What to do if your Mature Dog is Showing Signs of Aging
(Dr. Jessica Vogelsang from Life's Abundance take an in-depth look at how canine cognition changes as dogs age, and provides tips to help keep them healthy and sharp.)
I can't tell you how often I ask pet parents about their senior dog and the response is she is okay, but I guess she's just getting old.
I love this conversation opener, because it tells me two things. One, the pet parent is paying enough attention to know something has changed, even if they don't think it's anything to be concerned about. Two, there's probably something I can do to help!
All living things grow old. The aging process is complicated and messy, encompassing a variety of genetic and environmental factors. Some we can control, others we can slow down, and the remainder we just manage the best we can. The good news is, there's almost always something we can do to make a companion animal feel better.
When we think about what it means to be old, most of us jump to the most obvious complaint of age aches and pains. The body stiffens, the joints dry out, the discs in our spines shrivel up, and we end up shuffling around like Carl from the movie "Up". Almost all senior dogs develop symptoms of osteoarthritis, which is one of the reasons I recommend joint supplements for seniors. If a pet parent says, He won't climb the stairs anymore; or, He doesn't want to go for long walks, then I know we are likely dealing with pain.
But what about cognitive dysfunction, the age-related decline in neurologic function? Referred to as canine cognitive dysfunction; in veterinary medicine, some laypeople call it doggie Alzheimers. While the symptoms can be similar to what humans experience, it's not exactly the same thing.
Unfortunately, cognitive decline is quite common in senior dogs. More than half of all dogs over the age of 11 show at least one clinical sign. Since we don't know for certain all the biological changes that occur in an aging brain, we describe canine cognitive dysfunction as a collection of symptoms:
For many years, we simply accepted this condition as a price for living a long life. However, we are learning that there are ways we can actually decelerate cognitive decline in dogs.
One way veterinarians manage cognitive dysfunction in dogs is through medications. Certain drugs that increase the amount of the neurotransmitter dopamine may improve brain function. In fact, the same drug used by dogs can also be used to treat Parkinson's.
The other way we manage cognitive decline is through the nutrition and personal attention we provide our dogs. New and exciting research is showing that certain types of antioxidants and dietary ingredients can positively impact the brain function of senior pets!
I love this because these are safe, easy changes we can use to improve the aging process for all our senior friends: