(SDC) cognitive dysfunction syndrome, or more commonly flame canine Alzheimer’s is a degenerative disease more common in the geriatric dog, which involves a series of behavioral changes. Usually these variations of the conduct attributed to the age of our can, as something normal and inevitable and without an apparent cause, but several studies suggest that they are due to the progressive deterioration of the nervous system, similar to what happens to people with dementia or Alzheimer’s.
Several methods to achieve a more accurate diagnosis of canine SDC have been developed and, fortunately, there are treatment regimens, both pharmacological and behavior modification, to improve symptoms and slow its progression, being crucial early detection. Therefore we should not fret us if our dog is diagnosed with cognitive dysfunction syndrome, since we can still offer you quality of life in the elderly, and improve our relationship with him to continue to enjoy like before.
Aging of the nervous system of dogs
With age, all organs of the dog suffer certain anatomical and functional deterioration. A series of physical changes can be seen in the brain: the external part, cerebral cortex, becomes finer, – located internally – ventricles are dilated, and grooves are expanded. The meninges – a series of layers that cover the brain and spinal cord – calcium deposits are formed, and decreases the number of neurons.
It has shown that in dogs with Alzheimer’s disease, oxidative damage, and deposit in the nervous tissue of a substance called β-amyloid are able to cause neurotoxicity, by interfering with the transmission of the nervous impulse. All of these neurodegenerative changes may result from mild cognitive impairment, to a true SDC. This cognitive dysfunction develops gradually, slowly, over a period of a year and a half to two years, and even more.
Prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease in dogs
The prevalence and severity of the clinical signs of cognitive dysfunction in dogs syndrome increases with the age of the dog. It is estimated that you between 14% and 35% geriatric animals suffer from it. It is almost always diagnosed after 10 years of age, although it can be detected before. There is no predisposition racial, affecting small and large size breeds equally, and it seems that females suffer from canine Alzheimer’s disease more frequently than males.
The SDC is an under-diagnosed disease, since many times not given importance to the behavioral changes associated with age until they have spent months, years, or the animal is very affected; for this reason, it is important to take our pet to the vet yearly to conduct its review of health and detect it early.
It is not always easy to identify if our dog suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. And it is that progressive degeneration of the nervous system causes a number of changes in the behavior of the animal, even though they don’t why appear all or at the same time. In any case, these are the most common symptoms of cognitive dysfunction syndrome to know if your dog is suffering:
- Alteration of the social conduct: fail to show interest in the pampering of its owner; not come to greet with enthusiasm when it comes to house or, on the contrary, they feel more attachment than usual.
- Memory loss and disorientation: they no longer recognize their owner or family members, do not learn new tricks, or forget those who already knew; even return to relieve himself indoors. Also it can lose in known places, during the walk or at home.
- Sleep disturbance: during the day they sleep more than usual, and at night not reconcile the dream.
- Apathy or anxiety: in some cases are much less active, even as do not respond to stimuli as before, and in others everything otherwise, they are more irritable, destroy objects or furniture, bark or howl, and develop anxiety by separation or stereotypical behaviors.
- Decrease or increase in appetite.
Must be borne in mind that some of these changes in the behavior of senile dog may also be seen if they have other illnesses; for example, dogs with osteoarthritis or periodontal disease can show rejection of the contact, irritability, or howl for pain. In some, such as Cushing’s syndrome and diabetes endocrine disorders, dogs tend to eat with more anxiety, urinating in house, or undergo alterations in your sleep cycle. For this reason, it is essential to consult your veterinarian if you notice any of these signs in your pet.
To diagnose the syndrome of cognitive dysfunction (SDC) in a dog, first of all, we must go to the vet perform tests that allow to rule out other diseases in elderly dogs behavioral changes may be associated with organic diseases.
In addition, senior citizens is a good time to carry out a full health check to your pet. Depending on the symptoms presented, there will be blood analysis, urine, and imaging (radiological, ultrasound, CT).
