The acronym DISHA helps us to recognize the signs of memory loss in our pets.
- D is for Disorientation. Cats with memory loss often walk aimlessly, stare at walls, get “stuck” in corners, and seem to be lost in their own home or lose their balance and fall.
- I is for Interactions. If your cat used to greet you at the door with a happy purr but now looks confused when you walk in, that’s a change worth noting. Another sign to watch for is a cat who in the past was a lap lover but who now shows less interest in seeking out a snuggle.
- S is for Sleep. Cats that once slept through the night may prowl and vocalize, keeping everyone else awake with them.
- H is for Housetraining, which often goes by the wayside, not for medical reasons or because the litterbox hasn’t been cleaned to the cat’s satisfaction, but because, well, he just forgot.
- A is for Activity. Changes in the cats activities also include:
- Excessive vocalization — especially in the older group (15 to 21 years)
- Altered responses to stimuli — anxiety and irritability
- Decreased self-hygiene — may also be due to medical problems or pain
A senior cat’s sleep-wake cycle can be impaired. However, as with most symptoms of memory loss, there are also many alternative reasons for increased nighttime activity. For instance, cats that sleep more during the day can become more restless and active at night. Sensory changes, such as eyesight or hearing loss, can affect your cat’s depth of sleep. An increased need to eliminate combined with a decreased ability to locate or access a litter box can prompt your cat to wake up and wander around. Ask your cat’s veterinarian to do a complete examination to identify medical problems that could cause restlessness, discomfort or an increased need to eliminate.At the same time, try to reestablish your cat’s normal sleeping and waking hours. It’s best to increase her activity level by engaging her in play during the day and in the evening so she’ll want to sleep at night.
Disorientation is often the first sign that pet parents recognize as cognitive decline in their older cats. It’s estimated that disorientation occurs in at least 40% of cats aged 17 years and older.
Disorientation may be reduced by increasing the predictability of your cat’s environment and schedule.Avoid changes to her food, food placement, litter and litter box placement. Try to keep her daily routine as consistent as possible. If she’s really distressed, it may be best to confine her to a relatively small space, such as one floor of your house or, in advanced cases, one room. And doing these things will make it easy for your cat to find everything she needs.
Inappropriate elimination (house soiling) is a common sign. In fact, it’s the most common reason that older cats are seen by behaviorists. Any number of medical problems can contribute to inappropriate elimination, including sensory decline, neuromuscular conditions that affect mobility, brain tumors, kidney dysfunction and endocrine system disorders. In short, any disorder that increases your cat’s frequency of elimination or decreases her bladder or bowel control can cause house soiling. Accordingly, the first step in treating inappropriate elimination in any cat, regardless of age, is to take her to her veterinarian for a thorough examination.
If your cat’s veterinarian rules out medical problems, the following suggestions may help:
- Increase the number of litter boxes available to your cat. Place at least one litter box on every floor of your house in case your cat is having trouble going up or down stairs.
- Place additional litter boxes where they’re easy to find and easy to get into. Cats experiencing FCD may forget the location of their litter box. Make sure you keep the existing boxes in their same places, but put new boxes in obvious areas so that your cat can always find an appropriate place to eliminate.
- Use litter boxes with low sides. Many older cats have trouble or experience pain when attempting to get in or out of a litter box with high sides.
If your cat shows any of the symptoms or changes listed above, your first step is to take her to the veterinarian to determine whether there is a specific medical cause for her behavior. Any medical or degenerative illness that causes pain, discomfort or decreased mobility—such as arthritis, dental disease, thyroid dysfunction, cancer, impaired sight or hearing, or urinary tract disease—can lead to increased sensitivity and irritability, increased anxiety about being touched or approached, increased aggression (because your cat may choose to threaten and bite rather than move away), decreased responsiveness to your voice, reduced ability to adapt to change, and reduced ability to get to usual elimination areas.
If medical problems are ruled out, and if primary behavior problems unrelated to aging are ruled out (for example, problems that started years before your cat began aging) your cat’s behavior may be attributed to the effects of aging on the brain.
The following behaviors may indicate memory issues in your senior cat:
Learning and Memory
- Eliminates outside the litter box
- Eliminates in sleeping areas or by eating areas
- Sometimes seems unable to recognize familiar people and pets
Confusion / Spatial Disorientation
- Gets lost in familiar locations
- Stares or fixates on objects or simply stares into space
- Wanders about aimlessly
- Gets stuck and can’t navigate around or over obstacles
Relationships / Social Behavior
- Less interested in petting, interactions, greeting people or familiar pets, etc.
