Is Your Dog Senile?
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
Symptoms of cognitive dysfunction in dogs
The symptoms for cognitive dysfunction vary from dog to dog. If your dog is showing any of these signs, it is important for you to make an appointment with the veterinarian to rule out other health problems.
Appears lost of confused in the yard or house
Gets “stuck” in corners or behind furniture
Stares into space or at walls
Has difficulty find the door
Does not recognize familiar people
Does not respond to verbal cues or name
Appears to forget reason for going outdoors
Decreased or Altered Response to Family Members
Solicits attention less
No longer stands for petting (walks away)
Less enthusiastic greeting
No longer greets owners
Abnormal Sleep/Wake Patterns
Sleeps more in a 24 hour day
Sleeps less during the night
Decrease in activity
Increase in wandering or pacing
Loss of Housetraining
Signals less to go outdoors
What You Can Do
If your dog is diagnosed with cognitive dysfunction, talk to your vet about options. He or she may suggest medication–there are pharmaceuticals that have shown success in treatment. However, holistic treatment has shown to be successful as well.
Holistic approaches include:
• Antioxidant treatment
• Supplements of omega-3 fatty acids
• B vitamin supplementation
• Mental stimulation including playing, walking, petting, and talking
• Extra attention and guidance during his daily activities
• Keep your yard fenced and to use a leash when walking your dog to minimize the risk of getting lost
• Try to avoid making any sudden changes to his surroundings or his daily activities in order to minimize confusion
• Lots of love and affection