LIKE people, companion animals can be prone to experiencing dementialike symptoms in their old age.
Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS), sometimes referred to as “dogzeimers”, is common. In one study, 28 per cent of dogs aged 11-12 years had at least one symptom, increasing to 68 per cent of dogs in the 15-16 year age bracket.
Symptoms of CDS include disorientation, changes in interactions with people or other animals, altered sleeping patterns, house-soiling and changes in activity levels.
The early signs are very subtle. The most common symptom that owners report is altered sleep-wake cycles, as they are woken by their animals in the night. The second most common symptom reported is house-soiling.
There is no diagnostic test for CDS. Other conditions that can cause similar signs – like kidney disease, urinary incontinence and pain – should be looked for before a diagnosis of CDS is made.
A cure is not available, however some dogs and cats have improved quality of life with medication.
Dr Anne Fawcett is a lecturer
in veterinary science at the University of Sydney and a vet with Sydney Animal Hospitals Inner West.