Just like people, your dog can develop dementia. Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability that interferes with everyday life. But you can help your pet fight back.
Studies have found that by the time dogs turn 11, a third have some cognitive deterioration or dementia. Vets have a name for the condition. It is called Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome.
Almost all very old dogs 16 or older have it. Large and giant breeds seem to develop age-related decline at a faster rate than toy breeds.1,2
In humans, memory loss is a good indicator of dementia. When Uncle Charlie drives off to the market and returns without buying the groceries, you realize there is a problem.
But what about your dog? How can you tell if it is silently battling dementia?3
Veterinarians have developed a list of symptoms that can determine if Fido is suffering dementia. Often, symptoms will increase over time. But the sooner you recognize them, the faster you and your vet can take action:
- Excessive barking. Your dog barks more for no reason.
- Excessive licking.
- Particularly wandering aimlessly or walking in a particular pattern such as a circle.
- Getting lost. Trouble finding the door or getting stuck in familiar places like in a corner or behind furniture.
- Panting for no reason.
- Increased drooling.
- Abnormal sleep cycle. Sleeping more during the day than the night.
- Less interest in people.
- More house-training accidents.
- Forgetting tricks.
If your dog shows symptoms, veterinarians have found two natural approaches that can help.4,5
First, a diet rich in antioxidants seems to lessen the cognitive-impairing free radical compounds found in the brains of affected dogs.
An antioxidant-fortified pet food contains enriched levels of vitamins, such as vitamin C and vitamin E. They’re also rich in fatty acids like DHA, EPA, L-carnitine, and lipoic acid. Many health food stores or vet offices carry these foods.
Some veterinarians also treat the condition with an additional supplement of omega-3 fatty acids that fights free radicals.
Second, researchers have found that any new stimuli helps improve a dog’s brain function. This could include spending more time petting, walking, and generally interacting with your dog.
Some vets recommend hiding your dog’s food and then letting it search for it as a means of stimulating the brain. Getting another pet or buying new toys may also help.
In Good Health,
Publisher, INH Health Watch