We know that dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, which is a common form, threaten people’s minds. But it seems that unfortunately, there is an analogue in older dogs. What are the worrying symptoms and how can we help the elderly dog
Some dogs, advanced in age, show sudden confusion, change in behavior and begin to lose contact with the environment, but also with their people.
These are just some of the signs of cognitive impairment: brain degeneration.
A condition that makes the dog’s life difficult.
Then the dog is in dire need of the support of its owner / guardian. Unfortunately, there is no cure.
However, we can slow down the disease and make tonic “injections” in the dog.
Positive dog trainer VSA-CDT, Angelika Herra, informs us about the relevant condition and how we can keep the dog’s mind alert.
“Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD) in dogs is a progressive degenerative process in their brain.
If a guardian observes and knows his dog well, he will notice in time the change in behavior, mood and, in general, the daily routine of his pet.
This condition has many features in common with the well-known degenerative Alzheimer’s disease.
Gradual cognitive impairment affects a dog’s ability to learn, memory, but also the general behavior of various stimuli, or even persons familiar to him.
Although science has not determined the exact cause of this disease, according to veterinarian Dr. Gurpal Chahal In remote Vancouver, Canada, there are some factors that contribute to the degeneration of brain function, such as:
● chronic stress, or other chronic condition
● the reduction of neurons over the years
● the deposition of toxic free radicals
● the reduction of blood circulation to the brain
● the reduced capacity of neurotransmitters in old age
● the destruction of neurons by toxic free radicals
The age at which we can detect the first signs of possible cognitive impairment can not be accurately determined, as it varies from dog to dog.
Usually, guardians who closely observe their dog are able to distinguish some indicative signs, even from the age of seven.
About 50% of dogs have some symptoms by the age of 11.
Symptoms of cognitive impairment
The most common symptoms that a dog may have are:
1. sleep disorders, e.g. confusion at night and drowsiness during the day
2. disorientation in already known areas for the dog
3. change in the dog’s behavior with relatives and / or other animals that live with him (eg less interaction with them or aggressive behavior)
4. general abnormal inclιφορά -από τη συνηθισμένη- και μείωση της διάθεσης για φαγητό ή παιχνίδι
5. strong attachment to a fixed object or point in space
6. anxiety, difficulty resting and constant or repetitive mobility without a specific cause
7. difficulty communicating with the guardian due to inability to respond to various orders. Gives the feeling that the dog is deaf – there may be a reduced sense of hearing in an older dog
8. urination or defecation accidents in the home, even though he is trained.
I personally experienced some of the above symptoms with one of my half-bred dogs. He was quite old, between 14 and 17 years old.
Spiky was startled when someone approached him, as he could not notice him. He slept during the day even in unusual parts of the house.
He went to his water many times, drinking again and again, without having any pathological problem.
Still, Spiky enjoyed smelling games, even playing with his favorite tennis ball. Spiky had a quality of life in old age, but also longevity, after he “left” from sleep deprivation at the age of over 17 years.
As there are no specific tests to diagnose cognitive impairment, veterinarians usually recommend haematological, neurological, and radiological tests to rule out other diseases with similar symptoms, such as hearing or vision loss, arthritis, kidney and kidney problems. or even signs of separation anxiety.
How can we slow down cognitive dysfunction?
Fortunately, there are several ways to slow down cognitive impairment, as this condition is irreversible, in order to ensure the maximum possible quality of life in our old dog.
An important role in stimulating and stimulating the function of the brain plays the mental activity of our dog.
Through mental engagement, either with scent games, or interactive puzzle games or snuffle mats for dogs, even playing hide and seek with it, the health of the brain is shielded and new cells are created.
In the context of this activity is the activity of our dog to look for his food in the house, with which, at the same time, he does gentle physical exercise.
So, instead of offering our dog’s meal in the “boring” bowl, we can place it in a special employment game or in cardboard boxes, or wrap it in paper and hide it in various parts of the house.
Our dog will gladly use his hunting skills in order to reach his goal.
We take care not to make radical changes to the arrangement of furniture in our space, so as to facilitate the movement of our dog. We can also place water bowls in more rooms for easier access.
For dogs that do not have any other pathological inhibitory factor, agility is also an excellent activity. Enhances teamwork and the special relationship between guardian and dog.
All of the above contribute to the health of a dog’s brain, sharpening its cognitive skills in problem solving.
Exercise is also essential at any age. It contributes to the secretion of dopamine and serotonin, thus causing feelings of pleasure and reducing stress.
It is usually recommended that older dogs go for more frequent and shorter walks.
Of course, when we walk an elderly dog, we pay double attention.
We make sure to be with him constantly, so as to eliminate the possibility of him getting lost. A
dog with a cognitive impairment will have a frightening experience if it loses its familiar environment.
Another way to treat the disease is proper nutrition and nutritional supplements. Always in consultation with our veterinarian.
A dog food rich in vitamin B6, antioxidants, amino acids and fish oils rich in Ω3 fatty acids (EPA & DHA) has a beneficial role in brain health.
Also herbal supplements, such as ginkgo with anti-inflammatory action and choline which helps to create neurotransmitters.
There are also clinical foods with ingredients specialized for dogs and shielding their health during the aging process.
If we know all of the above and listen to our dog’s behavior at every stage of his life, then we are able to detect and delay the worsening of cognitive dysfunction in time: through a holistic approach and always in collaboration with the veterinarian and the positive trainer – behavioral counselor.
Our dog deserves to have a quality of life until old age. And it is our responsibility to offer it to him in the best possible way.
And remember that: “you can teach an old dog new tricks!”.
▪Ms. Angelika Herra is a VSA-CDT Positive Trainer, a Certified Member of the Doggone Safe (Dog Bite safety Educator) and the head of the ACG Alumni Stray Action Committee. He also participates voluntarily in animal welfare activities.
● The Secret Language of Dogs, Victoria Stilwell