When you share your life with a dog, you understand the sheer pleasure of it -- the relaxation of walking your dog, the exhilaration of having your dog "come" when you call him in obedience class and the calmness of sitting quietly, his head in your lap, as you scratch behind his ears.
Having a dog in your life also means being responsible for all aspects of his life, and for his entire lifetime. As our dogs age, their needs change. And since our dogs are living longer, there has been an increase in the types of ailments that can effect them.
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One of the ailments that has come to the forefront in senior pet care in the last decade is CDS or Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome. Healthypet.com, the educational website of the AAHA (American Animal Hospital Association), provides information about CDS. Healthypet.com defines CDS or Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome as "a degeneration of the brain and nervous system in dogs, roughly comparable to Alzheimer's disease in people. Like Alzheimer's, it is caused by physical changes in the brain and brain chemical, and it is not a part of normal aging. It results in a deterioration of cognitive abilities, causing behavioral changes that can disrupt the lives of pets and the families that care for them."
Just because dogs are aging, they shouldn't experience a complete change in personality. But rather, an older dog may be showing signs of cognitive dysfunction if they seem suddenly distant, confused or lost.
A dog may be showing signs of CDS if he starts showing some of the following behaviors:
• Staring at walls or into space
• Withdrawing from interaction with the family
• Soliciting less petting and attention
• Difficulty learning new tasks, commands or routes
• Pacing or wandering aimlessly
• Ignoring known commands
• Not responding to his name
• Getting "stuck" in familiar places, like in corners or behind furniture
• Having trouble finding the door
• Becoming lost in familiar places like the home or yard
• Not recognizing family members or other familiar people
If you recognize these symptoms in your dog, consult your veterinarian. If your veterinarian suspects CDS, he will do a thorough behavior and medical history, physical and neurological exam and blood and urine tests to rule other conditions.
Although there is no cure, there is a prescription drug for the treatment of CDS. Healthypet.com notes the drug "works by increasing the amount of dopamine in the dog's brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that the brain needs to function normally: an increased amount of dopamine can improve brain function."
The prescription drug may not work in all dogs, but it may help many dogs think more clearly.
Isn't it amazing what our dogs teach us as they grow older? And isn't it amazing how similar we are?
• Contact The Buddy Foundation at (847) 290-5806; visit us at 65 W. Seegers Road, Arlington Heights, or online at thebuddyfoundation.org.