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Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

by: Nancy M. Gerhardt, DVM

Any of us who has had the blessing of having a beloved pet live to be well on in years knows that the aging process in pets often causes deterioration in the quality of life. Some changes we may regard as senility or "old dog syndrome". It can be very disheartening to see a canine friend who once was an active, happy, frolicking family member lose his playfulness, "forget" his house training, begin to wake during the night and sleep during the day, become irritable or sometimes fail to recognize or respond to his favorite people, all without any detectable physical explanation.

For many years this problem, now known as canine cognitive dysfunction, had no known cause or hope for solution. It was either accepted by the owners until the pet passed on of other causes, or eventually resulted in the euthanasia of the family friend who was no longer enjoying his own life. In many cases it had soiled the carpets, disturbed the sleep of family members and even snapped at his owners or their best friends. It is now known that this condition is caused by an abnormality in the function of chemicals in the brain called catecholamines and are not due to some mysterious aging change.

Fortunately, there are now available through your veterinarian prescription medications which can very often reverse these changes and cause marked improvement, often for several years. There is also an herbal formula available which can help many cases. Use of these medications is contraindicated in pets taking certain other medications; hence, it is important that when you consult your veterinarian about such troubles to alert the doctor about any prescription, over-the-counter or herbal medications your pet is already receiving. We have been blessed by medical research so as our pets can live much happier and enjoyable lives into their own "golden years".