Cognitive dysfunction is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder. It affects 14.2% of older dogs over 8 years of age. In cats, 28% aged 11 to 14 years develop one geriatric-onset behaviour problem. This increases to over 50% in cats 15 years of age and older. Detection of cognitive dysfunction in cats and dogs is by observation of clinical behavioural signs, often thought to be a normal part of ageing. Early recognition is crucial. Signs detected early are treatable or temporarily reversible.
This literature review focused on areas the veterinary nurse could influence in practice such as detection of behavioural signs and advice on diet, behaviour management and enrichment.
Results showed dietary and nutritional supplements as well as behavioural and environmental enrichment alongside medication can slow progression of cognitive dysfunction predominately in dogs. Regular screening of older pets and education of owners by veterinary nurses can help with early detection and referral to a veterinary surgeon. Future research should focus on further development of standardised, validated screening tools and management protocols.