Why is this Old Dog Spraying?


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Q: I am a senior who adopted a senior dog almost two years ago. Auggie insists on marking one of my couches. I have sprayed it with a mark no more product to no avail. I take him for walks regularly and he always goes. I am at my wits end as to what to do. I have shampooed the couch, washed the throw pillows, covered the couch and sprayed with an odor remover. What else can I do? R.M., Cyberspace

A: Congratulations on saving a senior dog. I think it’s wonderful when seniors adopt seniors. I bet you agree, there’s a connection there that’s difficult to even put into words.

For starters,  I assume Auggie is neutered.

Your initial responses are correct.

Also, while Auggie is regularly doing business outdoors on walks, I wonder if these spraying episodes occur only have you let him out in the yard, you assume he’s relieved himself but perhaps he hasn’t?

If you haven’t seen your veterinarian, please do. The problem may absolutely be medical, as Cushing’s Disease, Addison’s Disease and kidney disease are among the possibilities.

If all else is ruled out, talk with veterinarian about canine cognitive dysfunction – which is similar to Alzheimer’s in people. One sign of cognitive dysfunction is losing house training. If you are seeing another of the following indicators, please see your veterinarian.

  • Disorientation: Periodically the dog appears confused, perhaps trying to enter a room on the wrong side of a door or forgetting why he or she walked into a room in the first place. A dog who appears to have forgotten cues, like “sit.”
  • Interaction changes: A dogs who once greeted family members is now ambivalent, or a dog who barked at the door but now no longer appears to care  Or, a dog who didn’t much care for a family member now loving on that person. These are examples of changes in interpersonal interactions.
  • Sleep/wake cycle changes: Of course, older dogs sleep more, but not necessarily wake up in the middle of the night randomly barking or pacing. Or, a dog that did snooze a lot during the day (normal for elderly dogs), now hardly sleeps and seems agitated.
  • House training: A dog you know is house trained but has “forgotten.”
  • Activity Changes: Of course, older dogs do less, but when a dog appears no longer interested in life, or the family or other pets. The personality of the dog seems to be changing.

Of course, changes are also impacted by changing senses, such as a decline in vision and/or hearing, which may also play a role in the above signs. Various medical conditions or medications may also contribute to canine cognitive dysfunction. which is why your veterinarian must sift through the information.

Here’s what veterinarians can do to slow the progression of canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome:

*Changes in diet, as there are many senior dog diets on the market which may be helpful.

*Provide medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) in the diet, which have been shown to improve brain energy metabolism and decrease the amyloid protein buildup that results in brain lesions in older pets. Another benefit may be support for weight loss. Purina Pro NC NeuroCare offers MCT’s, which interestingly may also reduce seizures in dogs.

*Senilife, a nutraceutical which contains phosphatidylserine, which is part of a cell membrane that has been used to treat humans with Alzheimer’s disease.

*Neutricks, a nutraceutical, contains apoaequorin, a substance derived from jellyfish. Studies indicated that dogs (and people) taking apoaequorin experience enhanced learning and attention tasks, and a possible slowing of cognitive decline.

*Omega 3 Fatty Acid supplements, such as Wellactin, offering the same benefits for dogs as for people: brain health, skin/coat care, support for kidneys, vision, and immune system.

*Anipryl: This a drug, selegeline hydrocloride, which may help some dogs. It seems the earlier the drug is introduced, the more effective it may be.

Also, continued lifetime learning, enhanced enrichment and exercise are all helpful for dogs in early onset of cognitive decline.

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Steve Dale is a certified animal behavior specialist who has been a trusted voice in the world of pet health for over 20 years. You have likely heard him on the radio, read him in print and online, and seen him speaking at events all over the world. His contributions to advancing pet wellness have earned him many an award and recognition around the globe.

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