Keeping your senior dog’s mind healthy

Raise your hand if you know what Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS) is. If your hand is in the air, you probably take written directions too literally; more importantly, though, you’re one of a precious few.

CDS is the name that pet behavioral specialists have given to the severe mental decline that happens in many dogs and cats as they get up into their geriatric years. It can involve things like disorientation, restlessness or increased sleep, increased agitation and separation anxiety, loss of appetite or interest in exploring, less of a reaction to sights, sounds and smells, and overall changes in the way they interact with you.

For lack of a better way to put it simply, specialists have likened CDS to pet “dementia.”
How often does this occur in pets? More research needs to be done, but experts say that somewhere around 28% of dogs aged 11-12 suffer from the condition, and that number grows to around 68% by the time dogs turn 15-16.

So, how can you help your dog if he or she is dealing with this degenerative condition?

Old dog, new tricks
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “If you don’t use it, you lose it,” right? Well, just as some older people do things like crossword puzzles and brain teasers to keep their minds sharp, dogs can learn new and engaging activities to keep their minds stimulated.

When their brains are forced to work and focus on something in order to succeed, it tends to slow down degeneration. Try new toys, new forms of exercise, and even training to keep those canine minds sharp.

Feed them right
Make sure that the food you’re giving your aging pup has plenty of vitamin C and E, as well as selenium, beta carotene, and omega-3 fatty acids. Krill oil, for example, has proven to improve cognitive health, and overall the diet should promote growth, healing and a healthy metabolism.

Some experts recommend only fresh, living food, but tests have shown that some manufactured diets designed specifically to enhance brain functioning have made significant cognitive improvements in dogs suffering from CDS. To find out what’s right for your dog, talk to your vet.

Don’t over or under feed
This is true for dogs at any age, but it’s especially important for older dogs, because if they are an unhealthy weight, it increases their chances of suffering from various diseases and will harm their overall health. If your dog is already dealing with CDS, this will only make things worse.

Brush those pearly whites
Unhealthy teeth make for unhealthy dogs and open your best friend up to all sorts of potential problems. These only get worse as they age, and they can impact both physical and mental health.

Consider supplements
Before you do anything like this, it’s always wise to speak with your veterinarian first, but as more research is done into CDS and how to slow down the process, the number of tested supplements on the market continues to grow.

Coconut oil and SAMe (S-adenosylmethionine) are two supplements that have tested well, but there are a number of others out there. If your normal vet doesn’t care for supplements but you’re still interested, you can always seek out the advice of a holistic veterinarian.

Ask about drugs
Dog owners don’t have many options available if they decide to turn to psychoactive drugs to improve the cognitive state of their pet, but there is one that has been approved. Ask your vet about Anipryl® (selegiline) and whether or not he or she believes that it can help.

While there’s no known way to completely stop or reverse CDS, the best way to deal with it is to keep your dog happy, healthy, active, and engaged. Do that and you’ll make their life as rich and long as it can be.