Recognition & Integrative Prevention & Treatment For An Often Overlooked Disease In Senior Aged Dogs

I hear it all the time when I ask how a senior aged canine patient is doing at the beginning of a well visit. The answer often goes something along the lines of  these variations:

“He is good, but doesn’t seem to hear well because he doesn’t come sometimes when I call him.”

“He is good, but doesn’t seem to hear that well because he doesn’t always greet people at the door anymore.”

“He is good but has selective hearing…he doesn’t not always come when called, but for some reason, he always hears his food dish being filled.”

…Etc.

In the majority of cases, simple hearing tests I perform as part of my routine physical examination reveal that the patient can hear just fine. What the owner perceives as lack of hearing or selective hearing is usually the early stages dementia, also known as Canine Cognitive Dysfunction. In fact, a Washington State University study determined that by age 11, 30% of dogs are showing early signs of dementia. The percentage of dogs with dementia increases with age until by age 16, 100% of dogs according to the same study have dementia.

Dementia in dogs results from age related changes in the brain that lead to reduced perfusion of the memory centers of the brain. These degenerative changes also lead to personality changes such as heightened anxiety, depression, insomnia, or even aggression. These changes can start as early as 7 years of age.

Clinical signs of dementia in dogs begins with them not always coming when called or not running to the door to greet people. They often seem to have selective hearing because they may still recognize their favorite cues like hearing the food bag open or seeing their owner getting the leash for a walk. As the most exciting things in their lives, feeding and walks stand out most prominently in their minds and those memories are often the last to go.

Eventually, dogs with progressing dementia may fail to recognize food and not eat, experience pacing and vocalize often in the evening hours. They may also go from having been very well house trained all of their lives to eliminating in the home.

If you have a senior aged dog (7 years or older), the following are integrative solutions that serve as proactive prevention and treatment of dementia:

1.) Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 Fatty Acids derived from fish oil have potent anti-inflammatory activity in the body. As a key component to the cell membrane, omega-3 fatty acids also protect and maintain the integrity and health of cells. In the case of the brain, with the body lacking the ability to make new brain cells known as neurons (like people, dogs are born with a finite number of brain cells), this is key. Omega-3 fatty acids also help preserve the health of blood vessels, helping to maintain good blood flow to the brain and other organs.

2.) S-Adenosyl Methionine (SAM-E): SAM-E is a molecule that is formed naturally in the body. It can also be made in the laboratory. SAM-E is involved in the formation, activation, or breakdown of other chemicals in the body, including hormones, proteins, phospholipids; and certain drugs involved in the formation, activation, or breakdown of other chemicals in the body, including hormones, proteins, phospholipids, and certain drugs.

As a supplement, SAM-E is known to help improve mental performance, reduce depression and anxiety, and help in the treatment of many other diseases.

3.) Daily Walk: In addition to the benefits of exercise, taking your dog for a walk is mentally stimulating for them and helps to keep their mind stimulated and alert. Mental stimulation maintains blood circulation in the brain, playing a key role in brain health.

Items 1-3, I would implement for any dog 7 years or older. There is no adverse side effects or negative aspects these strategies. In fact, in addition to brain health, by implementing these simple strategies, you will also promote health in many other areas of the body. If your senior dog is experiencing confusion, selective hearing, and/or night pacing, in addition to 1-3, I would add treatment number 4.

4.) Selegiline: Selegiline is sold under the veterinary brand name Anipryl. Taken once daily, it increases dopamine production in the brain that increases perfusion to the memory centers of the brain. Selegiline also increases serotonin production in the brain, which reduces stress and anxiety associated with dementia.  Selegiline requires a prescription from your veterinarian.

If you have a senior age dog, now that you have read this article, be cognizant of subtle signs of dementia. Whether you see signs or not, take a proactive approach to prevention once your dog enters the realm of the senior years at age 7.

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and highly regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.

An Easy, Cost Free, Effective, and Enjoyable Treatment For Dogs With Dementia

Dementia, or Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, is a common a far more common disease in dogs than most dog owners are aware of.  Since “senior moments” in dogs cannot be articulated as they are in people, signs of dementia tend to be more subtle at first.

We commonly hear owners describe their senior dog exhibiting “selective hearing.”  This more often than not is a subtle but clear sign of early cognitive dysfunction.  While they may not connect their name when being called with an owner intention to summons them, they may still have no difficulty in responding to more recognizable (because they are the most enjoyable events of their day) sounds like the sound of kibble hitting the bowl at feeding time.

