Dementia is more than just aging. In medical terms, this condition is called cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS). Senior cats have the highest prevalence, the disease being directly related to the aging of the brain. Dementia in pets has clinical signs comparable to those of Alzheimer’s disease in humans.
The clinical signs of dementia in cats are represented by changes in awareness, deficits in learning and memory, and decreased responsiveness to stimuli. Feline dementia has no treatment, but vets can try to improve your cat’s well-being (relief of anxiety, support of cognitive function, etc.).
In this article, you will find out what feline dementia is, its clinical signs and causes, and treatment options.
What Is Cat Dementia?
CDS, or dementia, in cats, is a degeneration of the brain and nervous system. This condition is comparable to Alzheimer’s disease in humans because it is determined by physical and chemical changes in the brain, not being part of normal aging.
Cats suffering from dementia have impaired cognitive abilities, which lead to behavioral changes that can become obstacles for your pet and you and your family members. Clinical signs become noticeable in cats aged 10 years and over. The clinical signs increase proportionally with the age of the pet.
Feline dementia is a complicated disease that is often underdiagnosed, misunderstood, and undertreated, both by doctors and owners. Most of the time, the owners simply attribute the behavioral changes to the fact that their cat is getting older.
What Are the Signs of Cat Dementia?
The older the cat is, the more obvious the clinical signs will be. As a result, cats with dementia will show gradual changes in behavior, which may not be visible at first but will become severe over time. However, behavioral changes can also be the result of systemic diseases like kidney failure or hypothyroidism. In this case, an evaluation at the veterinary clinic is necessary to obtain a diagnosis and exclude other conditions. Also, owners may deny these changes in behavior and attribute them to the fact that their cat is just getting older.
In short, the most common behavioral changes in cats with dementia are represented by the acronym DISHAA,
In addition to these clinical signs, cats suffering from dementia may have a low interest in food and water and may vocalize loudly at night.
What Are the Causes of Cat Dementia?
Feline CDS is caused by neuropathological changes in the brain. The condition occurs as a result of brain aging. Although the process is not fully understood and the cause is not currently known, it is believed that genetic, nutritional, and environmental factors may predispose cats to develop this disease.
How Is Cat Dementia Diagnosed?
Dementia is mainly diagnosed when other diseases are excluded. There is a wide range of aging diseases in cats that can lead to clinical signs similar to those of feline dementia. These conditions, which will be part of the differential diagnosis of the veterinarian, tend to occur at the same stage of a cat’s life. The most common diseases with clinical signs similar to those of dementia in cats are:
How Is Cat Dementia Treated?
Treatment of feline dementia can be difficult, as the condition cannot be reversed or cured. The goal of the treatment is to improve your cat’s well-being through therapies focused on relieving anxiety, slowing the disease process, and supporting cognitive function.
Once the disease is diagnosed, the veterinarian can prescribe your cat special diets, supplements, medication, and environmental enrichment.
How Do I Care for a Cat With Dementia?
If your cat has been diagnosed with dementia, here’s what you can do to help:
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How Long Can Cats Live With Dementia?
Cats can live long lives even if they have been diagnosed with dementia. Depending on the age at which your cat was diagnosed, they can live another 5 or 10 years. However, each individual is unique, and in some cats, the disease can progress faster or slower than in others, which can affect their life expectancy.
Can Cats With Dementia Become Aggressive?
Yes, dementia can make cats become aggressive, but it also makes them anxious and antisocial. So, if your cat is old and has started to change their behavior, a visit to the vet is essential. Your cat may have dementia or other conditions that have similar clinical signs. Following the diagnosis, the veterinarian will find the best approach for your cat’s condition.
Dementia in cats is a major neurocognitive disorder that decreases their quality of life. This condition occurs in senior cats that are 10 years old and older. Depending on the age at which it is diagnosed and how quickly the disease progresses, cats have a life expectancy of 5–10 years from the moment of diagnosis.
Cats with dementia suffer from behavioral changes that include house soiling, decreased activity, anxiety, sleep-wake cycle changes, vocalization, and disorientation. Also, cats can become withdrawn, aggressive, or clingy. Feline dementia has no treatment; the established therapy only aims to improve your cat’s quality of life. If your cat suffers from behavioral changes, schedule an appointment at the vet clinic.
Featured Image Credit: Alice Rodnova, Shutterstock