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FAQ: Can Older Pets Go Senile?

With pets living longer these days, pet dementia is becoming more common. Like humans, pets experience age-related changes in their brain function as they grow older. Furthermore, some pets may be genetically predisposed to developing dementia or other neurological conditions.

It’s important to note that not all pets will develop dementia or brain ageing, and some pets may be more susceptible to the condition than others. Early diagnosis and intervention can help slow down the progression of the disease and improve your pet’s quality of life.


By the time your dog reaches the age of 14, she or he has a 40 per cent chance of developing Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD).

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD), also known as canine dementia or senility, is a progressive neurological disorder that affects ageing dogs. It is similar to Alzheimer's disease in humans and is characterised by a decline in cognitive function, memory loss, and changes in behaviour.

Signs and Symptoms

Early signs of CCD can include:

  • Sleep disturbances

  • Generalised anxiety

  • Inappropriate vocalisation (howling, barking or whining)

  • Repetitive behaviour, such as pacing

  • Staring at walls

  • Fewer social interactions

  • Disorientation and getting lost


There is currently no cure for dementia in dogs but there are some nutritional aids such as antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids that can be administered to help potentially delay brain changes as your dog ages. It's also important to keep your dog mentally engaged with games, interactive toys and gentle exercises.


With cats living well into their late teens and early twenties, it’s not unusual to notice behavioural changes as your kitty ages.

Signs and Symptoms

The early signs of cat dementia can be subtle and difficult to detect. Some of the most common signs of dementia in cats to look out for include:

  • Disorientation and confusion

  • Changes in sleeping patterns

  • Decreased activity level

  • Increased irritability

  • Loss of litter box training - urinating and defecating outside the litter box

  • Vocalisation - meowing loudly or crying for no apparent reason

  • Changes in appetite. Cats with dementia may lose interest in food or forget when they last ate, leading to weight loss or malnutrition.


There is no cure for dementia in cats, but there are treatments available to help manage the symptoms and slow down the progression of the disease. Treatment plans are usually tailored to the individual needs of the cat and may include:

  • A well-balanced and nutritious diet to help improve brain function. A diet that is high in antioxidants and essential fatty acids can help protect the brain from damage.

  • Environmental enrichment to help stimulate your cat's cognitive function and keep them engaged. This may include providing toys and puzzles, creating safe spaces for them to explore, and interacting with them regularly.

  • A daily routine and structure which can help reduce confusion and anxiety in cats with dementia. This may include feeding them at the same time each day, providing regular play and exercise, and maintaining a consistent sleep-wake cycle.

It’s important to note that while treatment can help manage the symptoms of dementia in cats, it cannot reverse the damage that has already been done to the brain. Early intervention is key to slowing down the progression of the disease and improving your cat’s quality of life.


Early diagnosis and treatment can help slow down the progression of the disease and improve your pet’s quality of life. If you notice changes in your pet's behaviour as they age, it's important to speak to our vets who will rule out other medical issues with your pet before diagnosing dementia.

To book a consultation please call us on (03) 9568 2211 or book online.


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