Watching someone you love experiencing symptoms of impaired mental function is never easy. As our pets age, they’re more likely to begin showing symptoms of cognitive dysfunction, so it’s important that we know what to look out for. If early diagnosis and proper intervention are acted on early, it could mean the difference in keeping your senior pet’s mind sharp well into their golden years. Learn to recognize the following signs of cognitive dysfunction in your pet:


  • Disorientation — Your pet may get stuck behind furniture or doors, have difficulty getting around objects, fail to recognize familiar people or pets, or get lost in your home or yard. 
  • Interaction — Your pet may display a decreased interest in socializing and interacting with your family and become irritable or aggressive with visitors, other animals, or familiar family members. 
  • Sleep-wake cycles — One of the most common complaints of cognitive dysfunction is an off-balance sleep-wake cycle. These pets are typically restless, will pace or continually wake up, and may excessively vocalize throughout the night.
  • House-soiling, learning, and memory — Your pet may be less likely to respond to previously learned commands or their name and suffer from decreased focus and increased distraction. You may also notice inappropriate elimination issues if your pet forgets their previous house training. 
  • Activity — One change in pets that is commonly confused as an old-age problem is a decreased desire to play or exercise. Pets may also display repetitive behaviors, such as circling, chewing, licking, or pacing.
  • Anxiety — Pets with cognitive dysfunction may exhibit increased anxiety when separated from their owners and be more fearful of visual or auditory stimuli. 


Commonly referred to as DISHAA, this acronym of cognitive dysfunction signs will help you spot changes in your pet sooner, allowing for more effective treatment. 


Early prevention and careful monitoring are key to providing your pets with the appropriate relief to maintain their quality of life. If you’re unsure about your pet’s mental health status, give us a call to schedule a behavioral assessment to see if your companion has developed cognitive dysfunction.