In my opinion our dogs and cats just don’t live long enough. To help them (and you) enjoy their golden years to the fullest there are a few signs you should be on the lookout for that can indicate your pet is developing Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS). This is a condition that is similar to dementia in people that results from deterioration of brain cells. The earlier one recognizes these signs, the sooner that you can start treatment and hopefully delay further progression.
Here are the five things that you should monitor your senior pet for:
- Changes in interactions between people and other pets
- Changes in sleep cycle such as waking up in the middle of the night
- Having accidents in the house
- Decrease in activity/slowing down
- Anxiety and altered response to stimuli
If you notice any of the above signs you should speak with your veterinarian right away. There is a medication called selegiline (Anipryl) that is labeled for CDS. I have found that starting this as early as possible is essential if you are going to see any results. I have had mixed reviews from my clients that have tried it, some feel it is a miracle drug while others are not impressed.
Apart from medication there is scientific data that shows omega-3 fatty acids and anti-oxidants such as vitamins E and C are extremely effective in warding off CDS. Hill’s Prescription Diets offers B/D, which has been specifically formulated to help senior pets stay sharp. Owners feeding this food reported at 74% decrease in house soiling accidents and a 61% increase in enthusiasm in greeting family members. If you don’t want to switch your pets diet you can consider a supplement like Senilife that is chock full of anti-oxidants geared towards brain health. This is also another example of how miraculous fish oil helps with yet another impairment.
Anxiety issues can be addressed with Adaptil or Feliway. These dog and cat specific products consist of a synthetic pheromone that lactating mothers produce to help soothe their young. There are impressive studies showing the effectiveness in reducing anxiety with the use of these products. At Friendship Hospital for Animals we are now applying Adaptil to bandanas that we put on dogs to help make their visit to the hospital a little less stressful.
Finally mental stimulation is essential in keeping our pets mind’s sharp. There are countless puzzles and toys out there that make your dog or cat think in order to receive a treat. You could also consider participating in agility or Rally-O trials with your dog. It is a great way to spend time together and challenge both of your brains to work a bit.
I hope these tips help you recognize the signs of CDS in your dog or cat and get you started on working to prevent further progression.
Ashley Gallagher, DVM