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What is Dementia in Dogs?

Unfortunately, just like people, dogs and cats also develop degenerative brain diseases known as canine or feline cognitive dysfunction syndrome. But unlike humans, often the signs a pet is in mental decline go unnoticed until the condition is so advanced there’s little that can be done to turn things around or at least slow the progression of the disease.

Often, even an animal’s veterinarian is unaware there’s a problem because he or she doesn’t see the pet that often and always in a clinical setting vs. at home. In addition, according to Dr. Jeff Nichol, a veterinary behavior specialist in Albuquerque, NM, many DVMs aren’t aware of just how common cognitive dysfunction syndrome is. Vets assume pet parents will tell them when an older dog or cat is experiencing behavior changes, while owners assume the changes are just a natural part of aging.

In a large Australian study published in 2011 on canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD), scientists at the University of Sydney reported that about 14 percent of dogs develop CCD, but less than 2 percent are diagnosed. In addition, the risk of CCD increases with age — over 40 percent of dogs at 15 will have at least one symptom. Researchers also estimate the prevalence of cognitive dysfunction in geriatric dogs at 68 percent.

In a study also published in 2011 on cognitive decline in cats,2 a researcher at the University of Edinburgh, Hospital for Small Animals estimated that a third of all cats between 11 and 14 years of age have age-related cognitive decline. That number increases to 50 percent for cats 15 years and older.

Our blind Jack Russell Terrier of 18 years old started to pee and poo all over the place even though when he got blind, he was able to find his pee/poo area. Initially, we did not think much about it except for the fact that he was getting old and he had trouble locating his usual spot.

We were so wrong. Whenever we left the house for a while, he would be found sitting by the main door quietly for our return. One day, when we opened the door, he was not there. He was pacing in circle. We knew almost immediately this is bad news. So this began our quest to find a holistic approach for Dementia.

REFERENCES

Wendell O. Belfield, DVM
Author of How to Have a Healthier Dog

Jeffrey Feinman, DVM, BA, VMD, CVH
Jeffrey Feinman holds both molecular biology and veterinary degrees from the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Jeff was the first dual degree recipient at Penn in the prestigious University Scholar program (which was designed to foster medical scientists).

Karen Becker, DVM
Diplomate American Veterinary Medical Association, American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy

Stephen Tobin, DVM
Holistic veterinarian who provides treatment using homeopathy, herbs, and nutrition. He is a veterinary graduate of the Ludwig Maximillian Universitat in Munich, Germany.

Peter Dobias, DVM
Founder and CEO of Dr. Dobias Healing Solutions Inc. Advanced Professional Course in Veterinary Homeopathy. Homeopathic Master Clinician  (human homeopathy)

Steve Marsden, DVM ND MSOM LAc DiplCH AHG

Shawn Messonnier, DVM

What causes Dementia in Dogs?

At present there is no conclusive cause known although it is believed that certain changes in the brain can contribute. Nerve function is vital to cognitive function and this relies on the chemical reaction of transmission of information across nerve pathways – from structures known as synapses.

Each nerve firing is a message to the body to react, whether this is physical or mental, the nervous system has overriding control of the speed of reactions in the dog.

Although the exact cause of cognitive dysfunction syndrome is currently unknown, genetic factors may predispose an animal to develop the condition.

However age related cognitive decline is not the only condition that causes dementia in dogs. Some other conditions that can cause dementia include:

  • Brain tumors
  • Brain trauma or other acute injury
    encephalitis from various causes
  • Tick-borne diseases
  • Liver abnormalities

Another theory on a contributing factor to dementia is as the dog ages a protein known as beta amyloid accumulates in the brain clustering around the nerves (known as a plaque). The build-up acts as an insulator to the chemical process of the nerve firing and thus prevents or slows the nerve sending the message to the receptors in the body.  As the amount of beta amyloid increases it becomes increasingly difficult for the nerves to work effectively.

Another view related to the nerve action is that decreased dopamine production has been identified in cases of dementia. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter and its presence is essential for effective nerve transmission.

dementia canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome
dementia canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome

Signs and Symptoms of Dementia in Dogs

Signs of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome can be wide ranging, some may appear slowly but others can occur and become an issue for the dog relatively quickly. It is important to talk over the signs with your Vet or Vet nurse as some signs can potentially indicate underlying conditions.

