Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Pet Talk

March 23, 2012

'Doggie dementia' is possible

CNHI News Service —

Like people, dogs are susceptible to the negative effects of aging on the mind and body. Canine cognitive dysfunction or “doggie dementia” is a disorder similar to dementia in people.

“Signs for canine cognitive dysfunction include problems with learning, housetraining, awareness of surroundings, and problems with the wake/sleep cycle,” said Dr. Joseph Mankin, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.

“Dogs may also appear confused, have increased episodes of restlessness, and may have less interest in playing or appear irritable.”

Mankin says that cognitive dysfunction cases increase with age. About a third of dogs show one or more signs at the age of 11 and most dogs show signs of the dysfunction at the age of 16.

At this time, there is no breed predisposition. The only common indicating factor for dogs is the age.

If you feel your dog is showing signs of mind degeneration, visit with your veterinarian to learn more about possible diagnosis and treatment plans.

“The syndrome is diagnosed based on the patient’s clinical signs and activity/behavioral changes at home,” said Mankin. “There is not a specific test to diagnose the problem, although changes on advanced imaging of the brain can give some indication.”

“Treatment of cognitive dysfunction includes certain medications, environmental changes, and changes in diet,” explained Mankin. “With this syndrome, there may be an association with the lack of dopamine and there are medications that can increase dopamine activity that can help with a patient’s clinical signs.”

Diets high in antioxidants can also be beneficial for your pet’s treatment plan. Hills has a line of diet options.

Mankin recommends implementing increased activity among your dog to help slow the degenerative process.

“Environmental enrichment in the form of playing with toys, interacting with other dogs, and learning new tricks can be effective in lessening the signs of cognitive dysfunction,” added Mankin.

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