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Dr Huw Stacey with his dog on the beach

Dr Huw Stacey with his dog on the beach

Vets4pets Campaign Raises Awareness Of Cognitive Dysfunction

3 months ago

5th April, 2022 09h23


A survey commissioned by Vets4Pets has revealed that more than one in four cat and dog owners do not know their pet can develop cognitive dysfunction syndrome.

The research was commissioned as part of a campaign to raise consumer awareness of the condition and help to improve early detection to help pet owners to better manage the condition.  

The study of 2,000 owners found many are unaware of early indicators such as confusion, anxiety, restlessness, and a decreased desire to play – and half would not be confident identifying these symptoms in their pet.

Almost two thirds (62 per cent) would put any significant behavioural changes in their pet down to them getting old, and more than three in five admitted they can find it difficult to understand the signs of when they should be taking their pet to visit the vet.

The study, which was conducted by marketing research company OnePoll, found asmany as a third have delayed taking their pet to the vet as they were worried they might get bad news. However, the results went on to reveal 35 per cent of pet owners have, or will, increase the number of routine visits to the vets as their pet gets older.  

Dr Huw Stacey, Director of Clinical Services at Vets4Pets said: “It is only natural that many pet owners can have apprehensions about bringing their pet along to the vets, which is just a testament to how much they care. But this is also why it’s incredibly important that we as an industry have the expertise and training needed to properly support pet owners with this diagnosis.

“As part of our commitment to the wellbeing of pets, we not only want to help pet owners feel more confident in knowing what symptoms to look out for, but also to enable the entire industry to access the latest insights into early detection and proper management of the condition.

“Our ultimate goal is to help educate vets and nurses across the nation and empower them in their decision making when diagnosing elderly pets, as well as helping pet owners to care for their pets so they live a longer, healthier and happier life.”

Research has shown that 28 per cent of cats between 11 and 15 years show at least one clinical sign of cognitive dysfunction, with this figure increasing to 50 per cent in cats over 15 years of age[1].

The prevalence in dogs is also reported to be significant, with some estimates indicating that 28 per cent of 11- to 12-year-old dogs and 68 per cent of 15- to 16-year-old dogs are showing clinical signs of the condition[2]. A 2010 study, which used data from pet owner questionnaires, also estimated that the prevalence of cognitive dysfunction was 14.2 per cent in dogs over the age of eight years, yet only 1.9 per cent of older dogs were clinically diagnosed with the condition[3].

Dr Huw Stacey added: “This very low rate of clinical detection is a challenge that we’re aiming to tackle with this campaign as we know that early intervention gives us the best chance of managing the condition and improving quality of life.”

As part of this campaign, Vets4Pets has recently sponsored a free CPD webinar to increase industry awareness of cognitive dysfunction syndrome in a bid to improve early detection and help pet owners to better manage the condition.

Hosted by Dr Sarah Heath, RCVS and European Veterinary Specialist in Behavioural Medicine, topics include ways in which the veterinary profession can improve the detection of this condition, enabling them to offer practical advice and support for senior pets and their owners.

According to Dr Sarah Heath, early detection is all about asking the right questions and in the webinar she discusses what practitioners should be asking pet owners to help identify the early indicators of the condition in older pets.

The recording consists of a 45-minute webinar and 15-minute Q&A session and is available for the whole industry to watch online for a year. It will also count as one hour of training towards RCVS Continuing Professional Development requirements.

To watch the webinar, visit:

[1] Gunn-Moore DA, Moffat K, Christie L-A, Head E. Cognitive dysfunction and the neurobiology of aging in cats. JSAP. 2007;48:546-553

2 Neilson JC, Hart BL, Cliff KD, Ruehl WW. Prevalence of behavioural changes associated with age-related cognitive impairment in dogs. JAVMA 2001;218(11):1787-1791

3 Salvin H E, McGreevy P D, Sachdev P S and Valenzuela M J (20120) Under diagnosis of canine cognitive dysfunction: a cross-sectional survey of older companion dogs Vet Journal 184 (3): 277-81

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