Dementia is a condition that can affect many of us in older age, but did you know that something very similar can also affect our beloved four-legged family members? As with humans, ‘dementia’ in pets, or cognitive dysfunction as it’s called, can affect our faithful friends when they reach their senior years.
In pets, dementia isn’t fully understood, but can be associated with the build-up of a certain protein in the brain. Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do to stop this from happening, but you can slow down the signs by keeping your pet fit and healthy, with plenty of games to keep their brain active.
As your pet gets older, there are signs that you can look out for. Early detection is important as then you can seek help from your vet. The condition cant be cured but your vet can prescribe medication and suggest other ways to help manage the symptoms and slow down the progression.
Signs and symptoms
- Confusion and disorientation in familiar situations, or not responding to commands, which can all be suggestive of memory loss.
- Changes to their usual sleeping patterns, or to their toilet or eating habits.
- Changes in their character or activity, for instance they may seem withdrawn or depressed, pace around, or vocalise more.
PDSA Vet Nurse Nina Downing explains: “If you notice any of these signs, or are concerned about a change in your pet’s behaviour, make an appointment to see your vet as soon as possible. As well as dementia, there are other, sometimes treatable diseases that older pets are prone to which could cause similar signs, so it is important to rule those out too.
“Although there is no cure for dementia in pets, there are plenty of things you can do to help keep pets happy and active. Healthy diets, frequent exercise and regular vet checks will all help. For older pets, a vet check-up every six months can help to pick up any potential issues early on, which can increase the chances of effectively managing many conditions.”
If your pet is diagnosed, there are plenty of actions you can take to improve quality of life and keep your furry friend as active and happy as can be.
PDSA Vet Nurse Nina Downing’s top tips
- Try not to get frustrated with your pet. Remain calm and supportive.
- Ensure there are positive family interactions with your pet. Companionship is key, even if your pet seems to have forgotten you or other family members.
- Keep their surroundings as familiar as possible. Don’t re-arrange your furniture and keep to a routine as much as possible.
- Increase environmental cues to help guide your pet such as keeping the radio on in rooms your pet often goes to so they can follow the sound.
- Feed them a senior complete commercial diet, or one recommended by your vet that is specially designed for pets with cognitive issues.
- Give them regular mental stimulation, including walks and playing.
- Retrain basic commands they’ve forgotten to remind your pet of where to go to toilet, etc.
For more information visit: pdsa.org.uk/dementia-in-pets
PDSA is the UK’s largest vet charity providing a vital service for pets across the UK whose owners struggle to afford treatment costs for their sick and injured pets. For many vulnerable pets, PDSA is there to help when there is nowhere else for their owners to turn. Support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery helps us reach even more pet owners with vital advice and information. www.pdsa.org.uk