Some of the most common signs are as follows:

  • A blank, lost look in the dogs eyes – they appear distant and unreactive
  • Circling – walking round in a circle continuously
  • Getting lost/stuck in their own home – may get stuck in places around the house
  • Repetitive actions
  • Urinating /Defecating in the house
  • Makes uncharacteristic noises – may whine, pant or bark at inappropriate times
  • Change in sleeping patterns – erratic sleep patterns may be sleeping all day and awake all night , excess sleeping or insomnia
  • Behavioural changes – often due to confusion dogs may become irritable and snappy, even one that was once very placid can withdraw into itself and snap when interrupted.
  • Change in family behaviours – your dog may no longer react to his name or your voice, and may not greet you happily at the door as he has done in the past.

Diagnosis process of Dementia in Dogs

There is no single test which can diagnose canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome. Your veterinarian will base the diagnosis on examination, observations and exclusion of underlying conditions. As your veterinarian carries out a full examination he will take notes on your concerns and what you have noticed at home, he may recommend a blood test and a urine sample. These simple tests will allow the vet to exclude any other conditions often found in senior pets and monitor the function of your dog’s vital organs such as heart, liver and kidneys. You will need to give a thorough history of your dog’s health to your veterinarian, including the onset and nature of the symptoms and possible incidents that might have precipitated the unusual behaviors or complications.

Your vet will be likely to ask you to return for a review after a few weeks of trying any treatments and will wish to monitor the progression of the symptoms.

diagnosis dementia Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome canine dog cat

Dementia-Like Conditions in Dogs

Conditions that Resemble Dementia

There are also conditions with similar symptoms to dementia. They include hepatic encephalopathy, with its signature symptom of head pressing, and vestibular disorder, a condition of the inner ear and brain.

Head Pressing

Head pressing is most often associated with a liver condition called hepatic encephalopathy, but can be a symptom of other conditions, all of them serious.

In head pressing, the dog presses her head against a wall. This can resemble the behavior of standing in corners or next to walls that dogs with canine cognitive dysfunction perform, but is different in one important way: the dog visibly presses her head against a surface.

Geriatric Vestibular Disorder

Geriatric vestibular disorder is an abnormality of the parts of the brain and inner ear that control balance. The behaviors that dogs suffering from it exhibit can resemble those of a dog with dementia, but there is generally no cognitive decline involved.

Vestibular disorder often has an unknown cause, but can sometimes result from an ear infection, so a vet visit is in order.

Current Available Treatment in Singapore for Dogs diagnosed with Dementia

There is no magic cure for age-related dog dementia, but a number of treatments appear to help slow the process somewhat, and to varying degrees. The following canine cognitive dysfunction treatments have been shown in scientific studies to help. Please check with your veterinarian if you suspect your dog has canine cognitive dysfunction.

Anipryl (U.S. brand name for selegiline)  has been shown to slow the progression of canine cognitive dysfunction. It is a drug that is used to treat Parkinson’s in humans. It is available now for dogs in tablets and chewables. If your vet prescribes it, try to shop around. Its price really varies. The doses for dogs that you can buy on cards are quite expensive. But it can also be purchased in generic tablets quite cheaply.Some prescription drugs commonly used in Europe for canine cognitive dysfunction are nicergoline, propentofylline, and adrafanil. Of these, adrafanil has shown the most promise in studies.

Like all drugs, Anipryl comes with a risk of side effects, including — but not limited to — diarrhea, vomiting, restlessness or hyperactivity, loss of appetite, seizures, staggering and lethargy.

(There is no drug approved for treatment of CDS in cats, although some veterinarians report promising results using L-deprenyl in cats.)

IMPORTANCE OF PROPER NUTRACEUTICALS FOR DEMENTIA DOGS

dementia supplements Nutraceuticals

Choline

The most important and widely used anti-Alzheimer’s drugs are acetylcholinesterase inhibitors, so called because they inhibit the action of acetylcholinesterase, an enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine molecules (this is a necessary function that can, however, get out of balance). By interfering with the action of this enzyme, the drugs effectively increase the amount of acetylcholine available to the brain’s neurons. In one particular study of reversing clinical signs of cognitive disorder , Choline has shown 82% success in clinical signs reduction over 21 dogs of various breed 10 years of age.

Ginkgo Biloba

Ginkgo Biloba is a plant extract containing several compounds that may have positive effects on cells within the brain and the body. Ginkgo biloba is thought to have both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, to protect cell membranes and to regulate neurotransmitter function. Ginkgo Biloba is widely considered as an “antiaging herb”. It has proved effective in treating Alzheimer’s disease in both people and canine. Ginkgo enhances both long-term and short-term memory in puppies and senior dogs alike. 

However, Ginkgo Biloba has very mixed research.

