Welcome to this page about the care of senior pets. What I intend to offer on this page is a discussion about the following topics:
Geriactric or Senior "work ups"
Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome or Senility
Diets appropriate for senior pets
Dignified and gentle euthanasia
Older dogs are likely to have lots of little problems and one of those might be senility or in fancier language what’s known as Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome.
Some vets take this very seriously and have counseling sessions, forms, and history charts to try to help determine if your dog is truly dysfunctional and a good candidate for medication.
Some cases are obvious that the dog is simply “not with it”, but it’s true, sometimes it’s very hard to tell...is old Browny truly senile or just hard of hearing or too arthritic to bother getting up every time someone opens the door.
The neat news is that there’s a new medication that can be very helpful if your dog is, in fact, suffering from senility, so if you think that’s the case, tell your vet.
The kind of thing that indicates a problem are:
aggression towards other pets or people that you wouldn’t normally expect
barking for no good reason
breakdown of house training
Walking around aimlessly
Not seeming to be aware of the comings and goings of the household.
It’s important to understand that a good vet will not diagnose cognitive dysfunction syndrome based on symptoms alone. The diagnosis should be one of elimination, meaning that other causes of your dog’s symptoms need to be ruled out first.
For example, aggression might be due to a painful tooth abscess, ingrown nail, or ear ache.
The lack of interest in your coming home may be due to fatigue and weakness due to a metabolic disease, anemia, or cancer.
The breakdown in house training may be due to kidney disease or incontinence.
In order to eliminate such things, your vet will recommend a good exam, a urinalysis, probably a urine albumin test (this is new and will be discussed elsewhere on this page), and routine blood work.
Your vet will also want to ask a lot of questions about your dog’s habits and routines, and yes, maybe fill out some history forms.
Once cognitive dysfunction is strongly suspected, your vet is very likely to recommend trying the new break through medication called Anipryl (L-selegeline). I believe this medication for dogs is the happy side result of all the Alzheimer’s research being done for humans.
Many dogs will show significant improvement in 2 to 8 weeks. Typically your vet will give you a one month trial dose to see if your dog benefits from the medication. If there’s no real improvement, he or she may recommend increasing the dose and trying for another month. It’s best to give this medication in the morning (unless you’re on the night shift). Side effects are rare and usually minor. This new drug is fairly expensive though, and if helpful will probably be given for life.