Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (Senility)
Older dogs and cats can show signs of cognitive dysfunction, similar to senility or Alzheimer’s in humans. As many as 25% of dogs at the beginning of their older years (ages 11-12), and approx 100% by age 15 or 16, show signs of this disease. Signs that your pet (dog or cat) may be affected include:
- Urinary or Fecal ‘accidents’ in the house (loss of housetraining)
- Problems with memory/Confusion
- Difficulty in recognizing and reacting to human family members
- Loss of sense of direction/Disorientation
- Staring at seemingly nothing
- Getting stuck in corners
- Sleep disturbances (waking at an abnormal time, night pacing, or sleeping very deeply)
- Barking at seemingly nothing
- Separation anxiety
- Obsessive licking
- Selective or Loss of hearing
There are ways we can manage and slow the progression of this disease.
- Environmental enrichment is a big factor. Teaching new tricks or running through old tricks will keep your animal mentally active. Also, new toys that present a fun challenge or mental stimulation help, as well as daily physical interactions with family members. Exercise also helps.
- Dietary Changes – along with environmental enrichment, adding some key brain-friendly supplements to the diet can make the biggest difference to a pet showing signs of cognitive decline. Key supplements include antioxidants, medium chain triglycerides and omega-3 fatty acids to improve Cognitive function. You could notice a change in your animal in as little as 2 to 6 weeks.
- Medications – there are drugs that have been shown to help some animals, and may be worth a try when an animal is showing signs of cognitive decline.