Once discarded other pathologies, there are methods to approach the diagnosis of canine Alzheimer’s, all of them aimed at achieving an early diagnosis of the disease:
- Questionnaires and tests: there are specific questionnaires to assess whether the changes we observed in our dog may be associated with the SDC. Also cognitive tests in which, by means of a device designed for that purpose have developed, the dog to position objects in the right place. Currently, is investigating the use of test in the usual environment of the animal to observe their behavior, and interactions with other peers and with human beings.
- Diagnostic imaging and laboratoro: techniques for diagnostic imaging, such as computerized tomography (CT), or magnetic resonance imaging, are useful to rule out the presence of intracranial tumors or hydrocephalus, and detecting anatomic changes in the brain of the animal. Currently being carried out studies on the blood levels of β-amyloid as a biomarker of the extent of Neurodegeneration.
The treatment of dogs with syndrome of cognitive dysfunction (SDC) aims to reduce the anxiety that may be suffering from, and slow to the extent possible the progress of the disease since, being a neurodegenerative disease, there is no definitive treatment for Alzheimer’s disease canine.
The therapeutic Protocol has to be a combination of patterns of behavior, drug treatment, and the contribution of a good diet and nutritional supplements, always leaning on a prior assessment of the severity of the symptoms and a correct diagnosis.
Behavior guidelines recommended for dogs with Alzheimer’s
The variety of changes in behaviour and the time which has been manifesting them each pet are different, so patterns of behavioural therapy should be individualized, but all aimed at reducing anxiety and distress that cause Alzheimer’s disease in the dog and its owner.
Develop a daily routine makes all activities are somewhat more predictable and the animal to feel less anxious. In addition, it is interesting to enrich their environment, through interactive games, hiding awards or performing shorter but more frequent trips. These guidelines will help maintain cognitive function and slow the progression of the disease.
In cases where the senile dog carried out their needs at home, you can increase the number of outlets abroad, or establish areas of the House where Yes you can urinate or defecate and praise when in use. If you tend to disorient it, it is useful to add elements that guide you in house, for example, smell different in each room, or wear a rattlesnake in your pocket when we go for walks with him.
It is frequent in dogs with cognitive dysfunction syndrome that will alter the sleep-wake cycle. To help you relax, we will seize the daylight hours to perform exercises and games, being discouraged to do so immediately before bedtime, because it could excite him more. We will create a comfortable environment for rest, your bed or blanket Favorites, leaving only a dim light and avoiding noise when approaching the hour of sleep. Create a routine is very important and it requires sacrifice, but it is worth to see our best friend much happier in their third age.
Pharmacological treatment of the syndrome of cognitive dysfunction in dogs
The most commonly used drugs to treat dogs with SDC are selegiline, a monoamine oxidase B inhibitor, and propentofylline, a vasodilator. The mechanism of action of selegiline to treat canine Alzheimer’s is not yet known exactly, but it is thought that it acts as a neuroprotective, decreasing the production of radical free in the brain, and maintaining good levels of dopamine and other Catecholamines in the cerebral cortex.
Propentofylline is a drug approved for use in dogs with SDC, getting an increase in cerebral blood flow. To treat the symptoms of anxiety and restore sleep cycles it may be melatonin, L-theanine, or dog pheromones. These drugs should be used only with the supervision of your veterinarian.
Food and nutritional supplements for dogs with SDC
Besides creating daily routines, enrich the environment, and use drugs suitable for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease in the dog, there are specific diets and nutritional supplements to help improve their brain function. Thus, although any good diet for senior dogs may be suitable, we have at our disposal commercial feeds to protect the nervous system containing fatty acids, antioxidants, or L-carnitine.
Nutritional supplements with fatty acids omega 3, Ginkgo biloba, and vitamins B6 and E, can reduce cellular degeneration and support neuronal function, improving the symptomatology. They are also beneficial for joints, liver, or kidney of your pet.