Home
blog
News: Shea Cox
Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome:
Old Dog Senility

Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome, also referred to as “old dog senility” or “sundowner syndrome” is a common syndrome that is categorized as a slow, degenerative and progressive disorder in our aging pets. This process leads to changes in awareness, a decreased responsiveness to normal surroundings, and potentially increased signs of anxiety that usually worsen in the night hours. 

There are many signs observed with cognitive changes and they can be lumped into some general symptoms as follows:

  • Disorientation: such as going to the wrong side of the door to be let outside or getting lost in familiar environments.
  • Altered interactions: there may be increased irritability, anxiety or agitation.
  • Alterations in sleep-wake cycles: this is most often observed as increased restlessness (especially at night) and/or vocalizations that are seemingly directed at nothing in particular; as the disease progresses, you may continue to notice worsening of these signs and begin to see your pet aimlessly wandering the house with compulsive behaviors such as barking at the wall for no apparent reason or excessive grooming.
  • Normal and previously learned behaviors may change: you may notice your dog becoming less adept at its normal tasks, such as house training or responding appropriately to previously learned commands; you may also notice that your pet has difficulty recognizing and reacting to its familiar family members.
  • The above changes generally begin very gradually, so much so, that many pet parents fail to recognize the early stages of the disease and often attribute their pets subtle alterations in behavior to “simply getting older.” A recent study at the University of California School of Veterinary Medicine demonstrated just how common these observations are: out of 69 dogs participating, 32% of the 11-year old dogs were affected by this syndrome and 100% of the dogs 16 years of age older were affected (source: Veterinary Information Network).

    The exact reason for this change in our geriatric pets is unknown, but it is thought that the body’s normal degenerative and age-related changes contribute to the dysfunction. These changes include central nervous system deterioration, oxidative stress, accumulation of free radicals, and cell death. Signs are unfortunately progressive and treatment is aimed at prevention and/or slowing the progression of disease for which lifelong therapy is required once diagnosed. 

    Treatment is the utilization of a multi-modal approach to managing signs, meaning, a combination of synergistic therapies that are based on the severity of the clinical signs.  Selegiline is a prescription medication that is used to help control more severe symptoms, and it is thought to improve transmission of brain chemicals (dopamine) as well as have protective effects on the brain’s nerve cells. 

    There has also been the development of commercial and prescription “senior diets” that have demonstrated improvements in cognitive function, such as Hill’s b/d ("brain diet").  Natural supplements have shown promise in managing signs and slowing the course of disease by reducing the neurological damage caused by free radicals.They include antioxidants (vitamins C and E, selenium, flavonoids), gingko bilboa, Omega-3 fatty acids, and medium chain triglycerides to name a few. Pheromone therapy and melatonin may ease anxiety and promote a feeling of well being for dogs that experience increased anxiety at night. And finally, environmental enrichment such as brisk brushing sessions, massage therapy, interactive toys, and stimulating walks is thought to be an important cornerstone in slowing the progression by stimulating brain activity. Maintaining a stimulating environment, and engaging in as much activity as is practical for your pet’s age and health, may help prevent or delay the onset of cognitive decline as your pet moves into its golden years.

    I will end with one of my favorite veterinary mantras, which is: “Old age is not a disease” (for which I am personally more thankful for each day), and with proper care, our senior “babies” can go on experiencing a good quality of life as cognitive changes develop. 

     

     

     

     

    News: JoAnna Lou
    Stolen Pup Reunited
    NYC Good Samaritan saves a pet and identifies a dognapper

    Last week the Bendrat family was shopping in Manhattan when they tied their Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Marley, outside of a grocery store while they picked up a couple of last minute supplies. When the family came back out, the dog was gone and surveillance videos showed a man stealing Marley. 

    Later on the other side of the city, Tina Cohen saw a man selling a Cavalier Kind Charles Spaniel in Union Square Park. Tina was unaware of Marley’s predicament, but had a feeling that the pup was stolen. She proceeded to buy the dog for $220 and brought the spaniel to the veterinarian to look for identification. Fortunately they found a microchip, which helped reunite Marley with his family on Christmas Eve and provided the evidence the police needed to arrest the thief on a grand larceny charge.

    New Yorkers love to walk around with their dogs.  Some stores and restaurants welcome pets, but many do not. Tying animals outside has many risks, including dognapping, escaping themselves, and ingesting a toxin. Marley was one lucky pup, but his situation could have been easily avoided if he was left safely at home while the family shopped.

    As large and impersonal as New York City is, I do find that dog lovers come together to help each other out. Thank goodness for both a Good Samaritan and an up-to-date microchip!

