Margaret C. Saiki, D.V.M.,
Over 20 Years of Experience!
Former Medical Director
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Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome In the older Dog and Cat

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 Margaret Saiki


This blog is an introduction to the diagnosis of Cognitive Dysfunctions Syndrome in Dogs and Cats. Subsequent blogs will cover treatment options.

Research has shown that, as with most other mammals, dog and cats show age related brain pathology. In fact the Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome in dogs and cats parallels early Alzheimer disease in humans. It is the gradual decline in cognitive brain function.


Classical Clinical Signs of CDS: DISHAAL

D isorientation

I nteractions between owner and pet are altered

S leep-wake cycle disturbances

H ouse soiling

A ctivity changes- Increased/ Repetitive

A ctivity- Decreased/ apathy, depressed

L earning and Memory are decreased


The most common clinical behavioral signs are anxiety, night waking and vocalization in the dog. Vocalization (especially at night) and house soiling in the cat. 




CDS must be differentiated from other Medical problems.

 As pets age they experience more medical problems. Many of these diseases exhibit the same behavioral signs. Therefore before diagnosis and treatment of CDS can occur only other medical problems must be eliminated as a diagnosis.


Medical Causes of Behavioral Signs

Table taken from Veterinary Clinics, Vol 42, No.4, July 2012, pg762gnosis.

     Medical Causes of behavior signs table



 CDS in dogs and cats occur as pets brains age. The acronym DISHAAL is used to remind us of the clinical behavioral signs seen. They include disorientation, alterations in social interactions, sleep-wake cycles, elimination habits, activity changes and anxiety. However other medical problems can cause these same behaviors and must be diagnosed and ruled out first before treatment can be institutued. My next blog with cover some of the current therapies for CDS. If you would like to have an evaluation of your older pet for this problem in the comfort of your pet's home please call our veterinary house call practice.


Articles of Interest

Cognitive Dysfunction in the older dog and cat: Treatment Part I

 Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome In the older Dog and Cat Part II: Therapy



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