Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (Senility in Dogs)
Veterinarian Reviewed on January 20, 2013 by Dr. Janice Huntingford
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 behaviors 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 Senility
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. Here is the link to one from our sister site, Natural Wellbeing: http://www.naturalwellbeing.com/products/melatonin. I like this product because it is a liquid and easy to give to the dog. It has vegetable glycerin base and so is safe for dogs. The dose is 1 ml in the evening. L-theanine is another natural product that can be used. It should be available from your local health food store. 100 to 200 mg is the dose depending on dog size. Chinese herbal therapies and acupuncture can also be quite helpful. You would of course need to seek out a veterinary acupuncturist.
Dietary supplements with Omega 3 Fatty Acids, Coenzyme Q 10 and antioxidant vitamins are also recommended. A good, balanced,natural diet, homemade or otherwise is essential. Adding colorful fruits and vegetables, if your dog can tolerate them, is very important.
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 the treatment of canine cognitive disfunction, more effective than any medication, so a recent study has shown.
By doing some of these simple things you can help your dog learn to manage his old age. Be sure to contact your veterinarian if you are concerned about this problem in your older dog.
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Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan