How to slow the development of pet dementia
Dementia Action Week 21 to 29 May
Dementia is a condition that can affect many of us in older age, however people tend to be less aware that a similar condition can also affect our beloved pets. As with humans, dementia in pets, or ‘cognitive dysfunction’ is more common the older they get.
It can be more difficult to recognise the signs of dementia in pets, but there are signs you can look out for as they get older. In pets, dementia is associated with the build-up of a certain protein in the brain. Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do to stop this from happening. However, you can slow down the signs by keeping your pet fit and healthy, with plenty of games to keep their brain active.
Some of the signs of dementia in pets can include:
- Confusion and disorientation in familiar situations, or not responding to commands, which can all be suggestive of memory loss.
- Changes to their usual sleeping patterns, or to their toilet or eating habits.
- Changes in their character or activity, for instance they may seem withdrawn or depressed, pace around, or vocalise more.
If you notice any of these signs, or are concerned about a change in your pet’s behaviour, make an appointment to see your vet as soon as possible. As well as dementia, there are other, sometimes treatable, diseases that older pets are prone to which would cause similar signs, so it’s important to rule those out too.
PDSA Vet Olivia Anderson-Nathan advises: “Although there is no cure for dementia in pets, if it’s diagnosed there are plenty of things owners can do to help keep pets happy and active. Healthy diets, frequent exercise and regular vet checks will all help. For older pets, a vet check-up every six months can help to pick up any potential issues as early as possible, which can increase the chances of effectively managing many conditions.”
If your pet is diagnosed, there are plenty of actions you as an owner can take to improve quality of life and keep animals as active and happy as can be. Olivia recommends following your vet’s advice, which may include:
- Try not to get frustrated with your pet. Remain calm and supportive.
- Ensure there are positive family interactions with your pet. Companionship is key, even if your pet seems to have forgotten you or other family members.
- Keep their surroundings as familiar as possible. Don’t re-arrange your furniture and keep to a routine as much as possible.
- Increase environmental cues to help guide your pet such as keeping the radio on in rooms your pet often goes to so they can follow the sound.
- Feed them a senior complete commercial diet, or one recommended by your vet that is specially designed for pets with cognitive issues.
- Give them regular mental stimulation, including walks and playing.
- Retrain basic commands they’ve forgotten to remind your pet of where to go to toilet, etc.
PDSA is the UK’s leading vet charity. We’re on a mission to improve pet wellbeing through prevention, education and treatment. Support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery helps us reach even more pet owners with vital advice and information. www.pdsa.org.uk