Age Related Behavioral Impairment

Last week I shared how antioxidant supplementation may benefit a dog, cat or even a human. This week, I would like to share a little more about the benefits of antioxidants and how they might help with brain health and complement the management of established cases of cognitive dysfunction.

A little over a year ago I sought out information from Animal Health Option “The Antioxidant Company.” Not that I was having a problem with any pet I currently have, but because I want to make sure I am doing all I can to prevent them from experiencing the cognitive decline that my heart dog experienced.

Let’s start with by identifying the behavioral signs of cognitive decline. Behavioral changes associated with age-related cognitive decline in both dogs and cats may include:

  • Regressions in house training, orientation, and social interaction
  • Changes in sleeping and eating patterns
  • Fear or anxiety not previously exhibited
  • Increased or repetitive activity or vocalization
  • Decreased responsiveness to know commands and activities

These are the most frequently observed signs. Unfortunately, I have observed all of them.  I had a friend last week describe to me what she thought were the typical signs of aging that included three of these. We both believe the first sign shown by our dogs was fear or anxiety which was displayed as general nervousness.

The blood-brain barrier (BBB) is a specialized system of capillary cells that determine which substances in the blood stream may pass into the brain. The BBB protects the brain from harmful substances. However, this barrier also presents a rate-limiting factor for the passing through of therapeutic drugs and beneficial nutrients into the brain.

Age-related changes that occur in the brain can result in cell death or damage, reduced chemical signaling, and increased oxidative damage. The overall effect is deterioration of a dog’s cognitive functioning, which is any mental activity related to thinking, memory, learning or perception.

According to Animal Health Options there are five behaviors that help one evaluate a dogs behavioral signs or conditions related to oxidative stress and aging. They are:

Disorientation/Awareness –       Gets lost in familiar locations

Goes to wrong side of door

Less responsive to stimuli

Interaction –       Decreased greeting behavior

Alterations or problems with social hierarchy

Sleep-wake cycle –          Increased daytime sleep

Wandering after dark

House-soiling/Learning/Memory –           Indoor elimination at random sites

Impaired working ability

Decreased ability to perform tasks

Activity: Decreased or Repetitive –           Pacing or aimless wandering

Decreased exploration or activity: apathy

Appetite decreased or disinterest

Just this week I read an article shared by the AKC on this topic. You might also find it interesting.


Have you experienced cognitive dysfunction with any of your pets? Please share. We learn more from other’s experience.

“Many owners are quite willing to do what they can for a 14 or 15 year –old dog, but if they knew they could intervene early on and prolong the life span of their pet, even more pet owners would be willing to do that. Antioxidant therapy is probably going to be number one for ease of delivery and increased owner compliance.” – D. Horwitz, DVM DACVB



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