One of the most common mistakes among those who have animals at home is to think that some changes in the behavior or physical condition of their pets are due to the passage of time and that there is nothing that can be done about it. The truth is that there are certain pathologies that can manifest in the animal and be confused as symptoms of old age. One of these pathologies is the syndrome of cognitive dysfunction, a progressive disease, similar to Alzheimer’s in people, which must be known to take the necessary measures to improve the condition of the pet.

¿What is cognitive dysfunction syndrome?

When we talk about the syndrome of cognitive dysfunction we are referring to a state of dementia that occurs in companion animals, in which the cognitive process is compromised and manifested with changes in behavior, motor alterations and problems in their health.
The cognitive dysfunction syndrome directly impacts on the behavior of the pet, being able to be aggressive and irritable due to the sensation of discomfort due to the decrease of mobility as a cause of a degenerative process of the joints of the body.
This problem occurs in some animals when they are in advanced age and is a consequence of the degeneration of the central nervous system. It is a progressive disease with a very high prevalence, although many cases do not even get diagnosed.

¿What are the symptoms that occur in pets?

There are four categories in which the symptoms related to cognitive dysfunction syndrome in pets are classified:
The first category refers to the disorientation that pets suffer and, in general, is the first symptom that occurs in animals. The owners identify that the pet is confused and has problems recognizing its environment and moves from one place to another, without a specific address.
In addition, the animal tends to bark and be fearful because it does not recognize what is around it.
In the second category, changes are manifested in the social relationships of the pet, showing hostility to other animals, as well as little communication with their owners. The animal decreases the frequency of its games, becomes more irritable and tends to isolate itself.
The symptoms that are part of the third category are related to alterations in the sleep cycle since the pet considerably reduces its rest hours at night, spending a great part of the day sleeping. These changes usually go unnoticed by the owners.
Other symptoms related to the syndrome of cognitive dysfunction and that are grouped in the fourth category are associated with the alteration of the learning processes, manifested with the loss of defecation and urination habits. Pets forget the habit of making their depositions, making them in different parts of the house.

¿How is the cognitive dysfunction syndrome diagnosed?

The veterinarian, through the performance of certain tests, can determine the condition of cognitive dysfunction in the pet. Usually, the diagnosis is made by exclusion because it discards any other disease that may be generating the same symptoms. By observing and analyzing samples, the specialist will be able to determine if the animal in advanced age has any special pathology or suffers from cognitive dysfunction syndrome.
The observation is made by the veterinarian through a complete physical examination and a thorough investigation of the animal’s clinical history. Depending on the symptoms presented, the specialist will perform additional tests that include a blood test and a blood count. Other more specific tests that include ultrasounds and radiographs may also serve to rule out any pathology.
Many times, the veterinarian may order a computerized axial tomography or an MRI scan because the alterations in the animal’s behavior may be due to problems in the central nervous system.
With the discarding of any other disease that may be generating similar symptoms, the specialist will be able to diagnose the syndrome of cognitive dysfunction.

¿What is the treatment of cognitive dysfunction syndrome?

It is important to take into account that the cognitive dysfunction syndrome can not be cured since it constitutes a progressive and gradual deterioration, so the primary treatment is referred to the relief of the symptoms, especially in the cases in which they are related to some specific problem
Thus, in cases in which pain has to be relieved, the specialist may prescribe analgesics, while, to reduce anxiety, may order some medication as a therapeutic option.
Being a process of progressive deterioration, it is essential to start treatment as soon as possible, through the application of behavior modification therapy in the animal, a food therapy and a therapy based on the intake of drugs.
Recommendations to improve the quality of life of pets
The early identification of this condition is essential to alleviate the effects on our pets. Therefore, the owner should be alert and notice any changes that may occur in the behavior of the animal, especially if you are of advanced age. Before the first suspicions, it is necessary to take it as soon as possible to the veterinary office so that they carry out the pertinent analyzes to him.
A special diet, based on a decrease in calories and the consumption of feed rich in antioxidants and protectors of cell membranes, can be of great help to improve animal conditions. Both the feed and any food supplement should be supervised and recommended by the veterinarian.
Short walks and activities that stimulate your mind, are recommended actions to improve the quality of life of pets. This will help increase their interest in the environment and increase social interactions.
Finally, some drugs that increase blood flow to the brain have proven to be very effective in the treatment of cognitive dysfunction syndrome. The specialist will be able to determine which of them is the most convenient for your pet.