Have you noticed your older pet getting stuck behind furniture? Or have they forgotten that nighttime is for sleeping? These could be symptoms of cognitive dysfunction. As pets age, they can suffer from impaired mental function, similar to elderly people with Alzheimer’s or dementia. However, with careful monitoring, early diagnosis, and proper intervention, you can keep your senior pet’s mind sharp well into their golden years. Using the acronym DISHAA, here are some ways to recognize the following signs of cognitive dysfunction in your pet:
- Disorientation — Your pet may get stuck behind furniture or doors, have difficulty getting around objects, fail to recognize familiar people or pets, or get lost in your home or yard.
- Interaction — Your pet may display a decreased interest in socializing and interacting with your family, and become irritable or aggressive with visitors, other animals, or familiar family members.
- Sleep-wake cycles — One of the most common complaints of cognitive dysfunction is an off-balance sleep-wake cycle. These pets are typically restless, will pace or continually wake up, and may excessively vocalize throughout the night.
- House-soiling, learning, and memory — Your pet may be less likely to respond to previously learned commands or their name, and suffer from decreased focus and increased distraction. You may also notice inappropriate elimination issues if your pet forgets their previous house-training.
- Activity — One change in pets that is commonly confused as an old-age problem is a decreased desire to play or exercise. Pets may also display repetitive behaviors, such as circling, chewing, licking, or pacing.
- Anxiety — Pets with cognitive dysfunction may exhibit increased anxiety when separated from their owners, and be more fearful of visual or auditory stimuli.
If you have any questions about your pet’s behavior, please contact us to schedule a behavioral assessment.