- Needs constant contact, becomes over dependent and clingy
- Explores less and responds less to things going on around her
- Grooms herself less
- Eats less
Anxiety / Increased Irritability
- Seems restless or agitated
- Vocalizes more and/or in a more urgent tone
- Behaves more irritably in general
Sleep-Wake Cycles / Reversed Day-Night Schedule
- Sleeps restlessly, wakes up during the night
- Sleeps more during the day
- Vocalizes more at night
- Increased Vocalization
- Inappropriate House Soiling
- Decrease Grooming
- Change in Sleep/Wake Cycle
- Aimless Activity
- Change in Social Activity
Be sure to report all changes you see to your cat’s veterinarian. Some effects of aging aren’t related to cognitive dysfunction. Often these effects can contribute to behavior changes that only look like cognitive decline. Be sure to report all changes you see to your cat’s veterinarian. Don’t assume that your cat is “just getting old” and nothing can be done to help her. Many changes in behavior are signs of treatable medical disorders, and there are a variety of therapies that can comfort your cat and ease her symptoms, including any pain she might be experiencing.
As they age, cats often suffer a decline in functioning, including their cognitive functioning. It’s estimated that cognitive decline—referred to as feline cognitive dysfunction, or FCD—affects more than 55% of cats aged 11 to 15 years and more than 80% of cats aged 16 to 20 years. Memory, ability to learn, awareness, and sight and hearing perception can all deteriorate in cats affected with FCD. This deterioration can cause disturbances in sleeping patterns, disorientation or reduced activity. It can make cats forget previously learned habits they once knew well, such as the location of the litter box or their food bowls. It can increase their anxiety and tendency to react aggressively. It can also change their social relationships with you and with other pets in your home. Understanding the changes your cat is undergoing can help you compassionately and effectively deal with behavior problems that may arise in her senior years.
Cognitive problems present as a psychological problem, but the root cause is actually physical and is the result of age-related changes within the brain.
Dogs’ and cats’ brains age in a similar fashion and undergo oxidative damage, neuronal loss, atrophy and the development of beta-amyloid plaques. These ß-amyloid plaques are also seen in people.
According to Dr. Nicholas Dodman, professor and program director of animal behavior at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, “normal aging” does exist. Some features of cognitive function do decrease with age, but cognitive dysfunction is not normal.
Diagnosis of cognitive problems in a pet is a diagnosis of exclusion. There are many conditions older animals acquire that mimic the signs of cognitive decline, so it’s important to rule out all other physical reasons for a change in behavior. For example, a small seizure can cause a pet to stand still and stare. If your pet seems detached, he could be in pain. Inappropriate elimination can be due to kidney disease. These disorders and many others can result in a change in behavior unrelated to cognitive decline. That’s why it’s so important to rule out all possible alternative reasons, especially in aging pets.
It’s also important for your vet to review any medications your dog or cat is taking. Older animals metabolize drugs differently than younger pets, and if a dog or cat has been on a certain medication for years, it’s possible it is having a different effect as he gets older.
In a large Australian study published in 2011 on canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD),1 scientists at the University of Sydney reported that about 14 percent of dogs develop CCD, but less than 2 percent are diagnosed. In addition, the risk of CCD increases with age — over 40 percent of dogs at 15 will have at least one symptom. Researchers also estimate the prevalence of cognitive dysfunction in geriatric dogs at 68 percent.
In a study also published in 2011 on cognitive decline in cats,2 a researcher at the University of Edinburgh, Hospital for Small Animals estimated that a third of all cats between 11 and 14 years of age have age-related cognitive decline. That number increases to 50 percent for cats 15 years and older.
Our New Safety Study showed that at 4,000 times the normal dose for 90 days there were no adverse events. The Study was presented at the Society of Toxicology Conference in the spring of 2013.
And our active ingredient, Apoaequorin obtained GRAS status:
An independent panel of expert toxicologists and food scientists has affirmed Quincy Bioscience’s apoaequorin (active ingredient in Neutricks®) ingredient as Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS). After a comprehensive evaluation of research and toxicology studies, the expert panel concluded that apoaequorin is safe for use in food products.
The active ingredient in Neutricks is a Calcium Binding Protein called Apoaequorin. Calcium Binding Proteins (CaBP) are crucial for calcium balance in the brain cell. And as animals age, less of their own (CaBP’s) are produced and we simply replace these diminished proteins with our 100% natural protein (apoaequorin).
The technology revolves around the protein ‘apoaequorin’, a protein originally found in a specific species of jellyfish, (Aequoria victoria).
As animals age, they stop producing their own proteins and we simply supplement these diminished proteins with our protein (apoaequorin). Neutricks is now prepared to help our pets.
Neutricks for Cats is safe for dogs. Neutricks for Cats and Neutricks for dogs share the same active ingredient. Some veterinarians have used Neutricks for Cats on their dog patients as the dog really liked the fish flavored sprinkles! If the dog is over 40 pounds, they get two scoops in the morning.
