Traditionally, the acronym DISHA has been used to describe the signs associated with cognitive dysfunction. DISHA refers to Disorientation, Interactions that have been altered between pets and their family members or other pets, Sleep-wake cycle changes, House soiling, and Activity Level changes. With further research into brain aging in dogs and cats, behaviorists have recognized additional signs associated with cognitive dysfunction. An updated list of signs associated with cognitive dysfunction includes:
Such as getting lost in familiar areas, not recognizing familiar people, and going to the wrong side of the door.
Social interactions might be altered between the pet and owner or pet and other pets; some pets may appear to be more clingy, while others might be disinterested or even irritable when petted or approached.
Your pet may sleep more during the day, wake at night, or have irregular sleep-wake cycles. The acronym DISHA has been used to describe the signs associated with cognitive dysfunction.
Pets begin to soil in areas where they were previously unlikely to soil, including indoors or unusual places outdoors; dogs may stop signaling when they need to eliminate.
Initially, there may be an overall decrease in activity levels or a decreased interest in play. However, with increasing age, some pets become more active in that they are restless, cannot settle, wander aimlessly, or develop repetitive behaviors such as licking.
An increase in anxiety and agitation, which might be expressed as vocalization, newly emerging fears, or phobias, or becoming more clingy and overly dependent on owners.
Recent research has shown that there is indeed a decline in memory and learning as dog's age and that in controlled neuropsychological tests that determine the pet’s ability to find hidden food, a loss of memory or learning ability may begin several years before clinical signs are obvious. Although there are not yet any standardized memory and learning tests for pets, you should be aware of any change in behaviors that might indicate that your pet is unable to do the tasks that it has been previously taught. Also, realize that when things change in the household or the pet’s schedule, your aging pet cannot adapt or learn as quickly as in the past. Although these may be signs of brain aging, they may also be signs of other medical problems and should therefore be reported to your veterinarian as soon as they are noticed.