According to the Federal Association for Animal Health, the disease called cognitive dysfunction (CDS) affects about one fifth (20%) of dogs over the age of nine, and in animals over 15, it is a good two thirds (68%). However, the dementia, also called canine Alzheimer's disease, is difficult to detect. Because many symptoms can also be explained by senility.
Even cats are not spared. Half of the animals over 15 years old show corresponding signs.
Symptoms in animals with dementia
There are many parallels to dementia in humans. Animals with dementia are often disoriented – for example, they no longer recognize familiar paths or familiar people. Cause for it can be however also sight or hearing problems. Another symptom is fatigue, but this can also be caused by heart disease. Furthermore, dogs with CDS are often no longer completely housebroken, some also become anxious or aggressive.
In addition, their life rhythm changes. Often the animals wander in the evening. Wander restlessly at night. Interest in their caregivers, toys, and environment decreases. Dogs bark and cats mew more often and the appetite decreases.
With increasing age, many cats also develop dementia. (Source: Bildfunk/dpa)
In the experience of veterinarians, owners usually only report these changes when asked – they think that their animal is simply old. In making the diagnosis, the veterinarian begins with a general examination. Interview the owner in detail about the dog or cat's behavior. He has a blood count done. It is also possible to examine the brain by means of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The veterinarian can recognize whether there are corresponding indications of dementia from this.
Animals are getting older
"In general, the diagnosis is difficult", explains the veterinarian Klaus Kutschmann from Magdeburg. In addition, this disease has not yet been well studied in animals. Dogs and cats are getting older. This means that diseases that used to concern hardly anyone now also play a role. Although the first publication on dementia in dogs was published more than 60 years ago. However, this disease has only been in the spotlight for about ten years now.
There are currently many current studies looking at the ie – especially in dogs. Work is also underway on a vaccine against the disease. As with humans, dementia in animals begins gradually. There are always better days, but overall the trend is downward. Dog dementia cannot be cured. However, there are drugs that promote blood circulation, improve the perception of the four-legged friend and can be used to mitigate the symptoms.
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Behavioral tips for owners
The pet owner himself can do one thing above all: show a lot of understanding for his dog or cat. Make your pet feel safe and secure. A familiar environment. Low levels of stress are particularly important. On the other hand, it can also help dogs when they are confronted with new tasks. Owners can vary the walk round. New toys can also be good for brain activity.