- Disorientation – Confused
- Changes in Sleep or Activity
- House Soiling
- Stuck in Corners
- Staring Into Space
- Not Responding To Name
- Aimless Wandering Or Pacing
- Becoming Easily Lost In Familiar Places
- Forgetting Known Commands
- New Phobias
- Interaction with family members changes
Disorientation is one of the principal symptoms of cognitive dysfunction syndrome. The dog appears lost in the house or yard, gets stuck in corners or under or behind furniture, has difficulty finding the door (stands at the hinge side or goes to the wrong door), doesn’t recognize familiar people, and fails to respond to verbal cues or his name. Hearing and vision loss must be ruled out.
Housetraining is another area that suffers. The dog may urinate and/or defecate indoors, sometimes even in the view of his owners, and may signal less often to go outside.
Often, interactions with family members become much less intense. The dog seeks less attention, often walks away when being petted, shows less enthusiasm when greeted, and may no longer greet his family. Other dogs seem to need human contact 24 hours a day
This condition, once called the senile or old dog syndrome, is a newly recognized disease, somewhat similar to Alzheimer’s disease in people. In dogs with cognitive dysfunction syndrome, the brain undergoes a series of changes that result in a decline in the mental faculties associated with thinking, recognition, memory, and learned behavior. Fifty percent of dogs over age 10 will exhibit one or more symptoms of cognitive dysfunction syndrome. Cognitive dysfunction is a progressive disease with increasing signs of senile behavior.
Veterinary Behaviorists including Dr. Gary Landsberg, Dr. Marsha Reich and Dr. Jeff Nichol recommend Neutricks. Dr. Gary Landsberg, Dr. Jeff Nichol and Joseph Araujo, Ph.D. have co-authored a paper on CDS in the July 2012 “Veterinary Clinics of North America” and they have included Neutricks® as a recommended product.
Yes, veterinary schools recommend Neutricks®. These are some of those that recommend Neutricks: Cal-Davis, Cornell, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio State, Tennessee, Texas A & M, Tufts and University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine.
Neutricks research was presented to the American College of Veterinary Behaviorist conference at the American Veterinary Medical Association meeting and at the European Veterinary Behaviorist Conference.
Anything that encourages activity, curiosity and thinking in your pet will help. Environmental enrichment with things such as another pet, playing with toys daily and exposure to new learning situations improves the over-all behavior of pets.
Veterinary behaviorists are beginning to speak out about the need for vets to monitor behavior in older pets just as they do other body systems. According to Dr. Marsha Reich, a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behavior:
“Just because he’s getting old doesn’t mean that we just stand on the sidelines and let him get old. There are things we can do to intervene and improve the dog’s ability to function and improve its quality of life.”
Dr. Gary Landsberg, a veterinary behaviorist in Ontario, Canada, agrees. “This is critical. Early recognition allows for early intervention,” he says.
One of the challenges for vets is that older pets often have multiple health conditions that must be managed, and behavior issues – when addressed at all — often take a back seat. This is especially true for DVMs who expect pet parents to make a separate appointment to discuss behavior changes they’ve noticed in their dog or cat. Typically by the time that happens, if it happens at all, it’s too late.
Animal behavior experts would like to see vet clinic staff give owners a behavioral questionnaire to complete before the dog or cat is taken to the examination room. The vet can then quickly scan the questionnaire to see if there’s a need to discuss changes in an animal’s behavior with the owner.
The questionnaires, if done routinely, also provide a history both the vet and pet owner can refer to as the dog or cat ages.
Fortunately, there are many things you can do to help your aging pet maintain good mental function for as long as possible.
- The foundation for good health and vitality for pets of any age is a nutritionally balanced, species-appropriate diet. Your pet’s body needs an ideal energy source to promote the processes of metabolism, growth and healing. That perfect fuel — especially for aging pets — is a healthy variety of fresh, living food suitable for your carnivorous cat or dog. Ask your veterinarian for their recommendations.
- Keep your pet’s body and mind active with regular exercise appropriate for your pet’s age and physical condition, and mental stimulation (puzzles and treat-release toys can be beneficial). Make sure your dog has opportunities to socialize with other pets and people. Think of creative ways to enrich your cat’s indoor environment.
- Keep your pet at a healthy size – overweight dogs and cats are at significant increased risk for disease as they age.
- Maintain your pet’s dental health.
- It is recommend twice-yearly vet visits for pets no matter the age, but this becomes even more important for animals getting up in years. Keeping abreast of your dogs’ or cats’ physical and mental changes as she ages is the best way to catch any disease process early. Ask your vet to perform a blood test to check your dog’s internal organ health to make sure you are identifying possible issues early on.
When your pet begins to respond to therapy designed to improve cognitive function, in the case of a dog, you can begin re-training him using the same techniques you used when he was a puppy – positive reinforcement behavior training involving lots of treats and praise.
DOGS: One (1) chew tablet per 40 pounds is recommended. Neutricks is best given in the morning, with or without food.
- Dogs under 40 lb: 1 tablet daily
- Dogs 41-80 lb: 2 tablets daily
- Dogs over 80 lb: 3 tablets daily
CATS: Sprinkle one scoop on food daily (60 scoops per bottle). Neutricks for Cats is best if given in the morning.