Senility in Dogs and Cats

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It is sad to see our beloved dogs and cats grow old. While physical changes in aging pets may be obvious, mental changes may be misunderstood. This article will help you understand your older dog or cat.

Some dogs as they reach old age may exhibit a number of behavioral changes linked to senility. This condition is now commonly called called Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, or Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome. While this syndrome is recognized in dogs, it has not been scientifically established in cats.

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction shows signs in four distinct ways. They are disorientation, interaction with people, activity level and sleep, and house-training. Any combination of symptoms may be apparent.

Disorientation can be seen as an animal that wanders aimlessly, gets stuck in corners, stands at the wrong side of a door or appears not to recognize people or familiar commands and words. Changes in interaction with people including seeking more or less attention than normal, not wanting to be petted, and not responding to his or her name. Activity level and sleep changes show in such behaviors as sleeping more during the day and less at night, barking for no reason, forgetting meal times, and wandering aimlessly.

House training changes are obvious – things as urinating in the house, not asking to go outside or forgetting why they are there when they do go out. This is not the same as incontinence, which is usually a physical problem.

Cats may show some of these same signs, though they are often more subtle. There are also a number of other reasons for behavior changes in both dogs and cats. No syndrome has yet been recognized in cats.

Chronic pain can cause another cause of changes in behavior, in particular activities such as pacing or not sleeping at night. Cats may show a marked decrease in activity. Hyperthyroidism and other hormonal disorders in cats can also cause changes, especially those involving eating patterns or aggression. Medication can cause changes in behavior as well, as can many other diseases and medical conditions. Cats are also shorter to small strokes, which can cause changes such as walking into walls, or appearing disorientated. A thorough medical exam with blood work will be necessary in order to determine if your pet has a cognitive disorder due to aging.

There is also a syndrome called societal dissociative disorder, which is similar to CDS and is caused by loss of senses such as hearing and sight. Loss of one sense can often be compensated for by using another. Animals will do this instinctively, but we can also use this knowledge in our interaction with them. For example, when training your dogs they can be hand hand signals as well as verbal commands. As long as they are reinforced through the dogs life, the hand signals will be in place should an older dog lose its hearing.

For a dog or cat that has lost some or all of its sight, you can help him accept by not moving furniture or making any major changes in his environment. If the animal has lost both hearing and sight, you may still be able to communicate with it by using vibrations, such as stomping on the floor near the pet.

You can also help your pet through these times by being aware of the causes of its behavior, and by not taking it personally or punishing the animal forappropriate acts. You can offer extra attention and reassurance. Try to keep a consistent schedule, and to not make a lot of physical changes in the dog or cat's environment.

Medications are available to deal with some symptoms, but there are natural options you can use. The use of flower essences, aromatherapy, herbs and touch therapy can all be helpful in keeping your dog or cat free of anxiety.

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Source by Elyse Grau

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