Watching your pet age is never easy, especially when they display signs of cognitive dysfunction, a common, yet often missed, condition in senior pets. Similar to Alzheimer’s disease in people, cognitive dysfunction, or doggy dementia, is a progressive condition that can occur in dogs and cats, although it’s more easily identified in dogs. Possible signs that your pet has developed cognitive dysfunction include:

  • Getting lost in familiar areas
  • Not recognizing familiar people
  • Altered social interactions
  • Sleep-wake cycle changes
  • House soiling
  • Repetitive behavior
  • Anxiety

If you notice your furry pal displaying any cognitive dysfunction signs, contact our Cranberry Holistic Pet Care team for an appointment to confirm a diagnosis. However, you can always boost your pet’s mental health the following natural ways, beginning early.

#1: Load up on brain-boosting ingredients in your pet’s supplements and food

A multitude of ingredients have been proven to support brain health and boost cognitive function in pets, along with other benefits. When searching for supplements to help your pet’s mental sharpness, look for the following ingredients:

  • S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe) — This naturally occurring compound works in the body to produce an antioxidant that scavenges free radicals and prevents cellular damage throughout the body, especially the brain.
  • B vitamins — Without B vitamins, normal cellular functions would not occur. As pets age, sometimes they lack these essential vitamins, so supplementation can be beneficial. 
  • Vitamin E — Vitamin E is vital for brain health and acts as an antioxidant to allow normal brain function, and protects against cellular damage. 
  • Silybin — A specific part of the milk thistle plant, silybin can provide additional antioxidant properties to help protect cell function in your pet’s brain. 
  • Phospholipids — Found in the cell membrane, phospholipids are essential to brain function. Choline is often supplemented alongside phospholipids to help pets metabolize this ingredient.
  • L-theanine — L-theanine is an amino acid that can help with stress and brain health in pets.
  • Fish oil — A source of omega-3 fatty acids, fish oil helps with overall brain function and can decrease inflammation throughout the body, making it beneficial for senior pets with cognitive dysfunction and arthritis.
  • Medium-chain triglyceride oil — Typically sourced from palm or coconut oil, medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil has proven beneficial for pets with seizures, and supports normal brain function.
  • Milk whey protein and colostrum — Milk whey and colostrum provide amino acids, such as l-tryptophan, for brain health and development. They can also help alleviate stress and anxiety, which is common in pets suffering from cognitive dysfunction.

Before supplementing your pet’s diet, check with our veterinarian to ensure there are no unusual interactions between the ingredients and your pet’s current medications. While supplements are generally benign, we want to ensure your furry pal receives the correct dose and has no adverse side effects.

#2: Decrease your pet’s stress and anxiety

Stress and anxiety are commonly seen in pets suffering from cognitive dysfunction, and watching pets become stressed as their mental function declines is equally stressful for pet owners. However, you can manage your pet’s stress in multiple ways. Avoid anxiety-inducing situations, such as interacting with strange dogs, people, or excited children, and remain in familiar environments. Help reduce your pet’s stress through supplements, species-specific pheromones, medications, soothing music, and pressure wraps, as needed. A combination of these products is typically most effective, and provides the best outcome. 

#3: Maintain your pet’s normal routine

Maintaining a normal routine and consistent environment is a simple way to reduce your pet’s stress and help manage their cognitive dysfunction. Avoid rearranging the furniture, changing feeding times, and moving your pet’s bed. Change can trigger anxiety, and can be difficult for pets with cognitive dysfunction to process. 

#4: Keep your pet’s mind sharp with environmental enrichment

Old dogs—and cats—can still learn new tricks. You can boost your pet’s mental health by not only teaching new skills and brushing up on old tricks, but also by providing environmental enrichment. Switch from a food dish to a food puzzle, walk your dog along a different route, and change up your pet’s toys to keep them fresh and exciting. You can also sign up your pet for a training course in agility, flyball, nose work, or other sport activity to encourage them to use their mind as they learn new games. Rotate environmental enrichment activities to avoid overwhelming your pet, and to keep their mind sharp with new pursuits.

While environmental enrichment activities and brain-health supplements can do a great deal for your furry pal’s cognitive dysfunction, prescription medication is also an option. If, despite your best at-home efforts, your pet still struggles to find their food dish, or gets stuck in corners or lost behind furniture, contact our Cranberry Holistic Pet Care team for a consultation. We may discover an additional issue, such as blindness or deafness, or we may recommend medication to help support your pet’s cognitive function. Call us to schedule an appointment.