    News: Editors
    Singer Patti Page Dies at 85

    Patti Page died on New Year’s Day at the age of 85. She was a pop singer in the 1950s (and beyond) and recorded modern classics like “Tennessee Waltz” and “How Much is That Doggie in the Window,” both of which became No. 1 hits. In 1999, after 51 years of performing, she won her first Grammy award and was planning on attending this year’s Grammy ceremony on Feb. 9 to accept a well-earned lifetime achievement award.

    Patti Page reprised “How Much is That Doggie…” recently for the Humane Society of the United States for their Stop Puppy Mills campaign, this new version is much closer to our hearts, “Can You See That Doggie in the Shelter?”

    News: Karen B. London
    Puppy Heaven
    Oh, how I love them!

    Whatever part of the brain is supposed to make you see a baby and long to have another one of your own seems to have died when I turned 40. Yes, my heart melted at the sight of my own babies, and continues to do so when I see pictures of them back when they were small. I still like babies and enjoy holding them or making faces to make them smile, but I do not long for another anymore.

    Puppies, on the other hand, must trigger a slightly different, still living part of my brain, because I recently held a puppy during a local adoption event, and I felt that deep love that the very young can inspire in us.

    No picture of Feather could possibly convey how dear she looked to me, and how much I longed to hold her forever. She was warm and soft, friendly, sleepy and snuggly. In other words, she was an idealized, imaginary puppy who would never chew, pee on the floor, bark or be any trouble—ever.

    Feather was there with two littermates, and they were all spoken for already, which is probably a good thing. (When you tell your husband you are headed out to buy milk, yogurt, and pears, it’s bad form to come home with a puppy, too.) I really wanted this dog, but I reluctantly handed her back to the woman in charge. Once I began to drive home, the spell was broken. Yes, I still adored her and fondly remember our brief time together, but I was able to think clearly enough to remind myself that my to do list for the day did not include a spontaneous puppy adoption.

    I’m amused that babies no longer make me lose my mind but that puppies still do. I guess that just makes me a dog person! Have you had a “puppy moment” like this?

    News: JoAnna Lou
    Dogs Join Protests in Chile
    Demonstrators take on furry mascots at the front lines

    For the past year and a half, students in Chile have been demanding education improvements, redistribution of wealth, and environmental protections. Their protests have meant almost daily confrontations with police, but there has also been another presence on the front lines.

    Stray dogs learned to follow the sounds of sirens after realizing there were water cannons at the other end. The strong sprays meant to disrupt protesters provide a drink of water and a bit of fun for the pups.

    The photos almost look like my pets jumping and mouthing at the water hose in the back yard, but it's a rare bit of happiness in the middle of a serious clash between police and protesters.

    It's common to see dogs on the front lines, barking at guards in riot gear, staring down police canines, and chewing on tear gas canisters. Many of the dogs have been adopted by demonstrators as unofficial mascots and are often found napping next to students between protests. They've also become mini celebrities with Facebook fan pages and plenty of media coverage.

    One mutt named Blacky wears a checkered kaffiyeh scarf which symbolizes the Palestinian resistance movement. Admirers upload pictures of Blacky on Facebook and there's even a song about the pup on You Tube, written and performed by a man in Colorado.

    There are millions of stray dogs in Chile because it's rare to spay or neuter animals and it's common to leave pets outside to roam the streets. According to Pro Animal Chile, 73 percent of strays had a home at one point.

    I'm hoping that the dogs' presence at the demonstrations will bring attention to the overpopulation problem in Chile. Animals have a way of bringing people together, so perhaps they can even create sympathy for the protesters' plight, creating a win-win situation for the dogs and students.

    News: Karen B. London
    Loving Dogs is for Life
    Then, now, always

    As a child, I loved dogs. I wanted to play with any dogs I encountered—those in the neighborhood, the ones at the park, dogs of friends. They always had my attention, even when perhaps I should have been focusing on something or someone else. If I could pet a dog, happiness was assured.

    I wrote about dogs for school assignments during the day and dreamed about them at night. I thought about the kinds of dogs I loved best and what I would name my dogs when I was a grown-up. I drew pictures of dogs and fretted over my attempts to make their faces look “dog enough”.

    Hearing stories of dogs who were mistreated or suffered in any way was unbearable to me. (Still is, in fact.) My world of compassion and caring extended to many species when I said “them” but when I spoke of “us”, I was including dogs.

    I have loved dogs for as long as I can remember. I literally have no memories before knowing that these creatures mattered to me and that they touched my heart.

    When did your love affair with dogs begin? Was it before you can even remember, triggered by a specific event, or did it come upon you gradually?

    News: JoAnna Lou
    Dog Eats Christmas Lights
    Wires were the only clue to the intestinal blockage

    Our pets eat a lot of strange objects, but this may be a first!  Charlie, a mixed breed pup in Southampton, England, recently got life-saving surgery to remove a string of Christmas lights that he ate.

