• What are the signs?

What is Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome?

Dementia in humans can often be a worrying and upsetting topic to discuss, especially as it effects so many people in today’s society. What many don’t realise, however, is that it can also affect our furry friends.

Have you ever noticed strange patterns in your geriatric pet’s behaviour? As dogs and cats age, their abilities to process new information and general brain function decreases, just as it does in humans. They may not respond to your voice as quickly or they may not be interested in activities that they once would have enjoyed. If this is the case, your pet may be suffering from a form of dementia known as Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome.


What are the signs of dementia?

CDS can often be difficult to spot, especially if it’s in its earlier stages. 

Here are the signs to look out for in dogs:

  • Getting lost or stuck in places around the house, e.g. corners
  • Pacing or anxiousness
  • Urinating/Defecating in the house
  • Behavioural changes, e.g. unsociable or doesn’t respond to voice commands
  • Barking without cause
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sleeping changes, e.g. sleeping during the day and not at night

In cats the signs are slightly different but also contain many similarities:

  • Loud or odd vocalisations
  • Loss of litter box training
  • Lack of attention to grooming
  • Increased agitation, especially at night
  • Sleeping changes, e.g. sleeping more
  • Behavioural changes, e.g. irritable
  • Loss of appetite


What are the causes of dementia and how is it diagnosed?

At present, there is no known cause of CDS, although it is thought that changes in the brain can contribute to its progression.

Nerve function is crucial for healthy cognitive function, which relies on the chemical transmission of information across nerve pathways through structures known as synapses.

One theory for CDS is as the pet ages, protein builds up around the nerves (known as plaque), which act as insulators to the chemical process of information transmission. As a result, it becomes increasingly difficult for the nerves to send messages to the body.

Another view is that a fall in the production of dopamine (a neurotransmitter) leads to a fall in the effectiveness of nerve transmission.


For more information or for some free advice, contact your local Medivet. Our team would be more than happy to assist you!

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