As a result, pets can develop cognitive issues such as cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS). The Journal of Veterinary Behavior conducted a study that estimated over 14 percent of senior pets have CDS but less than 2 percent of their owners are addressing the problem.
Effects of Aging
Behaviors can change drastically from one year to the next in a dog affected by CDS.
According Gary Landsberg, DVM, DACVB, in his paper “Therapeutic Agents for the Treatment of Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome in Senior Dogs,” published in Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry, symptoms of CDS can include increase in anxiety, decrease in hygiene/self-grooming, altered appetite, decreased responsiveness to stimuli and deficits in learning and memory.
A lot of consumers don’t know that their dog may be suffering from CDS.
“Hundreds of times over my 35-year career as a veterinarian, I’ve had pet owners attribute a decrease in appetite, thirst or activity, changes in personality or bathroom habits, hair loss, weight shifting up or down, or even obvious pain to ‘just old age’,” said Dr. Marty Becker, veterinarian. “Warning to all dog owners: if you see any changes in a senior pet, never assume it’s not a medical problem. The culprit may be metabolic problems like diabetes, hyper- or hypothyroidism, or Cushing’s or Addison’s disease, as well as canine brain aging, arthritis, dental disease and other conditions mistaken for ‘just old age’ that, once diagnosed and treated, can return a dog to normal life.”
Brain changes can occur sooner than most pet owners expect.
It isn’t just cognitive function that dissipates.
“As pets age, their eyesight, hearing and sense of taste declines, they commonly have joint issues are less sure on their feet, and have less fat for padding and can easily get chilled,” said Dr. Becker.
There are easy tricks that pet owners can do to keep their senior pet’s body healthy.
”You can make them feel safe, secure and comfortable by putting carpet runners around the house for them to walk on, having stairs or ramps to access furniture, beds or vehicles, and have padded orthopedic beds with a heat source,” said Dr. Becker. “Also, it’s a good idea to add a second source of water so that pets don’t have to go far to hydrate.”
Supporting Senior Brains
But how can pet owners ease the behavioral symptoms associated with loss of cognitive function?
“Purina Pro Plan discovered a way to help promote mental sharpness for dogs in this age group through nutrition and recently introduced Bright Mind Adult 7+ formula, a breakthrough formula containing enhanced botanical oils shown to promote alertness and mental sharpness in dogs seven and older, with visible results within 30 day,” said Dr. Becker.
Ark Naturals has an entire line of senior pet products for dogs and cats that includes Brain’s Best Friend, a chew that addresses cognitive issues associated with aging.
Herbsmith, Inc. also has a product called Senior Dog Wisdom that is specifically targeted to support healthy brain function in older dogs.
Nutro has a specific food, Original Senior Dog Food, which not only helps brain function but also targets senior joint issues and sensitive senior stomachs.
How They Work
How do all these products work to help pets and pet owners?
“The normal energy source for most cells, including the brain, is blood glucose or blood sugar,” said Dr. Becker. “As they age, dogs’ ability to process energy in the form of glucose for brain function can become less efficient. The enhanced botanical oils in Purina Pro Plan Bright Mind Adult 7+ contain medium-chain triglycerides, which provide an easily absorbed, additional energy source for brain cells.”
Neutricks was recently recognized in the May-June 2015 Journal of Veterinary Behavior for the success of its key ingredient, apoaequorin in addressing CDS. Two separate studies by Milgram et. al. found that dosages of apoaequorin administered to elderly dogs with memory problems led to an increase in both their ability to distinguish different stimuli and visual learning. Higher dosages also correlated with better performance on memory-related tasks.
“By enhancing the brain health of aging dogs, we are providing pet owners with the peace of mind that they are extending the quality of life for their aging dogs,” says David Merrick, dog owner and president of Neutricks, LLC. “Watching your dog slowly lose their personality and cognitive function is heartbreaking for any dog owner.”
Ark Naturals uses a proprietary blend of fish oil and vitamins to encourage healthy brain function. These made in the U.S.A treats provide cognitive support for disorientation, recognition and memory.
Nutro includes omega-3 fatty acids ALA and DHA to help maintain brain activity while also including ingredients such as oatmeal and antioxidants to help sensitive stomachs and immune systems.
All of these products provide vital nutrients to pets to help keep the brain active and healthy.
“I explain it to clients in the exam room in this way: Your senior dog may seem to be eating normally and in general good condition but it is almost like there is a fuel filter that’s plugged in their neck and doesn’t allow vital nutrients and energy sources to reach the brain,” said Dr. Becker. “Thus, the brain, which is only about 8 percent of the dog’s body weight but consumes over 25 percent of the body’s oxygen, sputters along. By feeding Bright Mind, it’s like you’ve upped the fuel lines to the brain and the dog can once again put the pedal to the metal when it comes to having energy and awareness.”
Dr. Becker even uses the Bright Mind formula on his dogs.