Senior Pet Health: Mental and Dental
How do we extend our animal companion’s lives and make them as healthy and happy for as long as possible? It is very important to understand that aging itself is not a disease. It’s a complex biological process driven by your pet’s genetics, environmental factors, nutrition, lifestyle and stress level.
Dental disease is a serious problem during all life stages but, particularly for older pets. Veterinarians commonly find dental disease in pets as young as 2-3 years of age but dental disease is even more common in our senior pets. Unfortunately, other than bad breath, there are few signs of the disease process evident to the owner. As a result, periodontal disease is usually under-treated, and may cause multiple problems in the mouth and be associated with damage to internal organs as the pet’s age. Dental disease is also very painful, causing your dog to avoid or have difficulty eating his meals. This may result in weight loss and an unkempt hair coat. It is important to take care of your dog’s mouth. Brushing your dog’s teeth can help keep your dog’s mouth and body healthy. If you cannot brush, consider dental treats and toys that help keep the teeth clean.
Pets can show signs of senility known as Dog Dementia or Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD), which is an umbrella term for four separate cognitive forms.
- Depression – similar to chronic depression in humans. Some of the symptoms of canine dementia (circling, wandering and house soiling) often result in the dog’s confinement which can increase anxiety and worsens the symptoms.
- Dysthymia – often involves loss of awareness of body length and size. Dogs with dysthymia often get stuck Behind furniture or in a corner. Other symptoms include disrupted sleep-wake cycles; constant growling, whining or moaning; and aggressive behavior.
- Hyper-aggression – associated with the dysfunction of structures related to the neurotransmitter serotonin. Dogs with this form of CCD lose their ability to communicate with other animals. They don’t give appeasing signals to other pets in the house nor understand when others send them. They bite first and warn second.
- Confusional syndrome – involves a profound decline in cognitive ability and is the closest thing to Alzheimer’s in humans. They don’t seem to learn well in any form and forget familiar features of their lives, including other pets and people.