By Melissa Breyer, Senior Editor, Healthy & Green Living
Did you know that older dogs can exhibit signs of dementia just like older adults do? As your dog ages, you may find him appearing lost or confused in familiar surroundings, wandering aimlessly, seeming disoriented, or showing decreased responsiveness–among other symptoms. Although these signs can be caused by other undiagnosed health problems, in the end many dogs are diagnosed with cognitive dysfunction. Although this might just sound like a fancy name for old age, when the brains of dogs diagnosed with this disorder are autopsied, there are changes in the brain tissue very similar to what is seen in humans with Alzheimer’s. What they find is the deposition of amyloid plaques in the cerebral cortex and hippocampal part of the brain; alterations in neurotransmitters, including dopamine; increased levels of monoamine oxidase B (MAOB) in the brain; and increased levels of free radicals
It’s important to note that these signs may be caused by other undiagnosed health problems in your dog including thyroid disease and arthritis, so the first step when your dog exhibits one of these behaviors is to have him seen by his veterinarian for a full physical and blood work.
Not all dogs exhibit all symptoms, and some may simply show odd behavior, such as agitation or barking for no apparent reason. The clinical symptoms of cognitive dysfunction are progressive and will eventually impair the dog. Interestingly, the rate of dogs affected at 10 years old, 12 years old, or 14 years old, mirrors the age-related demographic for cognitive dysfunction in humans.
Next: Symptoms and what you can do