Statistically, 30% of dogs over the age of 11 and 100% of dogs over the age of 15 are showing significant signs of cognitive dysfunction.  There are recommended holistic supplements known to be helpful in managing these cases such as omega-3-fatty acids, and SAM-E.  There is a very effective medication called selegiline that often successfully manages cognitive dysfunction by increasing levels of serotonin and dopamine in the brain.

Perhaps the most effective treatment for dog dementia is something that is also physically good for the dog, physically good for the owner, and mentally good for both: a nice neighborhood walk.  Walking provides the dog with mental stimulus that increases sensory input in the brain, increases blood flow to the brain, increases serotonin production in the brain (which reduces anxiety that commonly accompanies cognitive dysfunction).

When walking with your senior dog, be patient. Let him sniff a lot.  Sniffing is the primary method of sensory input for dogs, far more valuable to them than even  their eyes.  Sniffing other dogs, wildlife, and all of the myriad scents of nature are not only enjoyable to your dog, but provide a wealth of sensory input that exercises his brain.  The physical benefits of keeping arthritic joints moving and keeping up muscle tone to help combat arthritis are an added bonus.

So…if you think your dog may be experiencing dementia or cognitive dysfunction, a daily walk is just what the doctor ordered.

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and highly regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.

 

Dietary And Nutritional Treatment For Canine Cognitive Dysfunction/Senility

Recognizing and Treating Dementia or Cognitive Dysfunction In DogsCanine cognitive dysfunction, also known as senility, refers to problems with spatial orientation, memory, house training, and night pacing that is commonly observed in dogs as they age. The signs of canine cognitive dysfunction are progressive with time, and are commonly missed early on in the manifestation of disease, or written off as age related quirky behavior.

The reason for the progressive brain dysfunction is because with age, the following occurs:

1.) The brain atrophies, that is, it decreases in size and mass with age. In addition to the decrease in size, the overall number of neurons in the brain, the cells that comprise the brain and central nervous system, decrease in number. The result is a decrease in brain function.

2.) There is an increase in beta amyloid plaques. Beta amyloid is a protein that accumulates in the brain over time and directly damages neurons, leading to cognitive impairment.Numerous micro hemorrhages (bleeds) and clots that form in the vasculature of the brain reduce blood circulation, which leads to oxygen deprivation to neurons, which in turn leads to neuron damage, death, and overall cognitive impairment.

3.) The important neurotransmitter, serotonin decreases with age, which contributes to interrupted sleep/wake cycles, confusion, and fear.

The natural approach to management of senility in dogs must begin with early recognition. Thus, if you begin to notice odd “quirks” in your dog’s behavior as he/she ages, do not just write it off as age related eccentricity. In a recent study of 69 senior dogs completed at UC Davis, College of Veterinary Medicine, it was determined that 32% of dogs over the age of 11 had signs of senility, while 100% of dogs over the age of 16 years had confirmed senility. Following recognition of the signs of senility, begin a diet rich in anti-oxidants to minimize free radical damage to the brain that occurs with more frequency with age.

Talk to your veterinarian about proper dosing with anti-oxidants, such as vitamin E, B complex vitamins, beta carotene, and vitamin C. Start your dog on pharmaceutical grade omega-3-fatty acids. Omega-3-fatty acids are naturally anti-inflammatory and also help to repair damaged cells, as they are also an integral component to the cell membrane. The net result of omega-3-fatty acids is improved circulation and nerve conduction. The importance of omega-3-fatty acids in brain and central nervous system health cannot be overstated.

S-adenosylmethionine (SAM-e) is a supplement that has known protective and regenerative properties toward the liver, and has a well-established use in veterinary medicine for alternative management of liver disease. While the mechanism is not known for certain, SAM-e has also shown a reduction in clinical signs associated with canine cognitive dysfunction.

St John’s wort is an herbal supplement known to increase serotonin in the brain. The increase in serotonin helps to reverse the reduction of this important neurotransmitter that commonly occurs as the result of senility. The effect of increasing serotonin levels in the brain, includes reduction in confusion, fear, as well as more consistent and better sleep.Early recognition and aggressive nutritional management are the best methods to combat this common disease of aging dogs. This type of intervention before significant irreversible damage has been done to the brain, not only significantly slows the progression of disease, but can even turn back the clock on the aging of the brain.

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and highly regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.