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In dogs as in people, the medical implications of true aging are progressive and irreversible. Dogs reaching the final one-third of their life span undergo a variety of physical and metabolic changes that may cause them discomfort and/or change their behavior. For example, the acuity of the senses-sight, hearing, taste and smell-are reduced. Metabolism slows, immunocompetence decreases and tissues become dehydrated. Muscle and bone mass decline, and arthritis may affect the joints. There is an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and endocrine, renal and hepatic disorders.

And the brain undergoes a series of changes that result in cognitive decline. It is generally believed-and studies have shown-that a dog’s cognitive ability tends to decline with age.

Cognitive dysfunction in dogs includes spatial orientation, housetraining, and recognizing and reacting to human family members. Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome is the age-related deterioration of cognitive abilities characterized by behavioral changes in dogs that cannot wholly attributed to general medical conditions such as neoplasia, infection or organ failure. More simply put, CDS is caused by physical and chemical changes that affect the brain function in older dogs. CDS often is referred to simply as “old dog syndrome” or “senility” and is manifested by one or more of the following four signs in the absence of any physical cause:

  • Disorientation – wanders aimlessly; appears lost or confused in house or yard; get’s “stuck” in corners or under/behind furniture; stares into space or walls; has difficulty finding the door; stands at hinge side of door; does not recognize familiar people; does not respond to verbal cues or names; appears to forget reason for going outdoors
  • Interaction with family members – seeks attention less often; less likely to stand for petting; walks away while being petted; less enthusiasm upon greeting; no longer greets family members
  • Activity and sleep – sleeps more during the day; sleeps less during the night; decrease in purposeful activity; increase in wandering or pacing; barks at night for no reason
  • Housetraining – Urinates indoors; has accidents indoors soon after being outside; does not ask to go outside

In a pet owner study, nearly half of all dogs aged 8 years and older showed at least one sign of Cognitive Dysfuntion Syndrome. Because older dogs may also develop other multiple health problems, diagnosis of CDS can only be reached after other medical conditions that have behavioral components have been ruled out. A thorough history, physical and neurological exam, and laboratory tests are necessary to make a diagnosis of CDS.

Recapturing the good times between you and your senior dog is now an exciting possibility thanks to Anipryl, the first and only drug cleared by the FDA to control clinical signs associated with canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome. Anipryl comes in a convenient tablet form for easy dosing. Most dogs are prescribed one tablet per day. In clinical studies, owners reported that 69-75% of dogs improved in at least one clinical sign after one month of Anipryl therapy. Some dogs continued to show improvement for up to 3 months.

The most common side effects of this medication were vomiting, diarrhea, or changes in behavior (such as hyperactivity or restlessness). Do not use this drug in combination with phenylpropanolamine, ephedrine, other tricyclic antidepressants (Clomicalm), amitraz (Mitaban dips or Preventic Collars), or fluoxetine. This drug is not recommended for treatment of behavior problems such as aggression.

Anipryl works by increasing the amount of dopamine (a neurotransmitter) available in the brain and decreasing toxic free radical production. This, in turn, helps with cognitive abilities. The confusion that dogs with CDS experience can lead to a life of lonely isolation; separation from family members who have come to cherish their older dog’s companionship. Anipryl can give you the chance to brighten your dog’s “golden years”. With a little extra care and attention, you and your veterinarian can help your dog live a fuller, happier life. Your dog has found a place in your family and a place in your heart. Anipryl can help return your dog to that special place.