Canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS) is a gradual neurological degenerative disorder of senior dogs that is often compared to dementia, senility and even Alzheimer’s disease in humans. Over time, CDS impacts cognition, or the mental abilities and processes involved in knowledge, memory, judgment and problem solving.
Cognitive decline in dogs is typically manifested as behavioural changes in one or more of the following categories:
- Disorientation in the home or yard
- Changes in social interactions with family members
- Disruption in sleep patterns
- Loss of housetraining
- Decreased levels of activity
The general treatment goals for CDS are to slow down the rate of cognitive decline and to relieve any pain or distress associated with changes in physical and/or mental status. Traditionally, CDS has been treated with a combination of medications (Selegiline) and oral supplements. Recently, several studies have indicated that nutrition plays a pivotal role in helping to combat this syndrome.
There are three major nutritional components that have been identified as crucial in supporting cognitive health in dogs.
Anti-Oxidants & Free Radicals
Aging in most animals is accompanied by the progressive accumulation of oxidative (or free radical) damage to body tissue, including brain tissue. As cells age, the mitochondria, which is the part of a cell that is responsible for releasing energy from molecules in food, begin to increase the release of free radicals. Large amounts of free radicals can cause damage in older dogs’ brain tissue, which can contribute to cognitive dysfunction and brain lesions.
Anti-oxidants work by decreasing the effects of free radicals in body tissue. Vitamin C and Vitamin E are the two most important anti-oxidants that have been found to inactivate free radicals and prevent cellular damage. Flavonoids and carotenoids, which are molecules commonly found in fruits and vegetables, have also been identified to aid in neutralizing damaging free radicals. Studies have found that when dogs suffering from CDS are fed an anti-oxidant-fortified diet, they display up to a 61% increase in enthusiasm in greeting family members and a whopping 74% reduction in housesoiling accidents.
Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenic acid (DHA) are fatty acids that are naturally found in high concentrations in the brain. These fatty acids aid in maintaining brain cell health and brain connectivity by maintaining strong cellular membranes and promoting healthy blood flow to brain tissue. Several studies have found that diets rich in fatty acids, in combination with anti-oxidants, can delay or partially reverse age-related deteriorations in learning.
Medium Chain Triglycerides
Medium chain triglycerides (MCT) are a common nutrient that is found in vegetable oils. As a dog’s brain ages, the tissue starts to have a hard time obtaining energy from traditional sources like glucose (sugar). When this occurs, brain tissue does not receive adequate nutrition to maintain optimal cognitive function. MCT serve as an alternative energy source for brain tissue. Studies have found that dogs fed a diet high in MCT display improved memory, attention and learning abilities in comparison to dogs fed a diet not containing MCT.
peutic veterinary diets that contain these essential nutritional components. If you have any concerns regarding behavioural changes in your older dogs, be sure to bring them to your regular veterinarian for proper assessment, diagnosis and treatment. With many advances over the past 10 years, we are able to give our beloved companions longer and happier lives in spite of the effects of CDS
Andrea Smith BSc, DVM, CCRP (candidate) is associate veterinarian at Don Mills Veterinary Practice in Toronto, ON. email@example.com
The heart is essential to the body, regardless of the species. Luckily, when dogs have heart problems, veterinary cardiologists, like Dr. Ryan Fries at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Urbana, are able to keep things ticking along.
Pacemakers have been used in human medicine since the early 1960s. In the late 1980s, Dr. David Sisson at the University of Illinois became one of the first veterinary cardiologists to place intravenous pacemakers in canine patients. Currently, the university’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital is the only veterinary facility in the state of Illinois that offers this procedure.
In dogs, pacemakers are used both as a life-saving intervention and to improve quality of life.
How Pacemakers Work
“A pacemaker is made up of two parts,” says Dr. Fries. “One part consists of a generator, a lithium battery and a computer chip that we can program to meet the dog’s needs. The other part consists of wires, called leads, that extend from the generator through veins in the neck and are attached to the inside of the heart.”
The pacemaker is activated when the dog’s heart rate slows below the acceptable range set by the veterinarian, generally between 80 and 120 beats per minute. When the pacemaker kicks on, it stimulates contractions of the heart until the heart’s rhythm is reset and can continue on its own.
Cardiologists like Dr. Fries place pacemakers while the dog is under anesthesia. The surgery is most commonly done using minimally invasive techniques. The equipment used is the same that’s used in humans, but the procedure is much more affordable: “The entire procedure typically costs between $3,500 and $4,000, which is consistent with other specialized veterinary procedures,” says Dr. Fries.
“ IN DOGS, PACEMAKERS ARE USED BOTH AS A LIFE-SAVING INTERVENTION AND TO IMPROVE QUALITY OF LIFE”
How Pacemakers Are Placed
“A small incision is made in the dog’s neck, and the leads are fed through the external jugular vein, the same vein used to draw blood. Once the leads are in, the generator is tucked in the skin and stitched up,” explains Dr. Fries.
These radiographs show the pacemaker in place at the patient’s neck and the leads travelling down to the heart. The patient, Lucy, is shown in the photos on this page.
Fluoroscopy is used to visualize the leads going into the heart so the veterinarian can ensure that the leads are attaching in the right place. Fluoroscopy, a form of real-time radiograph, or X-ray, is also used during a heart catheterization.
“Dogs might benefit from a pacemaker if they have an arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm) or a heart rate that is too slow to support the dog in daily activities,” says Dr. Fries. “Some arrhythmias can stop the heart and be life threatening. Other heart conditions may simply impede the dog’s ability to exercise and live a normal life.”
How Pacemakers Help Dogs
A classic presentation of a non-life-threatening heart problem occurs when an otherwise healthy dog suddenly faints while doing routine activities because of reduced blood flow from a slow or irregular heartbeat.
