“Cats and Dogs Can Develop Dementia: Recognizing Signs and Providing Support for Your Beloved Pets”

by Lisa

Sullivan, affectionately known as Sully, a Boston terrier, exhibited peculiar behavior when he turned 9. He began soiling the house, circling the kitchen island aimlessly, and barking at seemingly nothing.

Initially, his owner, Bridget Allen, attributed these behaviors to normal aging. However, a pivotal moment occurred when Sully failed to return home from a nearby familiar wooded area. Allen’s son discovered him wandering near a stream, disheveled and displaying signs of confusion.


A short time later, Sully fell off the bed while sleeping and urinated on the floor. Allen, a retired high school English teacher from Caledonia, Mich., vividly recalled, “Something wasn’t right.”


Upon consulting her veterinarian, it was suggested that Sully might be suffering from what could be described as “classic” dementia. Allen shared her shock, saying, “I felt like I had been kicked in the gut. I had no idea that dogs could develop dementia.”


Stephanie McGrath, Associate Professor of Neurology at Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, underscores, “We all know that Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias are among the most common conditions humans can encounter as they age. What people don’t realize is that our pets — dogs and cats — can get it, too, and it’s probably also very common.”


While the precise prevalence of dementia in companion animals remains uncertain, experts agree that it is vastly underreported. Estimates suggest that anywhere from 14 to 35 percent of pet dogs aged 8 and above may be affected, according to one study. Another study indicates that nearly one-third of cats between 11 and 14 years old and a staggering 50 percent of cats aged 15 and older may experience symptoms of dementia. However, many experts believe these figures might be conservative.

Gary Landsberg, a Canadian veterinary behaviorist and the Veterinary Scientific Director of CanCog, an animal health research organization, emphasizes, “This is highly, highly underreported. Owners need to realize that signs might be mild or subtle, so they might not have any concerns about them.”

Recognizing and addressing dementia in pets is a crucial aspect of ensuring their well-being as they age. Stay tuned for expert insights on identifying signs and supporting pets through this challenging condition.


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