Dr Angus McCurdie
Losing Your Marbles - the Canine Way!
Like Alzheimer’s disease in humans, senile dementia or ‘cognitive dysfunction’ can affect any senior pet. The condition is often not noticed in its early stages, but is slowly progressive.
Initially there may be subtle changes in a pet’s response to their environment. They may get disorientated on walks and not respond to commands. This progresses to a loss of learnt behaviour such as toilet training, resulting in puppy like accidents in the house.
A pets’ day/night cycles may also be disturbed. So will those of their owners, as their geriatric pet enthusiastically requests dinner and a walk at 3am and then sleeps all day. This problem is thought to result from a decrease in brain size, an increase in chemical deposits in the brain, an increase in destructive free radicals and reduced blood flow to the brain.
This syndrome cannot be cured but there are many interventions that may slow its progress. Mental stimulation and physical exercise (within the pet’s abilities) can help delay onset and slow progress. So play away with your old dog!
Medications that increase blood supply to the brain and decrease the destructive free radicals are available. These can help an animal become more active and aware. Sleeping pills and antidepressants may also be indicated to help anxious insomniacs. Homeopathic and natural remedies such as ‘Rescue Remedy’ may also help to reduce anxiety and aid sleep. A diet supplemented with antioxidants such as vitamin E &C, omega 3 fatty acids, fruits and vegetables is thought to help.
Dogs with cognitive dysfunction are elderly and therefore susceptible to many other medical conditions. Regular veterinary checks can help detect concurrent illness. So if your old dog can’t learn new tricks, talk to us at Glenelg Vet as we may be able to help!