As our pets age they may exhibit changes in behavior and in appearance. Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS) which is similar to Alzheimer’s in humans, sometimes occurs in pets, particularly dogs.
Aging causes deposits of beta-amyloid, a protein plaque, to form between the nerve cells of the brain.
Some of the signs of CDS can be confusion, sleeping more, incontinence, lack of interest in surroundings, increased water consumption along with increased urination, joint pain, decreased appetite, slower on walks and indications of wanting to stop or go home, excessive panting, barking at odd times, staring into space, not responding normally, not recognizing their humans, loss of sight, deafness, and more.
If you notice any changes in your senior pet, s/he should have a complete examination at the veterinarian’s office to determine if CDS is present or there is an underlying disease. Diagnosis is made based on test results, age and symptoms.
Once other diseases are ruled out, there are things you can do to improve your pet’s life. Your pet’s condition may be helped by a drug called Anipryl (selegiline) which increases the amount of dopamine in the brain and improves alertness, memory and brain function. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that connects thought and action. If your pet is taking other medications and supplements and you are using flea and tick preparations, tell your veterinarian so that s/he can determine if the medication is safe for your pet.
There are supplements and diets that can be effective – Vitamins E and C; antioxidants such as beta carotene, selenium, alpha-lipoic acid; flavonoids and carotenoids from fruits and vegetables; Omega 3 to maintain brain function; L-carnitine necessary for cell survival. Always consult your vet as to which supplements and their doses are appropriate for your pet.
Play games with your pet. Offer new toys that give enrichment. Exercise your pet taking into account his/her physical condition. Interacting with your pet helps keep the brain active and certainly keeps your pet happy.