Can Your Pet Get Alzheimers?
While pets don’t actually develop Alzheimer’s disease, both dogs and cats develop a condition called cognitive disorder. While the condition appears new, it is not and has been recognized by veterinarians for many years. There are a number of clinical signs in pets with cognitive disorder. These signs are often accepted by owners as normal signs of aging, when in fact they are signs of a (usually) treatable condition. Owners must be taught that any of these signs warrants a full evaluation. Education must begin before the first geriatric visit. Regular geriatric examination, ideally every 6-12 months, will facilitate communication and allow for early diagnosis of cognitive disorder and other conditions often seen in geriatric dogs.
Common signs in dogs and cats with cognitive disorder include wandering aimlessly, vocalizing for no reason, getting stuck in a corner, increased daytime sleeping, seeking less attention, loss of housetraining, and seeking less attention. Because these signs can mimic other conditions (cancer, hypothyroidism), these pets should receive a full workup prior to the diagnosis of cognitive disorder.
The drug AniprylR is approved for treating cognitive disorder in dogs. It must be given daily for the life of the dog once the diagnosis is made. Side effects are rare in dogs and included restlessness, disorientation, vomiting, anorexia, weakness, anemia, stiffness, and polydipsia. The major concern among owners is the cost: a one month supply for a 30 pound dog costs about $125.
There are other more natural alternatives, including herbal preparations (gingko, lycopodium, salvia,) thyroid supplement (when hypothyroidism is the cause), nutritional supplementation using whole food preparations of vitamins such as inositol and lecithin, and a specific product called Cholodin which combines choline and several other nutrients (choline, phosphatidylcholine, methionine, inositol, and various B vitamins and antioxidants.) Nutritional supplementation is used to increase acetylcholine levels in the body (acetylcholine is a widely distributed nerve transmitter in the body.) Aging people and pets begin to lose choline nerve receptors. Since oral choline administration increases plasma choline levels, and since brain levels of acetylcholine increase as plasma choline levels increase, using choline supplementation has the ability to improve neurological disorders that result from decreased acetylcholine.
Natural therapies have proven extremely effective in most pets in my practice, without the expense or side effects of drug therapy. Therapy is given for 2 months to assess efficacy (as is true with any nutritional therapy,) although results may occur more quickly. For more information on the protocol I recommend, please email me at [email protected] and ask for the cognitive disorder protocol.