What is Alzheimer's?
As our pets get older they become vulnerable to a number of the same diseases as humans, including arthritis, heart disease, cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. Kitty or doggy Alzheimer’s, also known as Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS) is a degenerative neurological disorder that causes a number of cognitive symptoms such as disorientation, memory loss, confusion, and personality changes.
It’s often difficult to distinguish between the normal signs of aging and the early signs of Alzheimer’s. It may see somewhat expected for your old pet to be slower, less interested in things and have moments of confusion, however, keep in mind that personality changes and severe memory loss are not a normal part of getting old.
A pet with Alzheimer’s may display some of the following
symptoms and behaviors:
- stops responding to his or her name
- seems to forget old tricks and no longer responds to learnt commands
- does not seem to recognize you or other familiar people or animals
- forgetting routines, which can include forgetting to eat or drink
- staring blankly into space or at walls
- gets disoriented and may wonder around aimlessly
- becomes prone to repetitive and compulsive behaviors
- disturbed sleep patterns which may mean your pet sleeps more during the day but remains awake at night
- lack of energy
- easily agitated
- howling or wailing aimlessly, especially on waking
- Frequent "accidents" in the house where your dog doesn’t find the yard in time or your cat can’t find the litter box. They may even forget the purpose of the litter box or going out.
What Causes Alzheimer's?
Alzheimer’s is a condition more likely to occur with age, but remember that different breeds of cats and dogs tend to age faster than others. For example, an Irish Wolfhound may be old by the age of 6yrs, while a Maltese poodle is only elderly at 12. But just like Alzheimer’s in humans, the underlying cause of pet Alzheimer’s or CDS is not clearly understood.
What has been found is that, like in the human condition, there is a build up of a nerve-damaging protein called beta amyloid in the brain. When this starch-like protein builds up it forms plaque which clogs the brain and inhibits the transmission of cognitive signals between the brain neurons.
Alzheimer’s is not something that your vet will pick up on during a routine examination. It is therefore essential to alert you vet of any strange behaviors you have noticed in your elderly pet. Alzheimer’s can often be diagnosed with the occurrence of one or more geriatric behaviors that cannot be accounted for by other medical conditions.
Your vet will need a detailed description of the symptoms and may run some tests to rule out any other conditions that may be causing the symptoms. Depending on the symptoms, your vet may suggest blood tests, urinalysis, a neurological exam, cerebrospinal fluid analysis, or CAT scan.
Help for Alzheimer's
While Alzheimer’s cannot be cured, treatment can slow down the progression of the disease and improve your pet’s quality of life. A change in diet is often a part of the treatment program, and your vet may recommend a food that’s fortified with anti-oxidants.
Your vet may prescribe a drug called Selegiline hydrochloride (Anipryl) which works by increasing the dopamine levels in your pet’s brain. The drug has been quite successful in reversing partial damage and improving the behaviors of many pet’s with Alzheimer’s, although sometimes improvement is only seen in 60 days! As with other pharmaceutical medications, side effects can be a concern and may include vomiting, diarrhea, itchy skin, and loss of appetite.
There are a number of natural ingredients that can help treat the age-related and cognitive symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s. Studies have revealed that the herb Gotu kola helps to increase oxygen supply to the brain and improve memory and mental alertness.
In addition, it has excellent calming qualities which will help to reduce the stress so often associated with disorientation. Rosemary is another herb which works in a similar manner and it is well known for its ability to strengthen the memory and increase energy levels.
It also helps to control free radicals in the body thereby protecting your pet against a number of illnesses such as cancer, heart disease as well as premature aging. Lastly, the natural sea-organism Spirulina is an excellent over-all vitality tonic and helps boost your pet’s immune system and generally mental and physical health.
More Information on Alzheimer's
Tips for Alzheimer’s
- Provide your pet with a stress-free and predictable environment. Keep things structured and in routine and where possible, avoid change in your pet’s life.
- Assist your pet with daily grooming as your pet may forget to clean and groom itself. A gentle brush of the coat and making sure nails are kept trimmed will go a long way in helping your pet feel more comfortable.
- Encourage your pet to eat and drink regularly. They may need a little reminding and enticing from time to time. Pet water fountains can be useful as the bubbling sound of water can remind your pet to drink and eat.
- Provide your cat with extra litter trays around the house so that there is always one close at hand which can be easily found., Remember to take him or out regularly and more frequently if accidents are occurring. Your pet may forget to alert you when he needs to go out so you have to do the remembering.
- Consider a supplement of omega-3 fatty acids. They’re great for over-all brain health and can really help increase your pet’s cognitive functioning.
- Provide plenty of attention and mental stimulation in the form of walks, games and verbal praise. While your pet may not always recognize you, they will appreciate the attention and the mental stimulation will help keep their brains active.
- Alzheimer’s pets can wander off if you’re not careful. Take measures to ensure they cannot leave the house and consider putting a bell on their collar so you can be sure of their whereabouts indoors.
- It can be heartbreaking to see your old pet so confused and disoriented, but always remember the joys they brought you and that now you can return the favor with lots of TLC and a little extra pampering.