It’s normal for dogs and cats to settle down with age, just like people. So, when paw parents notice their furbabies are acting differently, it makes sense that many of them think their furbaby is just “getting old” – when in reality, they may have a disease called cognitive dysfunction. Prognosis for cognitive dysfunction is best when an early intervention is made. So it’s important that we know how to spot the signs.

What is cognitive dysfunction?

Cognitive dysfunction is believed to be a result of cumulative pathological changes in the brain. Dogs and cats with cognitive dysfunction show symptoms similar to human dementia.

Furbabies with cognitive dysfunction often:

  • have accidents (peeing and pooping in inappropriate places)
  • forget early trainings
  • seems confused
  • forget what they were doing
  • wander
  • get stuck behind the furniture, in the corner
  • more or less clingy
  • change in sleeping pattern
  • …etc


How do we diagnose cognitive dysfunction? 

Cognitive dysfunction is a very difficult condition to definitively diagnose because there are many other diseases that can mimic the clinical signs.

For example, if your senior furbaby is becoming more snappy, it’s possible that he has cognitive dysfunction. Or, he may have loss of sight and hearing from old age and you’re taking him by surprise. Or, he could also have arthritis and he’s experiencing chronic pain so he is in a bad mood all the time.

For this reason, definitive diagnosis of cognitive dysfunction is made by ruling out everything that could cause similar clinical signs. So, if you notice the above clinical signs in your furbaby, it’s best to talk to your veterinarian.

What can I do once my furbaby has cognitive dysfunction?????

First and the most important thing is to understand that they are your same old furbaby. They love you just as much as they did 5 years ago. But now, your furbaby needs a little help from you. They need you to be patient and love them just the same. If they make a mistake, understand that they’re more upset about it than you are.



It’s important to have a realistic expectation of the treatment. Cognitive dysfunction is not a disease that we can cure. Some furbabies respond very well to the treatment and they’re almost back to their normal self. But in some furbabies, the best we can do is to slow down the progression. This all depends on how severe the condition is, how long the disease has been going on for and the individual varieties.

Treatment of cognitive dysfunction is likely to involve a combination of medication, supplements, and environmental adjustments. Just like humans, every furbaby is different. So the treatment must be tailored to each baby for the best possible outcome!


Having a furbaby with cognitive dysfunction is like having a puppy. It’s a little bit scary and adjusting to their needs may be difficult at first. It’s so important that as pawparents, you don’t put too much on your shoulders. That’s why the My Vet team is here to support you! You’re likely to have lots of questions and don’t be shy to give us a buzz!

Dr Yuka Kozawa

Dr. Yuka Kozawa is a veterinarian at My Vet Animal Hospital. She’s your “vet next door” with super bubbly personality. She aims to make furbabies’ lives a little bit better with every visit to My Vet Animal Hospital. Dr. Yuka loves baking and is known for her artistic nature. She has a special interest in dog anxiety and arthritis.

Have questions?


Our team is here to help! Please complete the form below and a member of our team will get back to you as quickly as possible! If this is an urgent situation, please call us directly at (02) 8484 2020.

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