Tag Archives: dementia

‘Dementia’ and Age Related Changes

 

Behavioural problems in senior pets can result from medical issues like arthritic pain, loss of sight/hearing or diseases that affect the nervous system. They can also be attributed to age related deterioration of the brain known as Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome.

In mild cases the pet may sleep more, become less responsive or show less social interaction with family and other pets. More severe signs might include repetitive behaviours such as pacing, new fears and anxieties, house soiling, waking at night, confusion and disorientation or loss of recognition of training cues.

The behaviour changes may be noticed following changes to the household or environment that the pet has difficulty adapting to. Early detection provides the best opportunity to help these pets and slow cognitive decline.

Prevention: What can you do?
  • For healthy senior pets, twice-yearly wellness examinations and laboratory screening tests provide an opportunity to identify emerging problems, sometimes before there are outward signs.
  • Report changes in your pet’s health and behaviour to the vet early.
  • If you foresee changes in your pets environment or schedule, try to make these gradual so you elderly pet has time to adapt.
  • Providing mental and physical enrichment helps to maintain a healthy brain and body. If your pet begins to slow down, find new games, new toys and new ways to play to stimulate the brain and keep the body active.
  • Play and exercise help most if continued throughout life and adjusted for age related physical limitations, for example supported swimming for arthritic dogs.
  • Leash walking exercises muscles and provides mental stimulation via smell and social interactions. Use a harness, sling or pram/stroller if they can’t manage walking. Take a ‘sniff stroll’ rather trying to cover ground. Trim nails and hair under their feet for a better grip.
  • Supervise play and pick mates matched by temperament, ability and size. Redirect the new puppy play if your old pet tires. Watching play may be enough.
  • Car trips are fun for some dogs. They enjoy the tactile sensations of the breeze, the smells and company. A ramp may be needed for access and comfy padding in the vehicle to cushion old joints. Take care in warm weather to prevent overheating.
  • Be creative in seeking ways to make it easier for them. Elevate the water dish to shoulder height; warm food and add water/broth to food to increase palatability and water intake; give cats more litter trays for convenient access and cut down tray height; set up ramps to reduce the need to use stairs; cats benefit from stepped platforms leading to high perches; have the cat/dog flap at floor level; use hall runners or a paw friction product to provide grip on slippery floors; add psyllium to the diet to reduce constipation; clip heavy coats and matts for freer movement and summer comfort; provide a winter coat if they feel the winter chill.
Cats benefit from lower litter trays and ramps to their favourite places.
  • Smell provides great mental stimulation. Provide food puzzles and hidden treats. Visit unfamiliar places.
  • Hand signals or vibrating (NOT shock) collars can be used to communicate to deaf dogs. Lavender scent trails can guide the blind.
  • Practice massage and range of motion exercises for sore legs.

 

Treating problems: How can you help?
  • Medical problems need to be identified and treated, however retraining may also be required. For example, if your pet begins house soiling due to a medical issue, the problem may persist after the medical issue is resolved unless you use positive reinforcement to train the pet to return to the preferred locations and supervise access to the soiled areas.
  • For problems that cannot be completely resolved, you may need to make schedule adjustments to accommodate your pet’s needs. For example pets with kidney disease need to urinate more often so you may need to take your dog out to the toilet more frequently or reward them for using training pads. Provide extra litter trays or clean the litter tray more frequently if your cat urinates more due to kidney disease.
  • Maintain an enriched environment that stimulates your pet’s brain and body. Adjust their social play, exercise and training according to their health. Use their favourite food and toys to train new cues, practice previous training and play games of hide and find. Food release toys that provide manipulation to obtain the food or treats provide a challenge to stimulate your pet’s mind.

Veterinary treatment:
  • Medications can be prescribed to improve neurotransmitter function and brain activity or act as antioxidants. Medication that reduces physical pain, for example from arthritis, can allow your pet to enjoy more physical and mental activity.
  • A prescription veterinary diet is available containing antioxidants and fatty acids that reduce signs of cognitive decline by improving neurotransmission. It has been shown to help old dogs stay active, enjoy interactions, reduce sleep disturbances and retain house training.
  • Many natural products are touted to be effective and your vet will be able to advise you on supplements that may be useful.
If you are noticing changes in your senior pets
behaviour or would like more information on helping
your elderly pet get the most out of day to day life
please phone us on (02) 6230 2223.

Kitty Dementia

Dementia, also known as feline cognitive dysfunction, is an age-related disorder of brain function causing multiple behaviour changes.

