What’s the worst thing about sharing your life with a dog? It goes without saying, it’s the fact dogs age more quickly than we do, and we see them age before our eyes. They slow down, maybe their vision and hearing decline and they get arthritis, and there’s a chance the brain undergoes changes that result in cognitive dysfunction (CD).

 

Cognitive dysfunction, or cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS), refers to age-related deterioration of cognitive abilities characterized by behavioral changes. It’s the equivalent to Alzheimer’s disease in humans, and symptoms include forgetfulness, disorientation, changes in interaction with family members, and changes in sleep and housetraining patterns.

 

How can we identify cognitive dysfunction and what can we do to help to delay, minimize or possibly even prevent cognitive decline in our dogs? Two recent and informative articles in USA Weekend Magazine and from Steve Dale, pet expert and certified dog and cat behavior consultant, address the issue of cognitive dysfunction, providing information on how to identify it and how to delay or potentially prevent it.

 

Identifying CD

From Steve Dale’s article, the acronym for pet owners to identify CD is referred to as DISH:

D — Disorientation and confusion, such as attempting to walk through the wrong side of a doggie door.

I — Changes in interactions, such as an outgoing pet becoming withdrawn.

S — Sleep disturbances: cats yowling or dogs pacing overnight for no apparent reason.

H — House soiling, having “accidents.”

According to veterinary behaviorist Nicholas Dodson, “Cognitive dysfunction is a diagnosis of exclusion,” which means pet owners and their veterinarians need to first rule out medical problems which could be the cause of the associated behaviors.

 

Minimizing, Delaying and Possibly Preventing CD

According to Dale, “It all begins with providing lots of enrichment, a lifetime of learning, adequate exercise and appropriate nutrition.”

An essential factor in avoiding the decline of a dog’s mental capabilities is keeping a dog engaged in mental activities, such as training, playing games, using interactive toys, and more.

Physical exercise and interacting with other dogs, in addition to mental exercise, is beneficial as well. Steve Dale points to research from Carl Cottman, director of Alzheimer’s Disease Research at the University of California, Irvine, who notes that it’s been shown that social activity stimulates canine brains, and physical exercise benefits brain health as well.

 

So there you have an overview…read the full articles at the links below for all of the details, and heed the advice to keep your dog physically and mentally active to enjoy a long and full life together!

 

The Scoop:

From Steve Dale, “Protect your pet from Alzheimer’s.”
www.usaweekend.com/protect-your-pet

 

Also from Steve Dale, “Pets and Alzheimer’s: More ways to help your dog.”
www.usaweekend.com/protect-your-pet

 

Handsome Twain, a Beagle/Cocker Spaniel Mix pictured above is available for adoption in Coralville, IA. Learn more about him on Petfinder.com.