Once known as “old dog syndrome,” cognitive dysfunction syndrome is actually a pretty newly-recognized condition in our canine companions.

It is akin to Alzheimer’s disease in human beings in that the brain changes to result in a decline in mental capabilities. This can be a particularly draining condition for dogs and their owners.

The dog in the above picture is my little “Lady” who this article is dedicated to. You can read more about my journey with Lady here.

Veterinarians and researchers have actually reported that cognitive dysfunction syndrome has a pathology that “mimics” the pathology of Alzheimer’s disease in people, which leads to the fact that there are similar risk factors and treatment options in both cases.

It also means that cognitive dysfunction syndrome aka doggy alzheimers is most common in dogs over the age of 10. Apparently 50 percent of dogs over 10 will be afflicted with one or more symptoms. Because of the progressive nature of the condition, it’s important to recognize the symptoms when they arise.

Symptoms of Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome

  • One of the biggest symptoms of cognitive dysfunction syndrome is disorientation. If your dog has difficulty finding his or her way around, whether out in the yard or even in familiar surroundings, this may be a sign. A veterinarian must rule out other possibilities, like blindness or hearing loss, before making the diagnosis.
  • Another symptom is a change in relationship with people and pets that your dog normally recognizes. If your older dog has a change in behavior and switches to a more aggressive approach when he or she was formerly friendly, this may be a symptom. Dogs may also become less intense and prone to seek less attention.
  • Night pacing.
  • Other symptoms include problems with house-training, restlessness and panting – even through the night.
  • Some symptoms of cognitive dysfunction syndrome may be related to aging in general and may not be linked to the condition, so it’s important to have a veterinarian rule out other possibilities.
  • Other medical conditions, including cancer and drug side effects, can lead to similar symptoms.
  • Becoming more sensitive to noise (telephone, microwave beeping, thunder, etc.)

Testing for Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome

The trouble is that there are no reliable tests for cognitive dysfunction syndrome, at least currently. Researchers know there are a number of pathogenic processes that lead to the symptoms, but narrowing it down is still a challenge.

Some tests can reveal changes to the size of your dog’s brain, for instance, but most MRIs are only done if other conditions like brain tumors are suspected.

Treatment Options

There are a few treatment options for behavioral problems in dogs, but as usual the opinions are pretty mixed.

Some recommend traditional pharmaceutical options, like Anipryl, while others have recommended alternative therapies that include greater doses of melatonin and an increase in antioxidants in the diet.

In terms of melatonin, many dog owners report successfully using it for dogs that are anxious or have otherwise complicated behavioral problems.

Dosage amounts range from 0.5 to 1 mg for smaller dogs to 1 to 3 mg in medium-sized dogs and 3 to 9 mg in larger dogs. These dosages are delivered in eight hour intervals.

As with any treatment, it’s always best to check with your holistic veterinarian if you have any questions.

Here’s another product made by Thorne Research.  While I haven’t used this particular product on any of my pets, I have successfully used many other products made by Thorne.

Although a little pricey, I think Memoractiv for disoriented pets is certainly worth checking into if Melantonin has not worked for your old friend.

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