Certain breeds are genetically predisposed to heart abnormalities that can be helped with a pacemaker. Sick sinus syndrome, which affects heart rate, is commonly found in older West Highland White Terriers, Miniature Schnauzers and Cocker Spaniels. English Springer Spaniels are susceptible to a heart condition called atrial standstill.
breed, an advanced atrioventricular (AV) block — a condition in which the impulse that causes contractions in the heart’s atrium is not conveyed appropriately to the ventricle — can be treated with a pacemaker.
“Pacemakers can be a long-term solution and often allow the dog to return to full capacity. If placed early in a dog’s life, the battery may be used enough to wear out. However, the battery can be replaced quite easily,” says Dr. Fries.
A dog with a pacemaker will likely need checkups every six months, alternating visits between a primary care veterinarian and a veterinary cardiologist, according to Dr. Fries. If needed, the settings on the pacemaker can easily be reprogrammed by a veterinarian, who will adjust the computer program by placing a magnet over the skin. No surgery is necessary
Following a month of rest after the surgery, dogs with pacemakers should be ready to resume normal activities. The only thing owners need to do is switch from a collar to a harness to keep pressure off the dog’s neck where the generator is.
“Pacemakers may offer the only treatment option that allows a dog to return to a normal life. We even put them in working animals that return to their jobs,” says Dr. Fries. “They are more common than you would think. There are no outward signs to tell the difference between a dog with or without one!”
If you have questions about pacemakers for dogs, contact your local veterinarian
From Pet Columns, University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine: vetmed.illinois.edu/petcolumns
Ontario SPCA Animal Centres have many pets come into our care who are in their senior years of life. Sadly, many adopters look for the young animals first, and the older pets get left behind! Here six reasons to bring a senior pet home compiled from some of our older blogs:
THEY’RE FULLY MATURED. When you adopt a younger pet, they’re still in the process of learning, developing and growing. The great thing about a senior pet is that it’s fully matured, which means it has a fully formed demeanor, temperament and personality. This can help you when choosing a pet!
THEY TEND TO BE CALMER. Most older pets tend to be calmer and more laidback, which is why many of them do well in houses with young children or first-time pet owners. While they still require regular exercise, they’re not as high energy as a younger pet. That means more time to cuddle!
THEY HAVE EXPERIENCE BEING PART OF A FAMILY. Many senior pets were once beloved family pets but for whatever reason have ended up at a shelter. There’s a good chance your senior pet has lived in a home before and understands basic household etiquette. It’s also likely your senior pet has spent time being socialized around humans and will need less adjustment time before settling in as a member of your family.
IT’S EASIER TO TEACH AN OLD DOG NEW TRICKS. Older dogs tend to be calmer and have better attention spans compared to younger dogs, making them easier to train. Not only are senior dogs just as smart and trainable as puppies, but it’s likely that your senior dog will already be housebroken and familiar with basic commands.
STILL TIME FOR A STRONG BOND: ADULT ANIMALS CAN MAKE LOYAL, TRUSTING COMPANIONS. The animals seem to know they’ve been given a second chance and they take advantage of it.
THEY KNOW THEIR PERSONALITY: OLDER PETS CAN ALSO BE JUST AS SWEET AND PLAYFUL AS KITTENS. Also, when adopting a senior cat, you can get a sense of their personality and their needs, better than you can with a kitten who hasn’t fully discovered themselves yet.
Deafness is often difficult to assess accurately, mainly because pets are not able to tell us when they have trouble hearing. Usually, it is their failure to obey our commands or respond to familiar noises that first alerts us to a deafness problem.
Compared to humans, dogs and cats have a much different range of hearing. Humans can hear sounds in the 20 Hz (low sounds) to 20 kHz (high sounds) range. By comparison, a cat has a range of about 48 Hz to 85 kHz and a dog has a range of about 67 Hz to 45 KHz.
Deafness in dogs and cats can be of two kinds: conductive or sensorineural. If sounds cannot travel properly in the external or middle ear (i.e., sound does not conduct properly), the problem is said to be conductive. This can occur when there is an ear infection, a ruptured eardrum, blocked ear canals or fluid in the ear. Usually, in these patients, hearing loss is only partial and treatment involves medical or surgical correction. If this is the case with your dog, a veterinarian may be able to resolve your pet’s deafness.
If the deafness is sensorineural, the inner ear is involved and deafness is usually total. Sensorineural deafness is often due to nerve abnormalities or problems with the hydrodynamics or physics of the inner ear. As pets get older, deafness is a common occurrence and sensorineural deafness may be the cause.
Deafness can be hereditary in many breeds. Breeds most commonly affected include Dalmatians, Border Collies, English Setters, Boston Terriers, Collies and Rottweilers. It can also be associated with a genetic predisposition. Dogs with the merle coat colour gene and cats with white coat colour and blue iris genes are predisposed to deafness.
Deafness is difficult to evaluate in both dogs and cats, especially if only one ear is involved or if there is only partial deafness. Since pets cannot tell us what they hear, the best criterion for confirming whether a pet can hear or not is by its response to sound, i.e., the pet must consciously perceive the sound.
You can determine your pet’s ability to hear by making various levels of noise (from quiet to increasingly louder noises) and seeing if your pet reacts. Often, pets will display an involuntary flicking or twitching of the ears (called Pryor’s reflex) in response to a sound. Some veterinary schools have also had some degree of success with objective evaluations of hearing, using electrodiagnostic procedures.
using electrodiagnostic procedures. If you suspect that your pet has a hearing problem, consult your veterinarian so that he or she can determine what kind of deafness is involved and what can be done about it.