Canine Cognitive Dysfunction is the age related deterioration of cognitive abilities characterized by behavioral changes in dogs that cannot be wholly attributed to general medical conditions such as neoplasia (cancer), infection or organ failure. CDS is often referred to ads "old dog syndrome" or "senility", and is manifested by one or more of the signs listed in Table #1.
CDS is not "normal aging". A number of pathophysiological changes are suspected to play a role in its development. These include:
* deposition of amyloid plaques in the cerebral cortex and hippocampal part of the brain
* alterations in neurotransmitters, including dopamine
* increased levels of monoamine oxidase B (MAOB) in the brain
* increased levels of free radicals
The progressive, degenerative course of canine CDS involves a gradual decline of cognitive abilities sufficient to produce functional disability in the home and/or as a family member.
How common is CDS?
(pictured: Arthritis of the hip joint)
Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate supplements are fast becoming the most widely used supplements in dogs' diets. The reason is this: Arthritis in dogs is one of the most common health problems seen by veterinarians. And quite unfortunately dog owners and veterinarians rarely notice the early warning signs of arthritis in dogs because these animals have the character to ignore soreness and discomfort until the arthritic changes in the joints have progressed significantly. Recent widespread availability of nutraceuticals such as GLUCOSAMINE and CHONDROITIN SULFATE have proven to be significant contributors to easing the discomfort of arthritis in dogs. Plus these substances actually promote healing and tissue repair.
Glucosamine is a naturally occurring compound composed of a sugar and an amino acid and is involved with the body's production of joint lubricants and shock absorption necessary to maintain healthy cartilage and joint function. It is manufactured in the body in the joint cartilage and is one of the major components involved with the formation of the critical lubricants and shock absorbers necessary to maintain and restore healthy joint performance. Any degeneration or injury to joint cartilage can result in the failure of the joint to produce sufficient cartilage repair and maintenance substances. The net result with time is a wearing down of the joint cartilage to the point where pain and swelling can substantially reduce joint function. This is what is commonly called degenerative joint disease (DJD) and Osteoarthritis.
Glucosamine Sulfate plays a role in other body structures besides joints. It is involved in the formation of nails, tendons, skin, eyes, synovial fluid, bone, ligaments, heart valves and in mucous secretions of the digestive, respiratory and urinary tracts. It is created in the production of proteins associated with cellular growth and structure. Test tube and animal studies show glucosamine supplements help increase cartilage production and reduce inflammation. Absence of Glucosamine Sulfate in the diet can result in early aging of cells, loss of cellular function, susceptibility to bacterial and fungal infection, and cell death. Glucosamine Sulfate is one of the building blocks of the basic substance of articular cartilage. Glucosamine Sulfate may also aid in the rebuilding of damaged cartilage...
But what has this got to do with my pet you say? In a word - ALLERGIES!
Itching, scratching, chewing, sneezing dogs and cats everywhere. All this wet, warm weather has brought the plants out of their winter snooze weeks earlier than usual, and many of our allergic pets are starting to react.
It's that thump, thump at two in the morning as your dog frantically tears at his ears, or that annoying slurping sound as he chews the fur off his rump that has you calling your veterinarian for the first available appointment.
While there are many different ways an allergy may manifest in your dog and many different treatments, one of the tests your veterinarian may recommend is a RAST test - (Radioallergosorbent test). A small vial of blood is drawn and submitted to a laboratory for analysis. Two primary screens are usually performed. The first is a regional test which checks for any sensitivity your dog may have to the common grasses, trees, shrubs, molds and fungi found in your part of the country. The second is a food allergy screen to determine sensitivity to some of the common ingredients in your dog's diet.
Since the very best way of treating an allergy is to stay away from the causative agent altogether, your veterinarian will then be able to recommend certain diets free of ingredients to which your dog tested positive.
Does your dog cough frequently? Has he lost some weight recently? Just doesn't want to go running after that tennis ball anymore? If so, he could have heartworm disease!
Dirofilariasis or heartworm is a serious and potentially fatal illness spread by mosquitoes and it is common especially in the eastern and southern parts of the USA. When a mosquito bites a dog to take a blood meal, it may inject a number of tiny larvae into the animal's skin. Over a period of months, these larvae migrate into the blood stream and gradually make their way to the heart and the adjacent arteries. Here they begin to grow and can often reach lengths of twelve to eighteen inches!
Sometimes dogs will have tens or even hundreds of worms, all more than a foot long, clogging up the chambers of the heart. At this stage, the blood cannot flow properly through the heart and the dog starts to show the typical signs of congestive heart failure. To make things worse, the female worms produce thousands of offspring, which can be found swimming in almost every drop of blood in the dog's body. When the next mosquito bites the unfortunate animal, it will suck up some of these juveniles and then fly off to find it's next victim...
What is Cancer?
Cancer is an uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells on or within the body. Cancer may be benign or malignant. It may be localized or it may invade adjacent tissue and spread throughout the body.
How Common is Cancer?
Cancer is common in pet animals and the incidence increases with age. Cancer accounts for almost half of the deaths of pets over 10 years of age. Dogs get cancer at roughly the same rate as humans, while cats get fewer cancers.
How is it Diagnosed?
Strong circumstantial evidence of cancer can be attained from x-rays, blood tests, ultrasonography, the pet's physical examination and medical history. Most cancers, however, will require a biopsy (a removal of a piece of tissue) for confirmation that cancer exists and to grade the level of severity from benign to aggressively malignant.
