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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Who? What? Where?

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction,

My last post regarding giving your dog bones preempted a post on Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS) which another trainer/ evaluator and good friend wanted to see written about because it is a progression of the mind that is so subtle that owners may not realize what it is until more symptoms are brought to the surface.

These subtle signs of Cognitive Dysfunction may at first go unnoticed by the owner and it is only because of my job that I was able to recognize some of these symptoms in my own 16 year old cocker spaniel. Senior dogs are bound to suffer from greater diseases both physically and mentally. Physical symptoms can usually be seen easy enough, arthritis, hip dysplasia, weight loss, bad teeth, etc. but when it comes to the mind, symptoms may not be seen so easily upon first glance or they may be viewed by the family as a ‘new’ bad habit rather than what they really are, so take note of how your senior dog is behaving and report it to your vet.

If you ever found your senior dog wandering as if lost, standing and staring into corners, forgetting which is the proper side of the door to go in and out through, starting to sleep more through the day but awake and wandering during the night, and having accidents inside, yet when put outside to eliminate he or she forgets what they went out there to do, then it’s time to look seriously at mental awareness issues. In some cases, you may also see the interaction with family members change from loving to distant.

I must admit my Cocker Spaniel Cody was a mean son of gun from the time he turned a year old, and many in my family and yes even some of my friends, referred to him as the devil dog. Cody liked who he liked and went after the rest who bothered him be it animal or human! He could clear a room full of Newfoundland’s with a growl and sneer of his teeth. He once went after Peter because Peter continued, (even after many warning growls) to pay attention to him after eight o’clock at night when Cody was used to being in bed for the evening.
Cody’s annual vet visits were always a bit of a chore for me as he had to be muzzled and from the minute the vet tech walked through the door with her happy greeting of “Hi Cody, how are you today?” she was met with a frantic tail wag and a fierce growl (Tail wagging is not always a sign of a happy dog). Thankfully my vet was not turned off by this behavior and continued to treat him year after year!

One day I noticed Cody standing in the yard as if lost, granted even though he is missing one eye, is blind in the other, and he is deaf, ( I should have named him Lucky!) he still manages to get around by following behind my other dogs through his perfect sense of smell. I swear if I opened the door and held out a biscuit he could find me in 10 seconds flat!
But lately he began to look a little more lost than usual and his constant barking all night long when put to bed for the evening is more then enough reason for Peter to become even more disgusted with him. The barking at night doesn’t bother me much because I have bad hearing anyway so I just roll over on my good ear and sleep like a baby.

However, at a particular time when the holidays were fast approaching and my in-laws were coming from NY to spend a few nights, which meant bodies sleeping in every room of the house, I could not have Cody barking all night long. So, I headed off to the vet with Cody in tow to describe my dilemma.

Once called into the exam room, the vet tech tossed me a muzzle which I promptly put on Cody and I gave her the needed information for Cody’s chart. The door opened, the vet walked in and gave a wonderful holiday greeting and Cody seemed genuinely happy to see her! His tail was wagging full force as normal only he was happy and whining with delight as the vet approached his side! I was shocked to say the least as I said to the vet, “I think he has forgotten that he doesn’t like you!”

Okay, long story short, Cody was sent home with meds to help him relax and sleep through the night, but it was not medication for cognitive dysfunction, it was only calming meds to change the behavior.

A few days before my company was to arrive I decided to try the meds out (and very thankfully so) to make sure Cody would sleep through the night, so at 9 PM I promptly stuffed the pill into a small piece of hot dog, gave it to Cody and put him into his crate. At 9:10 PM I heard arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, and still at 9:30 PM, I heard arf, arf, arf, arf. I listened to it for another hour before turning over on my good ear and falling asleep. Needless to say, the next day I went in search of a boarding facility that still had room at the inn! Three days before the holiday and not having much luck I began to think of Mary and Joseph being turned away at every door they knocked on. By this time, I was willing to leave Cody in anyone’s barn of hay for the night! Finally with luck on my side, the last place I called had room. Whew!

So, if you are noticing any subtle changes that you are putting off as old age quirks or annoying ‘new’ bad habits, start adding them up, check the oddities I have mentioned in this post and for more information check out the sites below on Cognitive Dysfunction.

Selegiline (Anipryl) is the first and only drug approved by the FDA to help with CDS. It can be prescribed by your Veterinarian, but as with any medication there are side effects so discuss them with your vet.

For now, as far as Cody is concerned, for some reason he has started sleeping through the night and now barks all day! Peter said that the other day when he was mowing the lawn he saw Cody sitting among the wild rabbits that visit our yard on a daily basis and Cody had no idea they were there beside him!

Ah, aging is not easy for any species and I think God blesses us when he allows us to forget some occurrences in our lives. I mean, come on, do I really want to remember the time I did a half naked table dance when I was in my 20’s? I think not!

Cognitive dysfunction

Selegiline information: side effects and precautions.

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