Cognitive dysfunction is a progressive disease with increasing signs of senile behavior. Disorientation is one of the principal symptoms of cognitive dysfunction syndrome. The dog appears lost in the house or yard, gets stuck in corners or under or behind furniture, has difficulty finding the door (stands at the hinge side or goes to the wrong door), doesn’t recognize familiar people, and fails to respond to verbal cues or his name. Activity and sleep patterns are disturbed. The dog sleeps more in a 24-hour period, but sleeps less during the night. There is a decrease in purposeful activity and an increase in aimless wandering and pacing. Dogs with cognitive dysfunction may also exhibit compulsive behaviors with circling, tremors, stiffness, and weakness. House training is another area that suffers. The dog may urinate and/or defecate indoors, sometimes even in the view of his owners, and may signal less often to go outside. There is no specific test for cognitive dysfunction syndrome. The number of symptoms the dog exhibits and the severity of the senile behavior are important considerations in making the diagnosis. An MRI may show some degree of brain shrinkage (as above).
The drug Anipryl (selegiline), used by humans to treat Parkinson’s disease, has been found to possibly improve symptoms and the quality of life for dogs with cognitive dysfunction syndrome. The response is highly variable from dog to dog.
Additional strategies involve feeding a nutrient dense, high-quality, dog food. Supplements that contain antioxidants / anti inflammatory properties could be beneficial in supporting brain health. A high quality, non-rancid, fish oil supplement is recommended as well.