Can you teach an old dog new tricks?
We love it when our dogs live long healthy lives, in fact the worst part of having a dog is that they don’t live forever! Many changes can happen though as our fur babies approach their senior years. Some start as subtle behavior changes that eventually become obvious to owners as a significant decline in health and emotional wellbeing. Cognitive Dysfunction affects most dogs as seniors and is much like Dementia in people. This typically occurs in dogs eight years of age and older, but remember, some giant breed dogs are considered elderly at age five.
Confusion, affected social relationships, changes in activity level, apathy, increased anxiety, compulsive behaviors, restlessness, fear of familiar objects and people, aggression, confusion or disorientation and changes in sleep-wake cycle as well as house soiling and excessive vocalizations are all symptoms of cognitive dysfunction. Keep in mind some of these things can be related to a medical problem, and should be evaluated by a veterinarian before assuming they are related to Cognitive Dysfunction.
DISHAA is an aide to help owners and veterinarians evaluate the mental sharpness of a dog and breaks up symptoms into categories that owners can place a score next to detailed descriptors. Disorientation, social interactions, sleep/wake cycles, house soiling/learning and memory, activity, and anxiety are the big categories that each have related detailed descriptions. To use this form to evaluate your dog, access it here.
Treatment includes encouraging these dogs to play during the day, walking them, stimulating their minds, keeping them active (within the limits of what their bodies can handle if arthritis is present), and diet. Some medications may also be helpful, and can be discussed with your veterinarian. Purina has a special NeuroCare diet that is rich in antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and medium chained triglycerides that help support brain health. So teach those old dogs tricks and engage them in their golden years and maybe you’ll actually gain a few years!