end,” know that it doesn’t have to be! Talk with your veterinarian to rule out any underlying medical conditions, and how to begin putting your pet’s brain into training!
- Life-long mental stimulation (through puzzles, problem solving, and challenges) can help keep your pet’s mind sharp in his golden years.
- Sticking to a routine can help bring comfort to pets who aren’t as ready to adapt to changes daily and reduce frustration and anxiety. This applies to meal time, walking, potty breaks, snuggle times, and bed time.
- Trying a new type of food specially formulated for seniors can really help to “feed their brains!” Purina has released their Pro Plan Bright Mind line of food to help nourish the brains of our senior dogs! You can ask your veterinarians what senior food brands what they recommend.
- Adding a supplement or vitamin for brain health may help your pet! VetriScience offers a supplement called ResveraFlex that not only helps the brain, but decreases inflammation in other areas of the body too!
- Most importantly, be patient with your pet. Take cues for when they’re done with an activity or getting frustrated. Just knowing that you’re there can be a big comfort.
Here at Emerald Animal Hospital, we put pet health first. Our veterinarians are fully equipped to diagnose and treat geriatric pets. We will work with you to devise a treatment plan to benefit your individual pet and do our best to give them the long and happy life that all pets deserve. Please give us a call at 216-749-7161 with any questions or to set up an appointment for your golden oldie!