(07) 5576 0400

Monday - Friday 8:00am - 5:30pm

Saturdays 8:00am - 12:30pm

Knowing the Signs: Cognitive Dysfunction

Cognitive Dysfunction

Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS) is a newly recognised disease, somewhat similar to Alzheimer’s disease in people.

In dogs with Cognitive Dysfunction syndrome, the brain undergoes a series of changes that result in a decline in the mental faculties associated with thinking, recognition, memory, and learned behaviour.

Fifty percent of dogs over age 10 will exhibit one or more symptoms of cognitive dysfunction syndrome. Cognitive dysfunction is a progressive disease with increasing signs of senile behaviour.

Knowing the Signs

  • Disorientation
    Your pet may appear lost in the house or yard, get stuck in corners or under or behind furniture, has difficulty finding the door (stands at the hinge side or goes to the wrong door), doesn’t recognise familiar people, and fails to respond to verbal cues or his name. Hearing and vision loss must be ruled out.
  • Activity and sleep patterns are disturbed
    Your dog may spend the majority of a 24-hour period sleeping, but sleeps less during the night. There is a decrease in purposeful activity and an increase in aimless wandering and pacing. Dogs with cognitive dysfunction may also exhibit compulsive behaviours with circling, tremors, stiffness, and weakness.
  • Housetraining
    Your dog may urinate and/or defecate indoors, sometimes even in the view of his owners, and may signal less often to go outside.
  • Changes to interactions with family members
    Often, interactions with family members become much less intense. The dog seeks less attention, often walks away when being patted, shows less enthusiasm when greeted, and may no longer greet his family. Other dogs seem to need human contact 24 hours a day.

Other conditions may mimic Cognitive Dysfunction

Some of these symptoms may be due to age-related physical changes and not to cognitive dysfunction. A medical condition such as cancer, infection, organ failure, or drug side effects could be the sole cause of the behavioural changes or could be aggravating the problem. Thus, medical problems must be tested for and eliminated before senile symptoms are attributed to cognitive dysfunction syndrome.

What is the cause?

Research on the aging canine brain reveals a number of pathogenic processes that could account for many of the symptoms of cognitive dysfunction syndrome.

  1. A protein called β-amyloid is deposited in the white and grey matter of the brain. Plaques from that result in cell death and brain shrinkage.
  2. Alterations in various neurotransmitter chemicals, including serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, have been described.
  3. Oxygen levels in the brains of senile dogs are decreased.

How is it diagnosed?

There is no specific test for cognitive dysfunction syndrome. The number of symptoms the dog exhibits and the severity of the senile behaviour are important considerations in making the diagnosis. An MRI may show some degree of brain shrinkage, but the test is not likely to be done unless a brain tumour is suspected. Awareness of the diagnosis makes it easier to understand the dog’s behaviour.

Can it be treated or managed?

Because the underlying cause can vary between patients there is no one treatment. A number of treatments have been found to be beneficial. Additionally a variety of supplements have been found to provide additional benefit to the brain. There are four parts to the treatment:




4) SENSORY STIMULATION (such as massage and brushing)

Treating CDS is possible, with the right diagnosis by your vet. If you ever suspect that something is not right with your pet we advise you book an appointment with Pet Doctors on 5576 0400.