TulsaPets Magazine November 2021

18 TulsaPets • November/December 2021 of the changes, such as pain, hormone issues, sensory function changes, inflammation, neoplasms, autoimmune disorders, organ deficiency or failure, and infections. Behavioral changes are consid- ered markers of cognitive function and reflect a decrease in function of the brain areas responsible for memory and learning. McWilliams recommends treating CCD using a multimodal approach, including management, enrichment, nutrition, pharma- cology and routine geriatric veterinary examinations. Dogs with CCD are not cured, but the condition can be man- aged. They can lead comfortable and enriched lives. It will require careful supervision and specific management to ensure they are kept safe. They can be prone to accidents, often due to falls or wandering off. The environment should be kept as consistent as possible. Do not move furniture around, and maintain the dog’s normal routines (mealtime, bedtime and bathroom breaks). A firm, warm bed will help keep their joints from aching while they rest. Placing dog beds and food and water bowls in a variety of locations in the house allows disoriented dogs to find them while wandering. All staircases, decks, swimming pools or other dangers should be blocked off. A breakdown in house-training may emerge. Remember, the dog is not lazy or trying to be bad; he may have forgotten the routine. Belly bands and doggie diapers may be needed to prevent house-soiling. Cataracts are a common eye disorder in older dogs affecting their vision, especially in the dark. Night lights throughout your home can help them as they move through what they perceive as dark areas. Modification of the environment can maintain your dog’s quality of life. It is important to keep senior dogs active and enriched. Any pos- itive reinforcement-based training, exercise and social engagement (supervised) can support the mental fitness of an aging dog. It is important to know your dog’s limitations. Do not push them to do anything overly strenuous. Modify physical exercise to reduce pain. Provide activity feeding (Buster Cube, KONG toys, Toppl) to keep their brains challenged. Nose work, FitPAW training and retraining behaviors they may have forgotten are great ways for you to spend quality time with your aging dog. Of course, don’t forget lots of love and affection. Enrichment of the environment and comfort are key for all aging dogs. Providing the building blocks to support decreased cognitive function is necessary, McWilliams explains. One medication that is widely prescribed for dogs with CCD is Anipryl (selegiline hydro- chloride). It has been shown to slow the progression of CCD and improve the affected dog’s brain function. Melatonin, a hormone, can be given to dogs who are struggling with their sleep cycles. Prescription diets like Canine B/D, Hills Pet Nutrition have been found to improve performance on a number of cognitive tasks after two to eight weeks. Stem cell transplants have been reported to be highly effective at decreasing or stopping the progression of CCD. A variety of studies suggests a high intake of fruits and vegetables, vitamin E, C and Omega-3 fatty acids have decreased the risk for cognitive decline. Senilife is a nonprescription supplement your veterinarian may recommend to combat behavioral changes associated with brain aging. McWilliams recommends older dogs have a geriatric examina- tion every six months. This includes blood and urine tests to rule out physical conditions that can be treated, as well as the effects of medications being used. Open communication with your veterinarian will help you to maintain the welfare of your aging dog. My Maddie, a frosty-faced black Labrador Retriever we rescued from a shelter as a small, flea-ridden puppy, has reached 13 years old in a blink of an eye. With multiple knee surgeries, she is struggling with mobility. We continue our slow, meandering walks through the grass to retrieve the morning paper. The sun sparkles in her gray muzzle. She has given much of her life providing comfort and love to humans as a licensed therapy dog. She has never lacked empathy toward people, and now, it is her turn for pampering. She is warm on my feet as I write this piece but needed a little help getting up on my bed to snuggle. I do look in her eyes, and although filled with cataracts, she lets me know I have done my job well. My heart is filled with warmth once again. Happy Tails, Karen. Some behavioral changes associated with CCD: • Forgetting where their water bowl or other items are • Irritability • Staring at walls or becoming disoriented; they may seem lost or confused • Barking or whining at what seems to be nothing • Change in sleep patterns • Decrease in play or exploration • Forgetting housetraining • Seeking attention, touching, following owner; becoming withdrawn • Displaying behavioral changes, such as fear, destructive- ness, phobias, anxiety when separated from owner • Becoming reactive to what used to be familiar • Stereotypical behaviors, such as pacing • Decrease in learning or memory Karen and Maddie Photo by Derek Young