Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS) aka Pet Dementia
It is not really a joke to say that the recent meeting of the dementia sufferers association was poorly attended because the members forgot when it was! We no longer think of it as a bit of fun but grasp the enormity of its impact on the lives of so many people and their carers. Likewise animals are now facing similar problems as good food, modern medicine, and a healthy lifestyle help them live longer. Their bodies can now stay healthier for longer and often outlive their brains. Most of these cats and dogs are regarded as suffering from “Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS)” which means that they are struggling with learning, memory, sleep patterns, social interaction and toilet behaviour. The cat that will now enjoy a long dotage may find it hard to decide why they popped outside and scratched a hole, or just when is the right time of day to smooch up to Dad. They may also, like my own dog currently does, look at you with a blank expression that says I really can’t remember who I m looking at; or even why I am looking. As many as one in four cats will develop signs of dementia during their lives, and in one study nearly half of dogs aged 8 years and older showed symptoms.
For an owner with such a pet a sense of bereavement can develop as the condition progresses and one feels the loss of a pet still present in a familiar skin. As the disease progresses life may become hard for both the owner and the pet. And it is often very hard to make the decision as to when a pet is no longer enjoying life because the process is so insidious. Regular check-ups with the vet are vital to get both a professional and an outsider’s help in assessing the situation.
Treatment, however, will often ease symptoms and the estimated 1 million cats in the UK with this syndrome can be helped with their condition by various drugs. In studies, 75% of dogs showed an improvement of at least one symptom within one month of treatment starting. Early recognition of the signs can guide treatment strategies and in the consulting room it is often a casual comment about a pet “ taking after granddad” or “not sleeping properly” as a client is about to leave that opens up a whole raft of problems. Vets will not only try and improve your pet`s outlook but also address behavioural traits that need psychological management and can also provide you with a set of questions to help you identify the early signs of this disease.
Remember CDS is a disease like any other and like all diseases it causes symptoms that are unpleasant for the sufferer. So we must treat it like kidney disease, or cancer and help the afflicted being, be it on four legs or two to keep their quality of life and maintain their dignity to the end.
Questionnaires to help you review how closely your pet fits the symptoms of CDS are available in our branches, or can be posted/emailed out to clients on request.
- Jeremy MA VetMB MRCVS