A Senior Moment!

by Dr. Carla Edwards

As our beloved pets get to those senior years, we all want to deny the fact that they are getting older.  Some signs are physically obvious like greying of the muzzle, more warts/growths, decreased mobility, stiffness, and hearing or vision loss.  But what about the less obvious cognitive changes that develop gradually?

  • Sleep/wake cycle changes-restless at night, sleep more during the day
  • Loss of in-house training
  • Interaction changes: not seeking attention, not wanting to be petted, or greeting you suddenly even if you were home all day.
  • Disorientation, confusion, walking into a room and staring, pacing, barking more frequently, nightly meowing or howling.
  • Increased anxiety
  • Grooming less frequently
  • Alterations in appetite

These symptoms may be Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome which is a progressive disease and may start with only a few symptoms.  If Cognitive Dysfunction is caught early, treatment may slow the progression down.  This is the time to talk to your veterinarian who can go over the symptoms, do a thorough physical, and evaluate blood work to help eliminate some of the other diseases our elderly patients may have.  Further neurologic work-up and imaging may be necessary to look for tumors or evidence of strokes that mimic symptoms of cognitive dysfunction.

Some pets respond to a veterinary drug called Anipryl-Selegiline HCI to increase dopamine.  Others may benefit from nutraceuticals that help improve neurotransmitter function and lessen free radicals with increased antioxidants.  Several prescription diets have been recently formulated to contain more antioxidants, essential fatty acids, and medium chain triglycerides.  Some suggest brain stimulation with toys that release treats or searching for a ball underneath the right cup like a puzzle. 

Cognitive dysfunction is not curative, but, just like Alzheimer’s disease, slowing the progression and enjoying our pets longer is worth a try.