Pet owners frequently complain of age related problems with their older pets. Common complaints are house training issues, memory loss, confusion, disorientation, panting, drooling, wandering, night pacing and other sleep disturbances , obsessive licking and other conditions. These behaviours usually start gradually and many times owners do not notice them until they are quite severe.
How common is this syndrome? Approximately 30 % of all 11 year old dogs have this condition and 100% of all 16 year old dogs are affected. Studies have shown that dogs affected with this condition have amyloid protein deposits in their brains just like those found in the brains of humans with Alzheimer’s Disease. Cognitive dysfunction is also associated with low levels of dopamine –a neurotransmitter– in the brain.
Treatments for Canine Cognitive Dysfunction can include medications, herbals, dietary changes and modification of the environment. Conventional practitioners will often reach for L-Deprenyl or Anipryl to help these pets. L-Deprenyl reduces the free radicals in the brain and helps the dopamine to stay around longer. This is effective in about 70% of dogs and the earlier it is started the better. Melatonin can be used for sleep or anxiety disorders in this syndrome. Chinese herbal therapies and acupuncture can also be quite helpful.
Dietary supplements with Omega 3 Fatty Acids, Coenzyme Q 10 and antioxidant vitamins are also recommended. A good natural diet, homemade and full of colourful vegetables is essential. Environmental enrichment has been shown to help these dogs as well. Grooming and petting, teaching new tricks, varying routes during walks, playing with toys and playing with other dogs are all things you can do to help improve your old dog’s life. In fact diet changes and enrichment are the two most effective tools in treatment, more effective than any medication, so a recent study has shown.