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Dementia in animals: why a diagnosis is difficult


Dementia in animals is becoming more common as dogs and cats have an ever increasing life expectancy due to advances in veterinary medicine and nutrition. As with humans, our animal companions Alzheimer's occurs primarily 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

The diagnosis of dementia in animals is complicated by the fact that dogs and cats cannot speak. Many tests that are used to diagnose Alzheimer's in humans are therefore not possible. Veterinarians therefore use the exclusion procedure if there is 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 rhythm changes
● loss of interest and drive
● Housekeeping deteriorates
● Dogs forget familiar commands

You may be watching your cat or dog as the animal walks up and down aimlessly. Perhaps it sometimes stops in one place and looks as if it has forgotten what it was up to. Dogs that have been house-trained for a long time suddenly return to the apartment, cats no longer leave feces and urine in the litter box, but pee in bed or on the carpet. Animals with dementia are often awake at night and feel lost, which is reflected in increased barking or loud meowing. People who have looked after them for many years sometimes do not recognize affected animals. Their confusion and disorientation can also result in aggressive behavior because they are very unsettled.

Dementia or normal signs of aging?

However, these symptoms can also be caused by other signs of aging that have nothing to do with dementia in animals. For example, physical pain also causes uncertainty and changes in behavior. If animal seniors can no longer hear and / or see as well, this also leads to orientation problems. Loud barking or meowing can also indicate the onset of deafness.

Urinary tract diseases are other possible reasons for house contamination. Behavioral changes often occur when something is wrong with the animal, but this need not be dementia, but other diseases can also be considered. In old age, many cats and dogs suffer, for example, from kidney problems, heart problems or other organ diseases.

Only when other signs of aging can be excluded does the doctor diagnose dementia in animals. The disease is not curable, but 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 diagnosis: help animals with dementia in everyday life

If the diagnosis of dementia in animals is clear, you can help your dog or cat to have a good old age despite illness. What your pet needs now is rest, security and security, but also age-appropriate employment. Try to get a routine in your everyday life and keep it. Relocations, changes to the interior 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 brain of sick animals, if not to over-stimulate them. For example, go for a walk with your dog from time to time or teach him a simple trick. You can find more tips on this in our guide "Dog with dementia make everyday life easier". Intelligence games make dogs and cats equally happy in old age. Cats who have been outdoors for their entire life are unlikely to want to do without their trips. However, this is risky, as the cat's seniors can get lost or react too late to dangers. Therefore, only leave your old fur nose under supervision in the garden or set up your secured open space or a nice cat enclosure.