* Rosemary

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis L.) is one of the most economically important species of the family Lamiaceae. Among the most important group of compounds isolated from the plant are the abietane-type phenolic diterpenes that account for most of the antioxidant and many pharmacological activities of the plant. Rosemary diterpenes have also been shown in recent years to inhibit neuronal cell death induced by a variety of agents both in vitro and in vivo.

If you are attempting to use Rosemary Essential Oil, you have to look for 1,8-cineole (Tunisia).

Bacopa

Bacopa is a creeping perennial herb that thrives in wetlands and on muddy shores. Its therapeutic use has its origins in traditional Ayurvedic medicine, where it has been used for its adaptogenic, tranquilizing, and antioxidant properties. Today, modern science is trying to confirm traditional wisdom about Bacopa. In studies conducted in Australia and the U.S., Bacopa improved study subjects’ ability to retain new information — and it also helped them increase their visual processing speed in as little as 3 weeks.

However, there is a side effect that might concern pet owners. Bacopa might slow down the heart beat. This could be a problem in people who already have a slow heart rate.

Gotu Kola

Gotu kola is an herb that is commonly used in Traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine.  According to modern studies, gotu kola does offer support for healthy memory function. A study conducted in 1992 by K. Nalini at Kasturba Medical College showed an impressive improvement in memory in rats which were treated with the extract (orally) daily for 14 days before the experiment. The retention of learned behavior in the rats treated with gotu kola was 3 to 60 times better than that in control animals.

However, animals who are known to have liver damage or cancer should not take this drug. Asiaticoside contained in gotu kola has been shown to encourage the growth of tumors in mice.

Asiaticoside contained in gotu kola has been shown to encourage the growth of tumors in mice – See more at: http://www.vitaminsestore.com/gotu-kola-benefits-reviews-side-effects-and-dosage/#sthash.bEGgaBcI.dpuf
Asiaticoside contained in gotu kola has been shown to encourage the growth of tumors in mice – See more at: http://www.vitaminsestore.com/gotu-kola-benefits-reviews-side-effects-and-dosage/#sthash.bEGgaBcI.dpuf

Resveratrol

Resveratrol is part of a group of compounds called polyphenols. They’re thought to act like antioxidants, protecting the body against damage that can put you at higher risk for things like cancer and heart disease.It’s in the skin of red grapes, but you can also find it in peanuts and berries. Manufacturers have tried to capitalize on its powers by selling resveratrol supplements. Most resveratrol capsules sold in the U.S. contain extracts from an Asian plant called Polygonum cuspidatum. Other resveratrol supplements are made from red wine or red grape extracts.

Bottomline, from most research, this supplement has very little use for dogs who have been diganosed with dementia.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil has medium chain triglycerides [MCT], which are a good source of energy, in the form of ketone bodies … MCTs are converted in the liver into ketones, which can be used by the brain as fuel; they are a more immediate source of energy than other fats. There are however mixed reviews on whether it really helps in managing dementia in dogs. But given the health benefits of it, there is no risk in giving it.

As a daily supplement, work up to about 1 tsp per 10 lbs of body weight per day. Start with ¼ of this amount to avoid loose stool from the extra oil going through your dog’s digestive system, then increase gradually until you get to the recommended dose.

SAMe

SAMe (S-Adenosyl-Methionine) is an amino acid derivative normally synthesized in the body that may become depleted with sickness or age. Supplementing with SAMe plus folate, trimethylglycine (TMG or betaine), vitamins B6 and B12 appears to be an effective way to overcome this deficiency.

Oral s-Adenosylmethionine, or SAMe, alleviates signs of age-related cognitive decline in dogs as well as humans. According to one double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, SAMe-treated dogs showed significant improvements in activity and awareness of their surroundings without serious adverse effects. How it accomplishes this remains unknown for now.

Omega-3

Omega-3 fatty acid, DHA, has been shown to improve cognitive dysfunction in affected dogs. Interestingly, DHA appears to slow the progression of human dementia and Alzheimer’s disease too.

A study was performed on 142 older dogs with a variety of behavioral abnormalities (disorientation, disrupted sleep patterns, altered interactions with family members, altered activity levels and loss of house training). During the 60-day period, dogs fed a DHA-supplemented food showed significant improvement in every one of these behavior categories. However, it is very important to take note that pet owners should supplement their pet with Vitamin E if they are feeding their dogs with Omega-3.

