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Questions for Dr. Shawn - Cognitive Disorder, Alzheimer’s Disease

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"Dear Dr. Shawn:
"In a recent article you mentioned choline supplementation for dogs with cognitive disorder. I have a cat with the same signs and wondered if this supplement might help my cat."

Answer:
"Yes choline supplementation works well for cats with cognitive disorder as well. Feline cognitive disorder, often called "senility" or "kittie Alzheimer's disease" by many pet owners, is a common condition seen in cats 7 years of age and older. As a result, any therapy that can treat and possibly prevent cognitive disorder in cats would be appreciated by cat owners. I recently completed a study on cats with cognitive disorder using the choline supplement CholodinR which contains the B vitamin choline, phosphatidylcholine, methionine, inositol, and various B vitamins.
The results were tabulated with the following scoring system. Pets were scored as no response to the supplement, minimal response, moderate response (up to 50% better,) and significant response (greater than 50% improvement in clinical signs.)

The results of the study indicated the following:

  • 5 cats showed no response
  • 4 cats showed minimal response
  • 5 cats showed moderate response
  • 4 cats showed significant response
  • 1 cat owner did not respond to our follow up call
  • 2 cats died of unrelated causes during the study

As pet owners seek more natural therapy for common diseases, the use of choline supplements such as CholodinR can be recommended.


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"Dear Dr. Shawn:
”I was wondering if pets get Alzheimer’s disease like people? I know this is a common problem in older people and I’m worried about my older dog becoming senile as she gets older.”

Answer:
” While pets don’t actually develop Alzheimer’s disease, both dogs and cats develop a condition called cognitive disorder. While the condition appears new, it is not and has been recognized by veterinarians for many years. There are a number of clinical signs in pets with cognitive disorder. These signs are often accepted by owners as normal signs of aging, when in fact they are signs of a (usually) treatable condition. Owners must be taught that any of these signs warrants a full evaluation. Education must begin before the first geriatric visit. Regular geriatric examination, ideally every 6-12 months, will facilitate communication and allow for early diagnosis of cognitive disorder and other conditions often seen in geriatric dogs.

Common signs in dogs and cats with cognitive disorder include wandering aimlessly, vocalizing for no reason, getting stuck in a corner, increased daytime sleeping, seeking less attention, loss of house training, and seeking less attention. Because these signs can mimic other conditions (cancer, hypothyroidism), these pets should receive a full workup prior to the diagnosis of cognitive disorder.

The drug AniprylR is approved for treating cognitive disorder in dogs. It must be given daily for the life of the dog once the diagnosis is made. Side effects are rare in dogs and included restlessness, disorientation, vomiting, anorexia, weakness, anemia, stiffness, and polydipsia. The major concern among owners is the cost: a one month supply for a 30 pound dog costs about $125.

There are other more natural alternatives, including herbal preparations (gingko, lycopodium, salvia,) thyroid supplement (when hypothyroidism is the cause), nutritional supplementation using whole food preparations of vitamins such as inositol and lecithin, and a specific product which combines choline and several other nutrients (choline, phosphatidylcholine, methionine, inositol, and various B vitamins.)

Acetylcholine is a widely distributed neurotransmitter in the body. Choline loading using choline provides additional choline which can be used to make acetylcholine. Phosphatidylcholine (lecithin) is part of the plasma membrane of mammalian cells and provides additional choline for acetylcholine synthesis. Methionine and inositol also are involved in neurotransmitter metabolism. It has been suggested that aging people and pets begin to lose cholinergic nerve receptors, and certainly diseases such as human dementia and senility and cognitive disorder are most common in aged patients. Since oral choline administration increases plasma choline levels, and since brain levels of acetylcholine increase as plasma choline levels increase, using choline loading/supplementation has the ability to improve neurological disorders that result from decreased acetylcholine.

Natural therapies have proven extremely effective in most pets in my practice, without the expense or side effects of drug therapy. Therapy is given for 2 months to assess efficacy (as is true with any nutritional therapy,) although results may occur more quickly.


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"Dear Dr. Shawn:
”I was reading an article in an alternative health journal and wanted to ask you your thoughts. The article was about treating Alzheimer’s in people. The writer mentioned several options for therapy, including ginkgo, antioxidants, and something called phosphatidylserine. Would any of these help my older dog (12 year old female golden retriever) and 2 cats (brother and sister tabby cats, I’m guessing they’re about 15 since I found them as kittens 15 years ago)?”

Answer:
”I’m excited to see all of the articles now popping up in mainstream “people” journal dealing with alternative therapies for treating Alzheimer’s disease. As you read, there are several wonderful natural therapies that can be quite helpful for afflicted people, especially in the early stages of the disease. While we still don’t have a cure for this horrible affliction, at least in pets natural therapies are very effective in controlling clinical signs. Phosphatidylserine can be effective, although it has not been used very much in pets (as in people.)

In pets, using combination supplements containing ingredients such as antioxidants, ginkgo, B-vitamins, and choline/phosphatidylcholine work very well. Several years ago I did research on a specific product (a flavored treat) containing choline/phosphatidylcholine in dogs and cats. The research showed effectiveness in reducing clinical signs of cognitive disorder (basically the same thing as Alzheimer’s in people) in about 75% of affected pets, some quite severely affected. In my own clinical practice, I find effectiveness closer to 100%; keep in mind that I also diagnose pets very early before clinical signs become severe. While my research was not designed to show if supplements prevent cognitive disorder, I believe the problem can be prevented in most pets when started early (I suggest starting a preventive protocol as young as 7 years of age in dogs in cats.

I suggest working with your veterinarian to do 2 things. First, make sure your pets have a good examination and blood and urine testing to make sure they don’t have any underlying subclinical disease. Second, start both your dogs and cats on any of the supplements that have been shown to minimize the incidence of cognitive disorder, Finally, don’t use any of the supplements I’ve discussed without veterinary supervision, as side effects may occur.”

 

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