Dementia in animals: When dogs or cats become sad and restless

Dementia in animals: When dogs or cats become sad and restless

Not only do people get Alzheimer's in old age, they don't remember their children and spouses - animals also suffer from dementia. Dogs and cats can no longer find their way around their territory, they no longer recognize “their” people.

Cats with nerve disorders have the same beta amyloids as people with Alzheimer's. These substances interfere with the communication of information in the brain.

The animals find no rest, they are no longer interested in their toys, cats are constantly grumbling without any external reason, dogs are barking. The animals “forget to eat”, they leave their faeces and urine in the apartment.

Dementia, or, in the language of veterinary medicine, cognitive dysfunction, is not easy to diagnose. Each symptom on its own can refer to other diseases, and every second cat gets sick in old age: kidney failure, for example, is a typical sign of aging in (almost) all cats; the lack of control of the sphincter also means that the animals are not housebroken; constant murmuring and barking can also be due to pain from which the animal suffers. Finally, blindness also leads to disorientation.

Many keepers think their animal shows the wear and tear of old age, much like relatives often view the first stages of dementia as normal senility.

The veterinarian uses magnetic resonance imaging and the blood count to determine whether dementia is present. However, this is pioneering work, because dementia among animals has been known for half a century, but has only been an issue for around 10 years.

Pets are getting older
The reason for this is that the disease has only spread to a greater extent since dogs and cats are getting older in industrialized countries. A cat on our grandparents' farm rarely got older than seven years, today cats at 18 or 19 are not uncommon. In addition, traditional animal husbandry largely lacked the sensitivity to deal with the psychological confusion of old animals.

Dog symptoms
Affected dogs appear disoriented. They run around aimlessly, stare into space, "get stuck" behind furniture, wait at the wrong door, sit down on the street instead of next to when a car comes, look around helplessly when they go out, as if they forget what they want there. They no longer listen to their names or commands such as seat-place-foot. They are no longer resilient, can no longer overcome obstacles that were previously easy for them, retrievers, for example, no longer remember to retrieve.

Above all, dogs lose the struggle for attention with “their people”. Often you stop responding when the family comes together and sit around indifferently while the children are playing.

Creeping course
Dementia is as insidious in animals as it is in humans: at first the cat may be sitting in the garden and can no longer find its cat door, or the dog may give a false alarm. In addition, the animals are always normal during the first phase. However, dementia is progressive, so the overall trend is downhill.

Demente cats
Typical signs of dementia in a cat are uncleanliness, the cat no longer cleans itself and leaves its droppings everywhere, confusion and disorientation, wandering aimlessly, loss of space and time (when the cat wakes up, it does not know where it is) - but also apathy.

These symptoms are particularly clear because they differ from the normal behavior of a cat: cats mumble, because they want to be petted and fed, because they want to get out of the apartment or into the apartment; they hike purposefully to their sleeping and viewing areas, and adult cats search for a permanent place on their own to put their feces down.

There are preparations for dogs that are specifically designed to dampen cognitive dysfunctions, namely Aktivatit from Vetplus and Senilife from Innovet Italia. Both products are combination products that contain antioxidants and substances that increase memory, such as phosphatidylserine, coenzyme Q10 or gingko biloba. They can be added to the feed. Medicines cannot stop dementia, but they can slow them down. Propentopfylline, for example, increases blood flow to the brain

Brain jogging and treatment
Missing mental challenges are likely to promote the timing and course of animal dementia.
As with human dementia, trust and inspiration is important for those affected by animals so that their brains remain active and thus prevent dementia: Dementia animals need a lot of attention and new challenges, for example unknown smells and new walks for dogs, new toys for cats.

At the vet
If your pet shows symptoms of dementia, be sure to see a veterinarian. Dementia in cats and dogs is almost always associated with physical complaints that affect mental well-being - and vice versa.

The vet will check your thyroid, blood pressure, kidneys and liver. Sometimes it's not dementia, but joint pain, from which old cats suffer a lot.

Right to be lazy
A fixed daily structure is more important than before for the demented cat. Give her her food in the same place at the same times. Set up flat bowls as litter boxes and provide “age-appropriate” resting places. The previously loved hiding places in the darkest corner of the closet are no longer for the confused Methusalems. Make sure that the children no longer encourage the cat to play when it wants to rest. The demented cat enjoys lying in the sun and sleeping in one place.

In dogs, dementia is called cognitive dysfunction syndrome. But do not interpret normal processes of age. The old dog changes its sleep-wake rhythm. He sleeps more and he rages less. Old dogs are less able to learn and have fewer memories than young ones. That is also not a disease.

Neglect is not dementia
Above all, a dog is not demented because it is neglected. A fat Labrador dog lying around lethargically because his owner thinks he's cute but doesn't give this heavy worker a job has no cognitive dysfunction. Diet and retrieval training get him back in shape. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)

Author and source information

Video: My 18 year old Cat with Feline Dementia