Taking care of an older dog or cat entails more than just keeping his body healthy. Mental acuity is equally important if a pet is to enjoy his golden years. Owners of older dogs or cats often report changes in their pets’ behavior including restlessness, disorientation, altered interactions with people and other pets, unusual sleep patterns, new vocalizations, and an increase in urinary or fecal accidents.
The first thing to do when faced with symptoms like these in an older pet is to make an appointment with your veterinarian. Disease outside of the brain may be to blame, and if that is the case, treatment of the underlying condition is the best way to manage the resulting behavioral changes. But if your veterinarian determines that your dog or cat is showing signs of age-related cognitive dysfunction, do not despair because there is still a lot you can do to help.
First of all, provide your dog or cat with as much mental stimulation as possible. The old adage “use it or lose it” certainly applies here. Play with your pet, take your dog on walks, allow your cat some supervised time outside in a safely fenced-in area or on a harness and leash. Anything that you can think of that will get your dog or cat safely interacting with people, other animals, or his environment is appropriate.
It’s also important to provide excellent nutrition. Older dogs and cats can get finicky, so make sure that every bite counts by feeding a high quality, nutrient dense, balanced food. Try a multivitamin and mineral supplement like Nu-Cat Senior or Canine Plus Senior if your pet’s diet is not all that it should be. Other supplements such as Novifit, Senilife, and omega-3 fatty acids have all also been used to improve brain function. If your veterinarian feels that your pet’s condition warrants more aggressive treatment, he or she may prescribe pet medications for cognitive dysfunction like Anipryl (selegiline).
With a little extra help from their owners, pets can stay mentally sharp as they age.