Both cats and dogs can experience cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS) as they age. This condition is also known as canine dementia or feline dementia, as well as senility. All these terms describe a decrease in mental health due to age that can cause your pets to act differently.
Senility can start when pets first become seniors (see our previous blog on senior pets), but it becomes more severe as pets approach very old age.
Signs of age-related cognitive dysfunction in dogs and cats include:
- More potty accidents in the house
- Wandering (may get out and not return as usual) or pacing
- Increased barking or meowing, often due to increased anxiety or confusion
- Unpredictable or unusual aggressive behavior
- Scared or upset by loud sounds
- Doesn’t respond to vocal calls or commands
- Doesn’t play as much
- Doesn’t sleep as much or sleeps a lot more, often on a varied cycle
- Seems grouchier
Just like with people, pets can have many happy years of life, even with cognitive dysfunction, but that may require some help from you. There are steps you can take to ensure your senior pet with dementia has a better quality of life:
Help reduce anxiety: Give pets a quiet place to get away from stressors (including other pets, people or loud sounds). Some pets may be calmed by a thundershirt, a favorite blanket, or a new toy to cuddle with.
Stick to a routine. Reduce anxiety and frustration in your pets by keeping a predictable schedule of waking, sleeping, walking and eating.
Stimulate their brains. Try using puzzle toys or teaching a new trick to stimulate their brains. Just be mindful if your pet seems anxious or frustrated, and don’t pursue this type of play if it isn’t working.
Continue to exercise. Dogs especially need daily walks for their physical and mental health. Keep walks short to avoid exhaustion, but brisk to get the benefits of exercise. Expect dogs to want to stop for more breaks to sniff and smell, which is good for their brains.
Consider medications. Talk to your vet about medications, supplements or diets that may help. We’re happy to help you and your pet get the most out of their senior years. Make an appointment with the vets at Animal Clinic of Woodruff today if you’d like to discuss senility in your senior pet.