Why a diagnosis is difficult

Dementia in animals is becoming more common as dogs and cats live longer thanks to advances in veterinary medicine and nutrition. As in humans, Alzheimer’s occurs in our animal companions, especially in old age. But why is the diagnosis still more difficult?

Dog and cat are getting older;  however, this also increases the cases of dementia in animals – Shutterstock / Chendongshan

Dog and cat are getting older; however, this also increases the cases of dementia in animals – Shutterstock / Chendongshan

Diagnosing dementia in animals is complicated by the fact that dogs and cats cannot speak. Many tests used to diagnose Alzheimer’s in humans are therefore not possible. Veterinarians therefore use the process of elimination when there is a suspicion of age-related cognitive dysfunction.

Dementia in animals: possible symptoms

The symptoms of dementia in animals are similar to those of Alzheimer’s in humans. This includes:

● disorientation and confusion
● Interaction behavior changes
● Sleep-wake cycle changes
● Loss of interest and drive
● Housebreaking is decreasing
● Dogs forget known commands

You may see your cat or dog pacing aimlessly. Maybe sometimes it stops in one place and seems like it has forgotten what it was up to. Dogs that have been housebroken for a long time are suddenly making their way back into the apartment, cats no longer only leave feces and urine in the litter box, but also pee in the bed or on the carpet. At night, animals with dementia are often awake and feeling lost, which is reflected in increased barking or loud meowing. People who have taken care of them for many years sometimes do not recognize affected animals. Their confusion and disorientation can also be reflected in aggressive behavior because they are very insecure.

Dementia or normal signs of aging?

However, these symptoms can also be caused by other signs of aging unrelated to dementia in animals. Physical pain, for example, also causes insecurity and changes in behavior. If animal seniors can no longer hear and/or see so well, this also leads to orientation difficulties. Loud barking or meowing can also indicate the beginning of deafness.

Urinary tract diseases are another possible reason for being unclean. Changes in behavior often occur when something is wrong with the animal, but this does not have to be dementia, other diseases can also be considered. In old age, many cats and dogs suffer from kidney problems, heart problems or other organ diseases.

Only when other signs of aging have been ruled out does the doctor diagnose dementia in animals. Although the disease cannot be cured, it can be slowed down with individually tailored therapy. In this way, the quality of life and life expectancy of sick animals can be improved.

After the diagnosis: helping animals with dementia in everyday life

Once you have been diagnosed with dementia in animals, you can help your dog or cat enjoy a good old age despite being ill. What your pet needs now is rest, security and security, but also age-appropriate activity. Try to get into a routine and stick to it. Moves, changes to the interior design or frequent vacations should be postponed until later if your animal companion has crossed the rainbow bridge.

At the same time, however, it makes sense to stimulate the brains of diseased animals, albeit not to overstimulate them. For example, take your dog for a walk every now and then or teach him a simple trick. You can find more tips on this in our guide “Making everyday life easier for dogs with dementia”. Intelligence games are equally enjoyable for older dogs and cats. Cats that have been outdoors all their lives are unlikely to want to miss out on their outings. However, this is risky, as the senior cats could get lost outside or react too late to danger. Therefore, only let your old fur nose into the garden under supervision or set up a secure outdoor area or a nice cat enclosure.

You might also be interested in these topics on

Dementia in cats: symptoms

Dementia in dogs: how it manifests itself

Dog has dementia: how bad is he suffering?

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