(Based on imformation by Lisa Radosta, DVM, DACVB)
Dog Dementia or Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD), is an age-related neurobehavioral syndrome leading to a decline in cognitive function that can be devastating to the pet -owner bond.
Dog Dementia or CCD , is more common as Companion animals are living longer. Roughly 14.7% are older than 11 years. Canine Cognitive Dysfunction accompies increasing age. The incidence of cognitive dysfunction increases with age.
Unfortunately, Canine Cognitive Dysfunction is rarely reported to the veterinarian., and so is often missed . Often, owners incorrectly assume that nothing can be done to alter the CCD or doggy dimentia.
Some signs of cognitive dysfunction in dogs are
- interaction changes
- sleep/activity changes,
- breakdown in housetraining
- anxiety and aggression
- indifference, and less playing.
Canine cognitive dysfunction can be diagnosed if there is geriatric onset behavior problems which are not accounted for by medical conditions. It is generally a disease of dogs over 10 years old, and is progressive.
Treatment for cognitive dysfunction
Behavior modification, management changes, safety recommendations and medication.
Anipryl - selegiline - is a selective MAO-B inhibitor and effecteve approved for use in canine cognitive dysfunction. It can restore the sleep/wake cycle and help to slow the progression of cognitive dysfunction.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can be used to treat the anxiety and aggression which may accompany cognitive dysfunction like fluoxitine or Prozac, . In general, SSRIs have fewer side effects than selegiline, but still should be used with caution in animals with hepatic or renal impairment.
Nutritional therapy for dogs with signs of cognitive dysfunction. Canine b/d™ (Hills) diet has an antioxidant package which has been shown to improve age-related behavioral changes and learning ability in older dogs by limiting cellular damage in the brain.
Nutraceuticals can be helpful in the treatment of cognitive dysfunction. SAM-e has been shown in a double-blinded, placebo controlled study to be effective in alleviating the signs of cognitive dysfunction. Senilife® (Ceva) contains phosphatidylserine, pyridoxine, gingko biloba, resveratrol and Vitamin E. In general, the claims for this product include: increased blood flow, neuronal protection, brain metabolism and glucose consumption. In addition, it modulates the dopaminergic and cholinergic system. It has been shown to be effective in the treatment of CDS and can work in dogs within 7 days.
L-arginine is a semi-essential amino acid which in the brain is oxidized to nitric oxide gas. The gas can defuse rapidly from cell to cell and appears to be one of the chemical messengers involved in learning and memory. Essential fatty acids have been shown to reduce brain inflammation and have positive effects on cognition, mood and aggression. Medium chain triglycerides (MCT) are converted in the brain to ketones which can be used as an alternative source of energy for the brain. In dogs, certain MCTs have been shown to improve cognition.
The general behavior modification treatment plan for dogs with cognitive dysfunction includes environmental enrichment, increased mental stimulation, structured interactions with the owners, institution of a predictable routine and retraining certain behaviors. In addition, any other specific behavioral diagnoses should be treated. In order to make interactions more predictable, owners should use the dog’s verbal cues when communicating with him and alert him (with a word, sound or light signal) when they are going to touch him. Older dogs may be startled easily due to visual, hearing or orthopedic impairment causing them to act out aggressively or become fearful of everyday events. If the older dog is starting to act out aggressively, precautions should be taken to separate him from children or others who may instigate aggression while treatment is initiated.
As dogs live longer, the likelihood of age-related behavior problems increases. With treatment of underlying medical problems and behavioral problems, the quality of life of our geriatric canine friends can be improved tremendously.