All posts tagged 'ognitive issues'

Effects of Aging on Canine Cognition

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In observation of National Pet Month, Dr. Jessica Vogelsang takes an in-depth look at how canine cognition changes as dogs age, and provides tips to help keep them healthy for many future National Pet Month celebrations!

I can’t tell you how often I ask pet parents about their senior dog and the response is “okay, but … I guess he’s just getting old.” I love this conversation opener, because it tells me two things. One, the pet parent is paying enough attention to know something has changed, even if they don’t think it’s anything to be concerned about. Two, there’s probably something I can do to help!

All living things grow old. The aging process is complicated and messy, encompassing a variety of genetic and environmental factors. Some we can control, others we can slow down, and the remainder we just manage the best we can. The good news is, there’s almost always something we can do to make a companion animal feel better.

When we think about what it means to be old, most of us jump to the most obvious complaint of age … aches and pains. The body stiffens, the joints dry out, the discs in our spines shrivel up, and we end up shuffling around like Carl from the movie Up. Almost all senior dogs develop symptoms of osteoarthritis, which is one of the reasons I recommend joint supplements for seniors. If a pet parent says, “He won’t climb the stairs anymore,” or, “He doesn’t want to go for long walks,” then I know we’re likely dealing with pain.

But what about cognitive dysfunction, the age-related decline in neurologic function? Referred to as “canine cognitive dysfunction” in veterinary medicine, some laypeople call it “doggie Alzheimer’s”. While the symptoms can be similar to what humans experience, it’s not exactly the same thing.

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Unfortunately, cognitive decline is quite common in senior dogs. More than half of all dogs over the age of 11 show at least one clinical sign. Since we don’t know for certain all the biological changes that occur in an aging brain, we describe canine cognitive dysfunction as a collection of symptoms:

  • Disorientation
  • Changes in activity level
  • Changes in sleep/wake cycle (e.g., wandering around in the middle of the night)
  • House-soiling
  • Anxiety
  • No longer adhering to an established routine

For many years, we simply accepted this condition as a price for living a long life. However, we’re learning that there are ways we can actually decelerate cognitive decline in dogs.

One way veterinarians manage cognitive dysfunction in dogs is through medications. Certain drugs that increase the amount of the neurotransmitter dopamine may improve brain function. In fact, the same drug used by dogs can also be used to treat Parkinson’s!

curious-dog

The other way we manage cognitive decline is through the nutrition and personal attention we provide our dogs. New and exciting research is showing that certain types of antioxidants and dietary ingredients can positively impact the brain function of senior pets! I love this because these are safe, easy changes we can use to improve the aging process for all our senior friends:

1. Feed a diet rich in antioxidants. Free radicals in the body accelerate the aging process. Antioxidants, such as those found in a variety of fruits and vegetables, can be added to a dog’s diet to limit the free-radical damage. Several studies have shown that seniors who eat a diet rich in antioxidants exhibit clinical improvement in cognitive function within just a few weeks.

2. Exercise the brain. Keep your pet’s neurons working through lots of daily playtime, walks, and puzzles. We joke that the brain is a muscle; it’s not, of course, but like a muscle it does benefit from regular workouts!

3. Fatty acids. We all know essential fatty acids are good for the skin and coat, but there’s also increasing evidence that a subset of fatty acids called medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) serve as a preferred energy source for the brain and can actually improve mental sharpness.

If your dog is getting a little grey around the muzzle, don’t accept “he’s just getting old” as a fact of life. Yes, we all age, but we can do it better by taking steps to preserve health and quality of life.

All my best to you and your lovable, aging dogs!

Dr V Dr. Jessica Vogelsang

5 Common Signs of Mineral Deficiency

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Don’t take this the wrong way, but chances are that you’re deficient … in minerals. That’s because nearly half of the U.S. population receives less than the daily recommended levels of one or more minerals. Despite awareness campaigns to highlight the critical role minerals play in optimal body function, confusion persists about how to avoid a mineral deficiency and know if you’re affected.

Inadequate mineral intake has become problematic because our food supply simply does not provide the same amounts or variety of minerals that diets did 100 years ago. This is largely because our food is grown in increasingly de-mineralized soils. Plus, the more that we rely on processed food (even if it’s fortified), the fewer minerals we ultimately consume.

Other factors affecting mineral levels include pregnancy, dehydration-causing illnesses like those involving vomiting or diarrhea, and more serious medical conditions such as kidney disease. Certain medications and alcohol consumption are also common causes of reduced mineral absorption. For these reasons, in the U.S. nearly a quarter of all of dietary supplements are purchased based on a physician’s recommendation.

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That covers a lot of territory. So, how do you know which column you’re in – adequate or deficient? To help you make a determination, here are the top five most common signs of mineral deficiency and their underlying culprits:

1. Low energy or fatigue: If you’ve been waking up tired, relying on an extra cup of coffee, or generally wondering where the pep in your step has gone, it may be a sign that you are low in magnesium, calcium, iron, potassium, zinc, sodium, selenium, copper or chromium.

2. Aches and pains: If your limbs feel a bit wobbly after walking a flight of stairs, you are experiencing leg cramps or have unexplained joint or bone pain, you may have low levels of magnesium, calcium, potassium, sodium or manganese.

3. Emotional or cognitive symptoms: Inadequate magnesium, iron, potassium, sodium, zinc or chromium contribute to irritability, confusion, brain fog, mood swings and even anxiety. Be aware that women’s mineral stores are regularly depleted. Experimenting with supplementation during ovulation can be a means to help with menstrual symptoms of an upcoming cycle.

4. Tummy trouble: We commonly associate bloating, gas, nausea, stomach cramps and diarrhea with food sensitivity, but low levels of potassium, sodium, zinc and magnesium can also lead to these same gastric issues.

5. Visible changes in your appearance: Calcium, iron, sulfur, zinc and copper all support the integumentary system which is the protective grouping that involves hair, skin and nails. The development of brittle, course or thinning hair, pale skin or brittle, yellow or spotted nails can all point to a long-running deficiency in one or more of these minerals.

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For precise information and advice on your mineral levels, talk to your doctor about adding these tests as part of your annual physical. If the results indicate a deficiency, be aware that even with supplementation and diet improvements, it may take up to a year to fully reverse depletions such that a blood test can confirm. That being said, your efforts will surely be rewarded!

To add a steady source of minerals to your diet without investing in half a dozen costly supplements, look for one product that provides a wide array of these life-sustaining substances. Life’s Abundance Minerals & Antioxidants drink mix fits that bill, containing 74 trace minerals including calcium and magnesium that have been sustainably sourced from sea vegetables. Plus, this product features a wealth of antioxidants from 11 super fruits and alkalizing, electrolyte-rich organic coconut water. This formula features aloe vera powder which provides a source of digestive enzymes to help maximize the product’s benefit. Plus, it’s absolutely delicious, which makes Minerals & Antioxidants a dream solution to give the entire family what they’ve been missing.