Dogs and cats, like people, become more vulnerable to the onset of age-related illnesses as they get older. Their organs, for example, gradually become less functional as they age, and the potency of their immune systems naturally declines.

This is when Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome comes…

What is CDS?

Cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS) is a slowly progressing condition that affects both dogs and cats. It includes perception, awareness, learning, and memory. When pets reach their senior years (age 7 and up), their learning capacities may begin to slow; however, the majority of CDS cases occur in pets aged 11 and over.

According to one study, nearly one-third of cats aged 11-14 have at least one symptom of feline cognitive dysfunction (FDC), with 50% having multiple symptoms. The prevalence of canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD) is 28% in dogs aged 11-14 years and 68% in dogs aged 15 years and older.

It is also possible that cognitive dysfunction can arise concurrently with other medical problems, so determining the exact cause of each sign might be challenging.

What are the Signs of Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome?

The abbreviation DISHA has traditionally been used to designate the symptoms of cognitive dysfunction. DISHA stands for Disorientation, Changes in Interactions between pets and family members or other pets, Sleep-Wake Cycle Changes, House Soiling, and Activity Level Changes.

Disorientation – This includes being lost in familiar locations, not recognizing familiar people, and opening the wrong side of the door.

Interactions – Social interactions between the pet and owner or between the pet and other pets may be changed; some pets may look more clingy, while others may appear disinterested or even irritated when touched or approached.

Sleep-wake cycle changes – Your pet may sleep more during the day, wake up more at night, or have irregular sleep-wake cycles.

House soiling – Pets begin to soil in previously unlikely to soil, such as indoor or unusual outdoor places; dogs may stop signaling when they need to eliminate. 

Activity levels – At first, there may be a general decline in activity or a loss of interest in play. However, as they age, some pets become more active, such as becoming restless, unable to relax, wandering aimlessly, or developing repetitive habits like licking.

Owners of elderly pets should look out for these and other specifics:

  • Anxiety/irritability
  • Aimless activity in cats
  • Excessive vocalization (especially at night in cats)
  • Lack of grooming
  • Staring off
  • Wandering/restlessness
  • Becoming abnormally clingy OR abnormally standoffish
  • Forgetting normal rules/routines
  • Lack of appetite

Some physical disturbances you might need to check::