25 June 2013

Feline Senile Dementia { Cognitive Dysfunction } In Cats

cat senile dementia

Feline Senile Dementia { Cognitive Dysfunction } In Cats : Just as in humans the behaviour patterns of cats will change as they get older. Young kittens will play all day just as young children will laugh all day but as humans and cats get older we get more serious and settled. In most cases this is just normal and a part of feline life but in some cases dramatic changes in behaviour can be noted in older cats. More and more often now this is being classified as a disease condition called cognitive dysfunction. This similar to senile dementia in the person and indeed is sometimes referred to as feline senile dementia.

So if this turns out to be the diagnosis what symptoms would you expect to see? These would be vary variable but could include decreased activity levels and a lack of interest in life, less playing for example. Also consider excessive crying, distress for no reason, and unusual aggression in an previously friendly cat. Lack of familiarity with the layout of their normal environment can sometimes occur as well.

Diagnosis : How is the disease diagnosed? There is no one specific diagnostic test and diagnosis rests on excluding other diseases which could present with similar symptoms. These disease would include brain tumours, infections such as meningitis, toxoplasmosis or even rabies. Sometimes hyperthroidism can lead to behavioural changes as can kidney disease. Some poisons such as lead poisoning can present like this and also consider thiamine deficiency in the diet. If the normal diseases which can cause these symptoms are excluded then there would be a strong possibility you would be dealing with cognitive dysfunction.

Treatment : How is the disease treated? At present there is only one treatment likely to be of much use in my opinion, Anipryl. This drug is currently only licensed for treatment of this disease in dogs but it can be used “ off label “ with your vet’s cooperation.

Discussion : I am sure the above is a fairly accurate representation of cognitive dysfunction in the cat however there are two further points to get over. One being that whatever happens there is no cure for cognitive dysfunction or indeed for plain old age and it’s consequences, however drugs like Anipryl could possibly help make your cat more comfortable for a while and provide a remission period.

The other point is that to come to a reasonably certain diagnosis you would have to run a battery of tests to eliminate the other possible diseases which mimic cognitive dysfunction. In some cases owners would wonder if it was worth putting their already frail and confused cat through all that. That sort of decision marks the difference between a cold competent clinician and a vet that likes animals ….  Just my view.

Further Reading : 

Cornell Feline Health Center : LINK

Apparent Senility In Geriatric Cats : LINK