You can help your older pet by adapting the home environment. Provide your older pet with special accommodations like orthopedic beds, stairs and ramps to help them reach higher places like the couch, bed or car. Raised feeding platforms can also help. Non-slip rugs or carpeting placed over hard-surface flooring can help your arthritic pet gain his footing and make it easier for him to get around.
Nutrition is important during all stages of a pet’s life. Feed your older dog a high quality diet that is appropriate for your dog’s age and lifestyle. Obesity has become an epidemic in our pet companions. This is a serious issue as overweight dogs have a higher incidence of diseases such as arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, skin disease and cancer. Your veterinarian will work with you to determine an appropriate diet for your dog, especially if overweight as heavy animals must be fed carefully to ensure all nutrient needs are met while allowing for weight loss. Specialized weight reduction diets are formulated to be lower in calories and high in L-carnitine. A diet with a carefully chosen carbohydrate or carbohydrate blend will help keep your overweight dog satisfied.
Fortifying your senior pet’s diet with fatty acids such as DHA and EPA can be helpful. These supplements have been shown to help with mobility issues due to arthritis or other joint diseases. Some pet foods have supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin incorporated into their diets.
If your older dog has medical problems such as heart disease, kidney disease or food allergies, work with your veterinarian. Consider special diets such as those lower in sodium for dogs with heart disease and diets to help control phosphorus, calcium and other electrolyte levels for dogs with kidney disease. Your veterinarian can help you choose the best food for your dog based on your dog’s individual situation.
Treatment of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD) involves the management of behavior, environment, enhanced diet, and medication.
Behavior can be managed by providing daytime activities and opportunities for play, and structured social interaction for physical and mental stimulation. Exposure to sunlight will help regulate the sleep-wake cycle.
Managing the environment involves making it more predictable. You should also pet-proof the house just as you would with a toddler. It is essential you provide adequate toileting opportunities is essential as well, as old dogs can’t “hold it” as they did when they were younger; diapers, pads, and waterproof bed and furniture covers may be helpful.
Nutrition options fall into two categories, commercial and natural, or home-prepared whole foods. Commercial foods focus on the addition of antioxidants to reduce oxidative stress on the brain, and medium-chain triglycerides for cognitive improvement. A few commercial pet food manufacturers offer prescription senior dog food. Work with your veterinary nutritionist to develop your dog’s new diet.
The pharmacological approach to CCD treatment also focuses on the control of oxidation and enhancement of brain function. The antioxidant supplement SAMe has proven effective in both staving off CCD and moderating its symptoms.
As you can see, this syndrome is multifaceted and very complicated. It is very important you work with your veterinarian and a veterinary behaviorist to develop a strategy to help your senior pet live happily and comfortably with CCD.
Senior pets are just starting their golden years. Advances in veterinary care and nutrition are available to help your pet during this important time of their life. By giving them the special care and attention, this life stage calls for, you can help ensure they’ll be healthy and happy for years to come.