Dr. Cynthia Maro
Canine cognitive dysfunction is a condition usually associated with aging dogs. Sometimes it is referred to as aging dementia.
Symptoms include change in behavior, confusion, soiling in the home, night-time restlessness, or lack of recognition of owner or familiar people.
Cognitive dysfunction can also be associated with other health conditions, such as post-anesthetic or drug-induced cognitive dysfunction, and some neurological disorders, which include infections, inflammation, trauma and neoplasia (cancer).
It is important for pet owners to recognize that diagnosis and treatment can have life-enhancing benefits for both pets and their guardians when a diagnosis is made and appropriate treatment plan is put into action. Canine cognitive dysfunction is not a case of “just getting old.”
The neurological function of humans and animals is maintained by many important chemical processes, which are supported by good nutrition (a balanced and anti-inflammatory diet is necessary for healthy brain function), chiropractic alignment, low-stress lifestyle (high cortisol and stress hormones decrease cognitive function), adequate engaging exercise and movement, mental stimulation (giving pets jobs that fit their motivation and breeding), avoidance of toxins and heavy metals, sufficient sleep/rest, and an intact and functioning glymphatic system.
If you’re thinking, maybe that was a typo and I meant to write lymphatic system, the answer is the glymphatic is a real thing. And it’s an important part of preventing dementia and neurological dysfunction in humans and animals. I encourage readers to learn more about the detoxification of the nervous system by researching the glymphatic online.
Diagnosis and treatment of cognitive dysfunction start with a physical exam and should include a neurological exam, blood work, X-rays, and cardiac workup. In aging pets, dehydration can greatly decrease mental awareness. Pets may have untreated arthrtitis and may decrease their trips to the water bowl because it becomes difficult to walk across the room. Additionally, many pets will have an increased need for fluid intake as kidneys and other internal organs decrease their efficiency.
Some owners become upset about urinary accidents and may restrict water intake, causing their companions to become dehydrated. Please be certain to avoid the “they’re just old” thought and do your pets the honor of getting them diagnosed and treated, so they don’t have to live their final years in pain, dehydrated.
Once your pet is diagnosed, if it has CCD, your vet may recommend a drug to treat it, which can help. The drug is called trilostane.
In my practice, I have found great benefits for pets using a combination of therapies that are specific to each animal. In my experience, the treatments providing the greatest impact for improved brain and cognitive function include:
1. Improved diets, which decrease inflammation and improve hydration.
2. Spinal adjusting.
4. Correction of and treatment for blood work imbalances.
5. Treatment of arthritis.
6. Physical therapy and swim therapy to improve strength and brain neuropasticity (the brain can become “smarter” through physical exercise).
7. Investigation of and treatment for heavy metal toxicity.
9. Specific Chinese herbs for improved brain function.
10. Sanawave therapy, a device that can improve glymphatic function and brain detoxification.
So, if your pet is acting weird, don’t think this just can’t get better. Talk to your vet about specific testing and diagnosis. Ask if it could be cognitive dysfunction. If your vet dismisses the signs as “just getting old”, seek another opinion. Then be prepared to treat, monitor, and schedule some follow-up appointments.
Brain health can improve with therapy.
Dr. Cynthia Maro is a veterinarian at the Ellwood Animal Hospital in Ellwood City and the Chippewa Animal Hospital in Chippewa Township. She writes a biweekly column on pet care and health issues. If you have a topic you’d like addressed, please email [email protected]