Oct 12 2016

Confused Canines and Foggy Felines: The 5 signs of Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome in Pets


Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS) is a condition veterinarians diagnose in dogs, and to a lesser extent cats, that have reached their ‘senior years’.  This condition has many similarities to Alzheimer’s disease in people.  Just like its human counterpart, CDS has an insidious onset.  However, once the signs have established, owners are left saddened and confused by the changes they see in their once happy, active companion.

The signs veterinarians look for in pets to determine if CDS is present have been given the acronym DISHA.  This stands for disorientation, altered social interactions, sleep-wake cycle disturbance, house-soiling, and altered activity.

1)      Disorientation

One of the more upsetting signs for pet owners to notice in pets suffering from CDS is disorientation.  Dogs may be noted to stare at the wall for long periods of time.  They may have difficulty negotiating everyday tasks like climbing stairs or passing barriers on their walks.  They may lose their understanding of commands from their owner.  Cats may walk around aimlessly and vocalize.

2)      Altered Social Interactions

Pets that previously greeted their owner with excitement may instead show indifference when their owners arrive home.  Some pets may not recognize people they previously knew well and act shy, scared, or even aggressively towards them.

3)      Sleep-wake cycle disturbance

Pets with CDS often seem restless at night.  They may pace, pant, move around frequently, and vocalize during the night.  They may also sleep more during the day time when they normally wouldn’t have.

4)      House-soiling

Dogs suffering with CDS often lose their previously well established house training and begin having accidents in the house.  Cats may stop using the litterbox reliably.

5)      Altered activity

Pets with CDS develop altered activity patterns.  Some pets lose interest in going outside or on walks.  Others may pace aimlessly.

There are treatments available to help pets with suspected CDS, including medications, diet changes, and supplements.  While not all pets respond to therapy, there are indeed cases where simple treatments lead to significant improvement in pets with CDS.  Its worth a visit with your veterinarian if you are seeing any of these signs in your pet!

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