Posted by Pet Honesty on

Advice From Dr. Lindsey: Cognitive Dysfunction

Table of Contents

Authored by: Dr. Lindsey, DVM

Cognitive dysfunction, also called doggie or kitty dementia, is a condition that is seen in our geriatric pets. Some signs of cognitive dysfunction can also arise from medical problems so it’s important to rule-out a medical cause first. There are many treatments that can help slow down these behavior changes.

Some signs of cognitive dysfunction include disorientation, changes in sleeping patterns, changes in interacting with people or other pets, anxiety, elimination problems, and memory problems. It’s very individualized to each pet what signs they show and how many signs they may have. A study in JAVMA found that the prevalence of cognitive dysfunction symptoms was 68% in 15-16 year old dogs. A study done in JAAHA showed 50% of cats 15 and older had cognitive dysfunction signs. It’s best to monitor for these signs as pets get older because treatment is more effective at slowing the changes earlier in the condition than later. There are several assessment tools on the internet to help evaluate if an owner is concerned about their geriatric pet.

There are several different treatment options available to try and slow these cognitive dysfunction behavior changes. As stated before, it’s important to rule-out any medical problems first that could cause these symptoms. Research is ongoing for treatments but there are prescription medications, diets, and supplements that can be beneficial. Talk to your veterinarian if your dog is experiencing any of these discomforts. 



-Neilson JC, Hart BL, Cliff KD, Ruehl WW. Prevalence of behavioral changes associated with age-related cognitive impairment in dogs. JAVMA 2001;218(11):1787-1791.

-Moffat KS, Landsberg GM. An investigation of the prevalence of clinical signs of cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS) in cats. JAAHA 2003;39(5):512.


Dr. Lindsey graduated from Colorado State University in 2009 and works in general practice, shelter medicine, and more recently as a civilian contractor veterinarian for the Army. She is also certified in acupuncture and resides in Palm Springs, CA.