Physical changes can occur in a dog's brain similar to those that take place in the brain of a person with Alzheimer's disease. Like people, as dogs age, changes occur in the brain and nervous system that can lead to dementia. While changes in your pet's behavior can be distressing, by recognizing the symptoms of canine dog dysfunction syndrome, there are things you can do to improve your aging dog's quality of life.
What causes the condition?
As a dog gets older, parts of nerve cells in the brain that connect to other nerve cells break down, causing certain connections in the brain to stop working. The loss of these connections makes a dog's brain smaller in size and lighter in weight.
With age, chemical changes occur in the brain, which can alter your dog's behavior. As brain tissues degenerate, affecting normal cell function, protein deposits begin to accumulate and form plaques. These brain lesions can lead to poor memory and other behavior changes.
What are common symptoms of canine dog dysfunction syndrome?
Anxiety. Difficulty coping with pain and discomfort due to deteriorating cognition often leads to anxiety.
Potty accidents. Urinating and defecating in the home may occur even if your dog has always been well house trained.
Trouble sleeping. Restlessness at night may lead to aimless wandering similar to the "sundown syndrome" people with Alzheimer's disease suffer. When your dog does sleep, he or she may sleep during the day and then pace at night.
Disorientation. Your dog may start to be confused and get lost easily, have trouble finding his or her way out from behind furniture, or have trouble climbing and descending steps.
Withdrawal. Your pet may become increasingly withdrawn and no longer be affectionate or seek your attention. Like people with Alzheimer's disease, dogs with canine dog dysfunction syndrome often stare at objects or into space. They may no longer respond to their names or commands.
Can the condition be treated?
Despite there being no cure, your pet's veterinarian can recommend treatments to help slow the progression of the disease and prevent further cognitive decline.
Dietary supplements. Consider giving your pet seleginine, a drug approved by the FDA (Food to treat dogs with this condition. The medication is a derivative of a drug used to treat Parkinson's disease in humans, which increases dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine is a chemical neurotransmitter that can help improve memory.
Diet. Feed your dog a well balanced diet that includes omega-3 fatty acids – nutrients that are essential for cognitive health. Although getting your dog to eat may become a challenge, as he or she may not want to eat or drink, it's important to establish a regular feeding routine.
Medium-chain triglycerides, which are partially man-made fats, offer another treatment option. Fats, such as those found in coconut oil, can decrease amyloid protein buildup in the brain. The fragments of amyloid protein that form plaques in the brain can cause nerve cell death.
Activity. Keep your pet active both physically and mentally. Walk your dog regularly for exercise and provide cognitive stimulation with interactive toys or by hiding toys for your pet to find. Providing your dog with opportunities to socialize with other people and pets is important as well.
For more information contact a place like Earlysville Animal Hospital.