    Charlie’s family didn’t even notice that the lights were missing, but became concerned after finding wires in his poop.  An x-ray painted a clear picture of his stomach’s tangled contents and the vets performed emergency surgery to remove the lights.

    My Sheltie, Nemo, went through a similar procedure this summer after he ate a whole leash.  Like Charlie, Nemo is prone to eating random objects.  I have to be really careful about what gets left out around the house even though it’s pretty much “dog proof.”

    The holidays are a particularly hard time with the general chaos, presents under the tree (my tree is safely behind an exercise pen!), and boxes of decorations ready to be sniffed and investigated.

    Be sure to keep interesting objects out of reach and monitor your dog for symptoms of an intestinal obstruction, which include loss of appetite, lethargy, vomiting, and diarrhea (or no stool at all if it’s a complete obstruction). The American Kennel Club also advises against decorating your tree with edible objects, like strings of popcorn.

    Stay safe this holiday season! 

    News: JoAnna Lou
    Diabetic Alert Dogs
    Trained pups can outdo medical technology

    When Dustin Hillman developed severe hypoglycemic unawareness, a complication of diabetes, it would often land him in the emergency room from low blood sugar.  At its worst, the condition left him unconscious more than six times in a two week period.  It also threatened Dustin's independence, almost forcing him to drop out of graduate school and move in with his parents.

    That all changed when a hypoglycemic alert dog named Tippy came into his life.  In the first three months with the Labrador/Golden Retriever mix, Dustin lost consciousness only once and didn't require emergency services.  Dustin was also able to regain his life and complete a Masters degree in Chemistry from Purdue University.

    Diabetic alert dogs are becoming increasingly popular, especially as diagnosis rates rise.  Ed Peebles, president of the National Institute for Diabetic Alert Dogs, gets up to 20 applications a day looking for a trained pup.

    Amazingly dogs can help diabetes sufferers in ways that modern technology cannot.  While a glucose monitor can detect high sugar levels, the chemicals produced during low blood sugar incidents have not been identified, so machines can only record drops after they happen.

    Dogs can learn to alert humans before the blood sugar drop occurs.  Researchers don't know how the pups do it, but are working to identify the chemical compound they smell.  Knowing this information would allow scientists to better train future dogs and to possibly make a mechanical detection device.  But for now the unique canine ability remains a mystery.

    Andrea Calamoneri, whose 15-year-old son Dylan has Type 1 diabetes, was initially skeptical, but was convinced after seeing her son's dog at work.  Celeste can alert them to a drop in blood sugar well before it actually happens.  The smell of dropping sugar levels will even wake Celeste out of a nap.  "It gives you chills when you see it happen," says Andrea.

    The power of the canine nose and their willingness to work with us in these extraordinary ways is incredible.

    News: Guest Posts
    Christmas Card Canines
    Are your dogs in the family photo?
    Christmas photo holiday portrait dog cat pet

     

    Every year, I insist that our dogs and cats be included in our annual Christmas portrait. (Who else would want to see a photo of just me and my husband, our parents aside?) This particular holiday tradition annoys my spouse to the point where I question if i am indeed a sadist. But the explanation is simple; this is my family. Do you include your pets in your Christmas photo? A few friends send me Christmas cards with photos featuring only their dogs, no humans. Do you prefer not to be in the picture, or substitute Santa as the human representative? Please share your holiday photos - and stories about the photo shoot - on Bark's Facebook page. Happy holidays!

    News: Karen B. London
    Paw Prints in the Snow
    Dogs bring joy to winter weather

    With almost two feet of snow last weekend, many of us in Flagstaff, Ariz. spent oodles of time shoveling our walks and driveways. Being outside in cold, wintery weather guarantees that you will be visited by a number of dogs who are blessed to have guardians willing to take them out for walks in any condition. The ones who stopped by our house were all incredibly jubilant about the snow.

    Their enthusiasm was infectious. Before all these dogs graced us with their presence, I was concentrating on all the shoveling that needed to be done and was very aware of the stiffness that would soon affect my back. Our ski area is not yet open, and I kept thinking that if only I could ski, I would be so happy about the snow.

    Enter a parade of dogs, and I was back in the moment, as gloriously thrilled about the snow as they were. I am incapable of remaining grumpy while watching dogs gleefully jump around in snow, tossing it in the air, and shoving their noses into it as they act like small four-legged snow plows.

    After one German Shepherd and her guardian visited us for awhile, my older son commented that this dog has left the most perfect footprints in the snow. He walked all around photographing different dog prints and was just delighted by them, especially the ones from the shepherd. It was a new way for dogs to help us be happy in winter weather.

    Do dogs help you enjoy the snow?

    Pages