Just like humans, as dog’s get older, they develop ailments that leave them struggling to function like they once did.
The terms used for these issues have changed over the years and where it was once commonly referred to as senility, it is now often given the term of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome, or CCDS. Over time and with age, changes occur in the brain that are destructive and cause everything from loss of bladder control to loss of memory.
These changes portray themselves differently for different dogs. Studies have shown that smaller breeds, such as the toy breeds, seem to develop CCDS much more slowly than the larger breeds who suffer from a much faster onset with age.
About one third of dogs will begin to show signs of CCDS by the time they hit eleven years of age and by the time fourteen years of age is reached, most dogs of all breeds are showing at least minimal signs of CCDS. Many times Cushing’s disease is also present in these later years.
Different pet owners report differing signs and symptoms that result of CCDS. Some are made aware that the syndrome has set in when their pet’s house training habits begin to decline and accidents begin to occur much more often.
Some owners report that their pet seems to lose their memory in areas such as recognition of people, especially family members.
For some pets, confusion sets in and they can no longer seem to remember their way around the yard or their house. Anxiety is a common sign and some owners report that they often find their dog pacing aimlessly.
Separation anxiety, obsessive activities such as licking or barking, drooling, panting and restlessness are also reported.
For most of these dogs, these symptoms developed slowly over time, but steadily. It is possible that as dogs get progressively worse, that they will seem to become much more timid and some will even become aggressive when they were always gentle and compliant.
These symptoms will depend on each individual dog as they find themselves struggling to cope with the new and frightening changes.
When dogs begin to show these signs, it is best to have them examined by their vet. Other illnesses can often produce symptoms that mimic CCDS and it is important to find out for sure what is ailing your pet so that the proper course of action can be decided upon.
Older dogs also can develop PDH, also known as canine pituitary dependent hyperadrenocorticism or Cushing’s Disease. Symptoms for this disease are varied but most commonly relate to the skin or urinary tract.
These can include a pot bellied abdomen, hair loss, insomnia, increased appetite, thirst, panting and urination, loss of energy, obesity and pads of fat on the shoulders and neck, weakness of the muscles and darkening or blackheads on the skin.
Other common symptoms can also include shrinking of the testicles, lack of a heat cycle in female dogs, unusual bruising that results from thinning skin and patches of skin that are white, hardened and scaly.
What is Selegiline?
This drug was originally developed for use in treating elderly people that had developed Parkinson’s and Alzheimers. A form of the drug designed for dogs is also available and is often called by it’s market name of Anipryl. Studies have shown that this drug does seem to prove helpful for some dogs that have developed and are suffering from the effects of CCDS.
Selegiline works by targeting the remaining amount of dopamine in your dog and helping to prolong it. Chemicals in the brain that work as messengers in between nerve cells are increased by the use of selegiline.
When given Selegiline consistently over the remainder of their lives, dogs do seem to live longer than those who do not receive the treatment. Many have reported that it seems to reverse many of the effects of CCDs, even though it seems to be only a temporary reprieve. Some owners claim that the drug has provided miraculous improvement in their dog’s overall mood and personality while others find that the drug has offered disappointingly few positive changes in any area for their dog.
For use in dogs with CDDS, Selegiline is usually prescribed to be administered orally once per day, preferably in the morning hours. A dose is usually 0.5-1.0 mg/kg.
When the treatment is first started doses are usually rounded up to the nearest whole tablet and then amounts are adjusted according to tolerance and side effects that become present with each individual dog.
In treatment for PDH, selegiline is also administered once daily in the amount of 1.0 mg/kg. It is also prescribed for morning use and the drug is initially given a time frame of about 2 months for showing signs of improvement.
If no improvement is obvious, then the dose could be increased to 2.0 mg/kg daily. This is the maximum dose to be used.
For dogs that still do not show signs of improvement after a month of treatment at the maximum dose, a reevaluation will usually take place. Some dogs will require alternate therapy as the drug will not slow the progress of their PDH.
Selegiline is not available for use without a prescription.
The use of Selegiline has been known to cause a range of side effects. Some of these side effects have resulted simply in a reduction in the amount of doses being given while others have been severe and persistent enough that the medicinal therapy was discontinued entirely.
The effects reported have included: vomiting and diarrhea, disoreintation, agitation and restlessness, hearing that is diminished, increased destructive behavior, anorexia and weight loss, increased salivation and lethargy, urinary tract infection, neurologic issues such as disorientation, staggering, incoordination and seizure activity, and cardiovascular issues including sneezing, heart murmurs, collapse, tachycardia, pleural effusion and dyspnea.
There are a few drug alternatives to Selegiline that have proven to be effective in therapy. These include a medicine used in England that goes by the name of Nicergoline. Other medicines that have showen potential for future benefits are propentofylline, adrafanil and modafinil.
These have all been showed to enhance the activity in the brain in humans and it is hoped that they will prove to be of the same effect for dogs one day. Vivotin is another drug that is used overseas and helps to supply the brain with more blood.
For many pet owners, the cost of medicinal therapy is more than they are able or willing to do. Additionally, there are other owners who are of a mindset that they would rather try out alternative therapies that are more gentle and involve less or no side effects for their dog. Fortunately for these, there have been a few natural therapies that have shown themselves to be helpful for dogs suffering from the ailments of old age.
Alternatives include herbal remedies and nutritional supplementation. Supplements can include omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin C, carotenoids, mitochondrial cofactors, mixed tocopherols, beta-carotene and flavenoids. These have all showed varied rates of success.
Changing your dogs diet to foods that are higher in things like antioxidants can also help to improve symptoms of CDS.