In dogs and cats of advanced age, usually from the age of 7, deterioration of the central nervous system or brain aging may happens, showing a set of signs similar to those of Alzheimer’s disease in people.
The most characteristic signs are the following:
- Activity: They are nervous, agitated, and walk aimlessly. They are depressed or listless.
- Disorientation: Decreased interaction with family members.
- Recognizes less relatives, places or other pets it lives with.
- It gets lost in specific places.
- Social interaction: decreased interest in playing.
- Inappropriate Vocalization: Constantly whining or barking for no apparent reason.
- Sleep-wake cycle: They sleep aggressively or wake up at night.
- Sleep more during the day.
- It urinates without realizing it.
- It does her business at home despite having gone out for a walk.
For example, a dog that is afraid of children may become more reactive, irritable and aggressive as he begins to feel more uncomfortable.
Dental problems and osteoarthritis processes that cause pain can also exacerbate these signs.
These changes can be frustrating for the owner as they stop behaving like pets.
What causes these problems?
Animals, like people, produce free radicals every day, during youth, healthy dogs produce antioxidants that neutralize free radicals, thus preventing them from causing damage to brain cells.
When pets gets older, they produce more free radials and fewer antioxidants.
When these signs appear it is important to comment it and assess it in the vet check-ups. Sometimes it is important to rule out other causes such as painful processes caused by osteoarthritis, or to rule out that there is no organic cause by means of an analysis, imaging diagnosis and, if it is suspected rule out endocrine causes.
Depending on the degree of “senility”, it will be considered to prescribe neuroprotectors that have been shown to provide antioxidants and improve electrical transmission of nerve cells and the brain. You can start to see improvements in 3-4 weeks.
Also depending on the severity it will be necessary to give medication to improve cerebral perfusion and anxiolytics or painkillers to help it fall asleep.
As always, all medication must be supervised and prescribed by a veterinarian.
Apart from medication we can also work on behavior and create an environment where it feel safer:
- Maintaining an adequate weight and a balanced diet that takes into account the nutritional requirements of a geriatric pet.
- Take the dog out more times a day and take shorter walks. Thus, mental exercise is further stimulated.
- Continue working the basic commands such as: sit, keep, give the paw, land, come, as a mental exercise.
- Keeping the game: looking for a ball or stimulating crawling by hiding prizes.
- We must keep in mind that it’s hearing deteriorates with age, so it may be necessary to try to give clear, simple commands, forcing body expression.
- If the dog pees at home, she should be helped to relearn the behavior, accompany her outside frequently, as when she was a puppy.
- For behavior improvement you should also speak with a veterinarian or assess the need to contact a trainer.
At Animalia’s geriatric controls we carry out cognitive dysfunction tests for both cats and dogs.
If your dog is over 7 years old and you think he may start to suffer signs of cognitive dysfunction, contact us!