Aug 15 2008

Behavioral problems in older pets

old_dog

In our last two “Nibbles and Bits’, we have discussed some issues with our older pets. In this installment, we will touch on another common set of problems facing senior pets- behavioral problems.

People get senility issues and Alzheimer’s disease. Dogs get Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CCDS). Unlike Alzheimer’s, it is not life-threatening in and of itself, but it certainly compromises the quality of life of the pet and his owners. Eight or nine does not seem old to us, but in dogs, especially larger breeds, we can start seeing age-related behavior problems at that time. Over a quarter of dogs over eleven years of age have at least one sign of CCDS. Some of the more common signs of CCDS include housesoiling problems, change in wake-sleep cycle (they tend to sleep all day and then be up at night), disorientation, and changes in activity with respect to other pets and the people in the house. It is difficult to watch our older companions show signs of aging, and while we cannot turn back the clock, there are things we can do to help them.
old_dog2One thing that is helpful to our older pets is to keep them stimulated. They have shown that people who continue to exercise their brains are less likely to show signs of senility. The same is true with dogs. Continuing to play with toys, interact with their owners, etc, can help them stay more alert. Keeping them active during the day also can help them sleep at night. Many of our older pets sleep more during the day for the simple reason that they do not hear as well as they used to and so noises do not wake them up as frequently. Continuing to work on basic commands such as “sit”, “down” and “stay” as well as any tricks they learned may help as well.

We can also intervene with medical therapies to help our older pets. Selegiline is a medication used in people for Parkinson’s disease and as an antidepressant. In dogs, it has been used for CCDS. Antioxidants such as Vitamin E and Fatty Acids (which we carry in 3-V Caps and Derm Caps) can help. Hill’s makes a prescription diet called b/d (that stands for “Brain Diet”) that contains many ingredients to help with brain health. There is also a medication we have called SAMe that has shown some promise in CCDS.
litterI don’t mean to leave out cats in this discussion, but there is not as much research out there for our feline friends. They, too, are prone to behavior issues, usually related to litterbox problems. Sometimes something as simple as lowering the entrance to the box or adding an additional box that is more accessible can help.

If you feel that your pet is having behavior problems as he gets older, please bring him in for a thorough physical to rule out a physical problem and to formulate a plan to give your pet quality golden years.

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