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Cognitive Dysfunction in Dogs – Symptoms are Common with Alzheimer’s Disease


Cognitive Dysfunction and Your DogCognitive dysfunction in dogs are real. As veterinary medicine improves so pets are living longer and many dogs now live well into their teens. However, with increased age comes a greater chance of acquiring cognitive dysfunction. To a large extent the words “cognitive dysfunction” are interchangeable with “senility” and the symptoms have a lot in common with Alzheimer’s disease.

Does My Dog have Cognitive Dysfunction?


Around 50% of dogs over the age of 10-years old show some signs of cognitive dysfunction. The common thread in the symptoms is a loss of mental sharpness which is shown in a number of ways.

In the early stages confusion and memory lapses happen such as forgetting simple tricks. The dog’s sleep cycle changes with him sleeping for longer over a 24-hour period, but waking more at night.

A dog with cognitive dysfunction barks for no reason and wanders aimlessly in the house. He has a short attention span and may not recognize family members. Some dogs forget their house training and start to soil where they shouldn’t. Others get so confused they get trapped behind familiar furniture, and they go to the non-opening side of the door when they want to go outside.

What Causes Cognitive Dysfunction?


Dogs with DementiaIt is thought that the same process affects the canine brain as the human brain, indeed dogs have been studied as a model for Alzheimer’s in people. The disease involves a combination of protein deposits in the nervous system and the thinning of the insulation around nerves, which causes the brain to send out jumbled signals.

If you suspect cognitive dysfunction in your dog, get him checked by a veterinarian. There is an overlap of symptoms between cognitive dysfunction and common old age problems. For example, a dog that has recently gone blind may seem confused, and diabetes or kidney disease can cause increased thirst with a breakdown in house training.

However, if your pet is diagnosed with cognitive dysfunction do not despair because a few simple actions can improve his quality of life.


Home Help


Your dog won’t cope well with change. Now is not the time to reorganize the furniture, but leave everything in its familiar place so your dog can best find his way around. Eliminate clutter on floor level so there are fewer objects around to confuse him. Another tip is to stick to a regular routine for feeding and walks, so that the dog perceives a comforting sense of order and regularity.


Mental Stimulation


This is a case of “use it or lose it”. It has been shown that playing simple games provides mental stimulation that can slow up deterioration. However, be patient and never get cross if he seems baffled by the games.

You may want to talk to your veterinarian about medicating your pet. A drug, selegiline, is available in a canine formulation which amplifies chemical signals within the brain. This drug is used in human medication and has been proven to slow up deterioration of senile changes in the brain. Just as in humans, some dogs respond really well, but sadly it makes no difference to others.


Brain Foods


Dogs with AlzheimersA diet rich in anti-oxidants has been shown to improve the spatial awareness and learning of some dogs within 2 weeks. Vitamins E and C are potent anti-oxidants. These can either be given as a supplement, or change your dog’s diet so around 10%  his food is made up of fruit and vegetables. Commercial foods are available that contain high levels of antioxidants and fish oils that have been shown to slow up deterioration.


Cognitive Dysfunction and Your Dog – Conclusion


If you identify cognitive dysfunction in your pet don’t despair. With a little planning you can help him feel less confused, whilst a simple change of diet and adding in medication can slow down the deterioration so you can hold onto more of the pet you love.


Applewood Our House has four residential assisted living homes for those with memory care needs.

Applewood Our House has a Better Business Bureau A+ Rating.

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