Is Cancer Preventable?
Photo by lindsey kone, Creative Commons license
Could Your Dog or Cat Be at Risk for Kidney Disease?
Catching an Illness at an Early Stage Is Your Best Strategy
Just like people, animals are susceptible to illness and stress. And, just like people, there is a lot you can do to keep them healthy.
Julie noticed her dog, Zac, was drinking more water. Not just once, but several days in a row. She knew that excess thirst can be a sign of illness, so she took Zac to her veterinarian for tests. Blood and urine tests showed that Zac was in the early stages of acute kidney disease. But Zac was lucky. Because his problem was caught early, Julie’s veterinarian was able to treat the disease successfully and Zac made a complete recovery.
What Is Kidney Disease?
Briefly, kidneys filter and remove waste material from the blood stream. They also regulate the volume and composition of your pet’s body fluids.
There are two types of kidney disease:
Acute – a sudden loss of kidney functioning which is sometimes reversible, and
Chronic – a loss of kidney function that occurs gradually over time. Chronic kidney disease is often progressive, but, depending on the underlying cause and with careful management, animals often live comfortable lives for many years.
The causes of kidney disease can include inherited defects, infections, toxic substances and simply aging. Although the cause of kidney disease can be difficult to determine, with careful testing by your veterinarian, the disease can often be managed. Most treatments are aimed at decreasing the workload of the kidneys, reducing the severity of symptoms, and slowing the progression of the disease.
What Are Its Symptoms?
Any abrasion to the cornea, including an bee sting, rub from a paw, a scratch from a claw or thorn or an invasive infection can abrade the cells on the surface of the dog or cat cornea. Once the surface cells are disrupted the smooth surface of the cornea becomes rough, infective organisms can invaded the spaces between the cells and the area becomes a source of pain and irritation to the animal. Dogs and cats with corneal ulcers commonly will have increased tear production, will squint (called blepharospasm) and rub at their eye. The irritated tissues often become infected.
If infection progresses into the thin cellular layers of the cornea, the ulcer may deepen and widen and eventually break through the membrane at the back of the cornea called Descemet's membrane. In these severe cases, the fluid from the anterior chamber of the eye can escape and the front of the eye collapses. When this occurs, called a descemetocele, the iris will often seal the hole in the cornea. If the iris tissue adheres to the opening and acts as a plug, the anterior chamber may refill and eventually the ulcer may heal and seal the opening in the cornea. This could take many weeks to occur. In unfortunate cases, the interior of the eye can become infected and eventually the eye may be damaged beyond repair.
Once the cornea is abraded, the entire cornea suffers from swelling (called edema) and the cornea takes on a slight haze. Then tiny capillaries begin to move over the cornea from the white of the eye (called the sclera) and seek out the damaged tissue. Within days of the abrasion these tiny vessels are on their way to bring healing tissues and fluid to the ulcer. As specialized corneal cells slide into and fill the defect, the ulcer eventually heals and the surface of the cornea returns to normal. Then the healing capillaries dry up and go away!
Research has shown that, in general, a healthy dog can abstain from food for five days before any noticeable health effects occur. They generally don't HAVE to eat every day. (Very small breeds are an exception...but unless there's really some medical problem present, missing a day of eating isn't a major catastrophe.) Always be sure fresh water is available. So start out by feeding a very high quality, complete and balanced dog food. Look on the ingredients list...MEAT should be the first item listed, not corn. You may also want to supplement with a vitamin/mineral/fatty acid product.
Be careful about over supplementing, too! Now record an accurate pre-diet weight. Reduce by one-third your pet’s total daily ration previously given. Include in this total all treats, snacks, or left-overs if you insist on continuing to provide these. Reweigh the pet in 2 weeks. (Remember if the pet begs for food, that's a good sign! But don’t give in.) If you find upon weighing your pet after two weeks that it has lost even a little weight, you’re on the right track; keep up this schedule! If no weight loss is evident, again reduce by one-third the amount being fed. Weigh the pet again in two weeks.
Depending upon the results either keep feeding this amount or reduce again by one-third the total amount being fed. If you persist a good outcome is certain. Many veterinarians believe you should not feed the "Reduced Calorie" or "Lite Diets" or "Senior Diets"! These diets have very restricted fat levels to reduce the calories but by necessity have increased the carbohydrate percentages. This increased carbohydrate stimulates additional Insulin secretion which tells the body to store unused calories as fat! There are a multitude of overweight dogs that have actually gained weight on those "Reduced Calorie" weight loss diets. Your dog needs a meat-based diet, high in protein (which isn't stored as fat) and fat and low in carbohydrate. Now... YOU have to adjust the quantity being fed to achieve a state where the dog takes in fewer total calories than it is using for the day's energy requirements.
More than just a cosmetic issue, bad breath and yellow teeth can be a sign of serious disease in our pets, which may affect their kidneys, livers, and hearts. Oral disease is the most frequently diagnosed health problem for pets, and 80% of dogs and 70% of cats suffer from the disease by age 3, according to the American Veterinary Dental Society. In the latest AVMA Animal Tracks podcast, Dr. Jan Bellows, president of the American Veterinary Dental College and owner of All Pets Dental in Weston, Fla., talks about the importance of dental health for our pets. Listen to the podcast.