Wild Blueberry Extracts

The blueberry, already labeled a ‘super fruit’ for its power to potentially lower the risk of heart disease and cancer, also could be another weapon in the war against Alzheimer’s disease. New research being presented today further bolsters this idea, which is being tested by many teams. The fruit is loaded with healthful antioxidants, and these substances could help prevent the devastating effects of this increasingly common form of dementia, scientists report.

“Our new findings corroborate those of previous animal studies and preliminary human studies, adding further support to the notion that blueberries can have a real benefit in improving memory and cognitive function in some older adults,” says Robert Krikorian, Ph.D., leader of the research team. He adds that blueberries’ beneficial effects could be due to flavonoids called anthocyanins, which have been shown to improve animals’ cognition.

Melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone found naturally in the body. Melatonin used as medicine is usually made synthetically in a laboratory. It is most commonly available in pill form, but melatonin is also available in forms that can be placed in the cheek or under the tongue. This allows the melatonin to be absorbed directly into the body.

Melatonin is also used for the inability to fall asleep (insomnia); delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS); rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder (RBD); insomnia associated with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); insomnia due to certain high blood pressure medications called beta-blockers; and sleep problems in children with developmental disorders including autism, cerebral palsy, and intellectual disabilities. It is also used as a sleep aid after discontinuing the use of benzodiazepine drugs. But pet owners, take note that Melatonin might increase blood sugar and increase blood pressure.

Turmeric

Turmeric has been used as a spice and a medicine for millennia. Turmeric has been called a super food and a super spice. The health and medical benefits attributed to it include pain reliver, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and cancer-preventative.  It can also lower cholesterol and protect the cardiovascular system.

The anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric is part of the reason it gained such a high standing in traditional Eastern systems of medicine. Since etanercept is an anti-inflammatory, it is not an entirely capricious leap of faith to suppose that anti-inflammatory substances in the spice turmeric should act in ways similar to the pharmaceutical etanercept. In fact, there is mounting clinical evidence that turmeric might protect the brain from the onset as well as the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

Acetyl-L-carnitine

Acetyl l-carnitine (ALCAR) is a modified form of carnitine, an amino acid derivative found in red meat, which is readily absorbed throughout the body, including the brain. It is involved in fatty acid metabolism and may improve several aspects of brain health, including mitochondrial function, activity of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, and possibly cognition.

So, how exactly does ALC work? Mind Boosters author Dr. Ray Sahelia believes that Alzheimer’s patients may benefit from ALC in three ways: It is able to travel through the blood-brain barrier, where it then helps form the brain chemical acetylcholine; it keeps mitochondria working efficiently by clearing them of toxic fatty-acid metabolites; and it helps regenerate neurons damaged by free radicals.

But the evidence of it is still weak at this moment of time.

Alpha Lipoic Acid

Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) is a synthetic version of lipoic acid, which helps cells make energy. It has antioxidant properties and may reduce inflammation. Oxidative stress and neuronal energy depletion are characteristic hallmarks of Dementia’s disease. It has been hypothesized that, because of this, pro-energetic and antioxidant drugs such as alpha-lipoic acid might delay the onset or slow down the progression of the disease.
Separate research also revealed that alpha lipoic acid, in combination with vitamin E and acetyl-l-carnitine, led to improvements in potential biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease and showed promise for slowing the progression of the disease.

In one study of patients with Alzheimer’s disease, those given 600 mg of alpha lipoic daily for 12 months had a stabilization of cognitive function. A follow-up study, which increased the number of patients in the study and extended the observation period to 48 months, the progression of the disease was “dramatically lower” among those taking alpha lipoic acid, compared to those with no treatment or those taking choline-esterase inhibitor drugs.

Phosphatidylserine

Phosphatidylserine is a class of phospholipids found in cell membranes. Its levels and location within the brain can affect important signaling pathways for cell survival and communication. Phosphatidylserine includes two fatty acids that can vary from saturated or monounsaturated to polyunsaturated omega-6 and omega-3 versions like docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Some clinical trials of phosphatidylserine supplements have shown modestly improved cognitive function.

Our bodies need this phospholipid to build brain cell membranes that are fluid enough to release the neurotransmitters acetylcholine and dopamine, but luckily, our brains normally manufacture enough phosphatidylserine (PS) to keep us in top mental order. However, when we reach middle age, our levels of PS begin to decline — an effect that is worsened by deficiencies of other essential fatty acids, folic acid or vitamin B12. Because PS is necessary for effective neurotransmission, PS deficiency is linked to mental impairment, including Alzheimer’s and non-Alzheimer’s dementia, depression and Parkinson’s disease among middle-aged and elderly people.

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