In cats the behaviour changes include:

  • Yowling excessively and inappropriately
  • Urinating or defecating outside the litter box and around the house
  • Disorientation and aimless wandering
  • Restlessness
  • Changes in interaction with people or other pets such as aggression, irritability and clinginess
  • Erratic sleeping behaviour: waking, pacing or yowling at night, sleeping less at night and more during the day
  • Decreased grooming

Some diseases mimic cognitive dysfunction. These include hyperthyroidism, brain tumours, viral diseases, high blood pressure, chronic pain, arthritis, diabetes, and urinary tract infections. Many of these diseases exacerbate the behaviour changes of cognitive dysfunction, too, so we must check for and/or treat them before we confirm a diagnosis of cognitive dysfunction.

Some commonly used drugs such as prednisolone and valium also reduce brain function. Alternatives that reduce decline are often available.

Therapies

1. Diet: Anti-oxidants delay and treat dementia. Antioxidants include Vitamin E, Vitamin C, Alpha-lipoic acid, L-carnitine and beta-carotene. Fruits and vegetables contain many of these.

Omega 3 fatty acids as found in fish oil or food supplements such as Nutricoat also help.

2. Physical therapy and environmental enrichment: Stimulate brain function and delay the onset of dementia with environmental enrichment and games. Try scattering or hiding food or catnip around the house, provide toys that require batting or rolling to release food, give opportunities for climbing, perching and exploring, trail ribbon or feathers along. Petting, brushing and massage stimulate the nerves and brains of old cats, too.

3. Your vet may prescribe medications to reduce inflammation, enhance memory or improve brain function.

When to say goodbye…

This is one of the most difficult decisions a carer can ever make for their pet. Euthanasia is never easy but at the end of life it can be the kindest and most humane way to go.

Only you know when the time has come. This checklist might be helpful:

  • is your cat still interacting with you – lap time, dinner time – and with other people and pets in the family?
  • is any pain, especially arthritic or back pain, well controlled. There is a limit to the efficacy of medications and good nursing.
  • are the bad days starting to outnumber the good days?
  • does she still have her little routines and habits?
  • can she eat without assistance?
  • can she get around to water, sun, bed, litter on her own

If you have done all you can to make your cat comfortable and happy but life is just not good for her anymore then you can feel more confident in making your decision.

Herbal treatment

Pet owners who prefer herbal treatments or have animals with chronic problems will be pleased to hear that  animal herbalist Nicki Froescheis, who is a German-trained veterinarian, has moved to Canberra. Nicki has European postgraduate training in herbal treatment for pets.

Nicki says that herbal treatment is useful for chronic diseases such as arthritis, bladder inflammation, palliative treatment for cancers, immune disorders, dementia and skin diseases as well as many other problems. Herbs are not much help in life threatening conditions or problems which come on suddenly.

Nicki assesses each individual patient and tailors the herb formula accordingly. Appointments can be made with Nicki on 0404 127 973 and she will arrange to meet you at Hall Vet Surgery.

Nicki’s own website is at www.herbalpetcare.com.au

Doggy dementia

Dementia affects old dogs in the same way it affects some older people with declining brain function.

Signs of dementia:

  • Disorientation: staring into space, getting lost in the house or yard, getting stuck in corners or under furniture, standing at the wrong door to go out
  • Reduced interaction with human family members: not greeting owners or seeking attention, following people around the house or losing interest in household events
  • Loss of house-training: urinating or defecating in the house, not using the doggie door or not asking to go out to toilet
  • Erratic sleeping behaviour: waking, pacing or vocalizing at night, sleeping less at night and more during the day
  • Loss of learned behaviours
  • Slow and cautious gait

An aged dog exhibiting at least one of these signs more than once a week for at least a month has dementia.

Dogs showing any signs are often severely affected within 12-18 months.

Treatment

  • Diet:

Anti-oxidants delay and treat dementia. Antioxidants include Vitamin E, Vitamin C, Alpha-lipoic acid, L-carnitine and beta-carotene. Fruits and vegetables contain many of these.

Omega 3 fatty acids as found in fish oil or food supplements such as Nutricoat also help.

Hills b/d (brain diet) is a prescription diet that contains these nutrients.

  • Physical therapy:

Stimulate brain function and delay the onset of dementia with basic obedience training, scent discrimination tasks, safety-modified obstacle courses and hide and seek games.

Gentle walks or swimming delay loss of brain function as well as improve muscle function.

  • Environmental enrichment

Petting, brushing and massage stimulate the nerves and brains of old dogs. New toys, blinking lights, walks in new areas with new smells, and meeting new animals and people boost an old dog’s brain function and enjoyment of life.