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Hi everyone! Its me, Sammy-Joe, with your weekly installment of Smarty Sunday! Every Sunday I try to find away to make you a little bit smarter!
This week I wanted to talk to you about helping your pets to stay smart. Some of the symptoms I'm about to talk about might make you feel sad... but keep reading, because there is better news ahead!
We all know that some humans can get Alzheimer's Disease, which makes them forget more and more things over time. You may not know that pets can also get something similar, called Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome. Veterinary experts mostly know about it in dogs, but it also occurs in cats. In dogs, symptoms may start appearing when they are over the age of 8. Cats often live longer than dogs, and our symptoms might not start showing up until we are 12.
There is an acronym for the symptoms of Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome. The acronym is DISH.
D= Disorientation. A dog may seem lost or confused even in his own house or yard, or forget what he's supposed to be doing outside; fail to respond to his name; act like he doesn't recognize his familiar humans; or do things like try to go through the wrong side of the doggie door or the hinge side of a door. A cat might show confusion by not recognizing his familiar humans, forgetting where his litter box, food and water are, or getting "stuck" in places and forgetting how to get out.
I=Interactions. The way a dog or cat interacts with people and other pets may change. They may not be as outgoing or attention seeking as they used to be, and maybe seem less enthusiastic when they greet you.
S=Sleep Disturbances. They may sleep more during the day and less at night (when they used to do the opposite.) You may hear your dog pacing around all night, or your cat meowing and crying at night.
H=House training. Pets might start having accidents around the house, even though they used to be house trained. Dogs may forget to ask to go outside, or they may go outside, and forget what they were supposed to do, then go inside the house and have an accident. Cats may forget where their litter box is or forget that they are supposed to use it.
Okay. Those are the signs of Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome in pets. But you need to know that it can be delayed, prevented, and even treated!
One of the best ways to delay or prevent Cognitive Dysfunction in your pets is to keep their minds stimulated. The best way to do this is with interaction. When you are not interacting with your pets, they are often just sitting around. Even if you let your dogs outside to play, they may just sit around out there because you are not there for them to impress! Take dogs for regular walks so they can see, smell, hear and interact with new things. Play with your dogs and cats every day. Its not just for our amusement, but for our health!
If you are gone during the day, you can still keep your pets stimulated by providing challenging toys. For instance, you can buy or make toys that dispense treats or pet food as your pet plays with them. You can even hide these around the house so your pets have to hunt for them! Rotating toys regularly can also keep us stimulated. Even if we own a hundred toys, if it is the same hundred toys year after year, we can get bored. It is better to give us five toys for a few weeks, and then a few new and different toys for a few weeks. We know some of our bloggy pet friends have humans that put away certain toys and take them out only at certain times, so that they stay exciting and special to the pets!
If you have an indoor cat, you might like to put a bird feeder near a window, where your cat can see out and watch the birds. We also enjoy cat trees with lots of hiding spaces and things to climb on!
You should also continue training us. Just like humans should be lifelong learners, so should pets! Work with us and teach us new tricks and habits, on a regular basis.
Our diets can also make a difference. We should eat foods that are low in fat, and rich in Vitamins E and C, fruits and vegetables, and Omega-3 (Hey, see our FlaxyPet giveaway for more info about Omega-3!
If we do begin to show signs of Cognitive Dysfunction, there are medications available, and also a prescription pet food, that can help make the symptoms less severe.
So, everyone go play with your pets! Have fun and enjoy us, because that will help us to live healthier, happier lives!