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Altered Mental State

Altered Mental State

Altered mental state describes changes in the mental state, perhaps resulting in confusion, sleep-like state or lack of control over emotions. Changes in behavior and mental state are often a sign that something is wrong with your cat or dog. There are a variety of causes that can influence the mental state of your pet, such as infections or stress. In case of continuous altering mental states, it is advised to consult a veterinarian to determine the cause.

How to Recognize

If your dog or cat is exhibiting mental behavior that deviates from his or her normal awake behavior, then you are witnessing an altered mental status. There are a host of conditions and triggers that can affect pets and mental health. Once a veterinarian is able to determine whether the alteration in mental state is the result of a psychological or physiological condition, proper treatment can be sought to stabilize your pet’s overall well-being. Mental health dogs and cats may show signs of confusion, stupor, loss of consciousness, frenzied anxiety or dementia-like behavior. Transient bouts of altered mental capacity occur in pets that go through seizures. Such behavior may present as a fit that may include vocalizations while paddling with the paws. Frenzied behavior, extreme pacing, tail-chasing, snapping at flies that may or may not actually be present and standing with the head against the wall while seeming to stare at it for prolonged periods all constitute some form of altered mental health status.

Causes of Altered Mental State

Mental health dogs and cats can experience such behaviors as the result of disease that affects any part of the brain, trauma to the brain, metabolic diseases and drug toxicity. Diseases that alter blood viscosity can adversely affect pets and mental health. Mental health cats can show temporary changes in their mental state when exposed to catnip.


If you ever notice unusual behavior in your pet that he has never carried out before, have him evaluated by a veterinarian. In addition to thoroughly reviewing the medical history of your dog or cat, the veterinarian will take a history of your pet's activities prior to the unusual behavior. He will proceed with a physical examination, check your pet’s neurological reflexes and evaluate blood pressure. If the described unusual behavior sounds like a seizure, blood tests may be run to rule out epilepsy. Blood panels will check organ function and blood cell counts to rule out metabolic diseases and evaluate blood viscosity. Once these conditions have been ruled out, a diagnostic imaging scan of the brain and an analysis of the cerebrospinal fluid may be recommended.

Similar Symptoms

Mental health cats and dogs suffer from psychological conditions that can also result in changed behavior, including compulsive disorders and separation anxiety. While these conditions typically do not result in seizure activity or loss of consciousness, they may produce some of the other symptoms that are seen in pets that suffer from changed mental states. Such signs include excessive pacing, compulsive licking or grooming, persistent vocalization, excessive panting or drooling and tail chasing.

Possible Conditions

The following are some neurological conditions that can cause changes in behavior in mental health dogs and cats: Brain tumors and other cancers that have metastasized into the brain, Epilepsy, Encephalitis, Hydrocephalus, Trauma to the brain or spinal column, and Degenerative cognitive dysfunction (senility). Blood tests will rule out some potential metabolic conditions and blood disorders that can incite changes in mental status in mental health cats and dogs: Diabetes, Hypoglycemia, Kidney disease, Liver disease, Hypothyroidism, Polycythemia, Hyperlipidemia, and Leukemia. Other potential causes for changes in mental state include dietary thiamine deficiency and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

Treatment for Altered Mental State

Treatment for mental health cats and dogs depends on the cause of mental changes. If a metabolic disease is confirmed, then treatment is aimed at curing or regulating the disease. Drug therapy will be helpful for some conditions, such as epilepsy and hypertension. If a brain condition is suspected, consultation with a board-certified veterinary neurologist will be recommended. Treating pets and mental health may require behavior modification techniques and drug therapy in cases of compulsive disorders or anxiety.

Pet Insurance

When adding a dog or cat to your family you want to make sure your pet is happy, healthy and protected. During its lifetime your pet is exposed to many illnesses and diseases and some breeds are affected by a congenital disease which is a condition existing at birth. At these moments when your pet is ill or maybe needs surgery, you want to be protected for the unexpected and high veterinarian costs.

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