Why is our dog panting and pacing all night?
Dear Doctor: We have a 13-year-old cocker spaniel that has started to pace at night when we are trying to sleep, and she is panting when it does not seem appropriate. She is definitely slowing down overall, and seems much more whiny than we remember. How do we know if she is in pain?
This is an excellent question, as she certainly could be acting this way if she was in pain. Anytime you see changes like this, it is ideal to start with a visit to your veterinarian. They will perform a complete physical examination, and will most likely recommend additional testing to determine if there are any underlying health issues. In most cases, basic comprehensive blood testing includes a complete blood cell count, a chemistry profile, thyroid testing and a urinalysis. Testing for tick diseases, such as Lyme and anaplasma, may be appropriate, plus X-rays and/or an ultrasound to screen for certain internal problems.
If the testing does not reveal any obvious problems, another consideration for her symptoms would be possible cognitive decline or dysfunction, which would be similar to dementia in humans. Cognitive issues in dogs and cats do not necessarily begin at a certain age, but are more common in older pets. The symptoms of cognitive dysfunction (CD) are different for every pet, and generally progress over time. Some pets have mild symptoms, while others will have dramatic changes in their personalities and routines.
Dogs with CD may exhibit any or all of the following changes: sleeping more than normal or decrease in daily activity, decreased response to commands, decreased interest in the surroundings, confusion or disorientation, inability to recognize familiar people, excessive panting, increased thirst, reduced interest in food, loss of bladder or bowel control, vocalizing (whine, bark, howl) without obvious reason, agitation, anxiety, pacing and altered day-night cycles. This listing is not all-inclusive, and many of these symptoms may be associated with other diseases. At this time, there is not a test for animals to confirm CD, but your veterinarian may suspect cognitive decline when the standard testing is inconclusive.
Based on human research, there are many factors that contribute to the development of CD, all of which ultimately harm the individual cells within the brain. While the disease processes cannot be reversed, brain function can still be supported by various supplements, nutrients and medications, along with changes in daily routines. Responses will vary from one pet to another, but in all cases it is important to make multiple changes to improve the chances of a favorable response.
Pets need to remain engaged, which can be achieved by sensory stimulation and exercise. Increased sensory stimulation includes frequent petting, massage, brushing (if tolerated) and hugs. Daily walks are also essential, even if it is only a short trip down the driveway and back a few times during the day.
Several supplements can be beneficial for dogs with varying stages of CF, including Neutricks, melatonin, fish oils, B-vitamins, Senile, and Cell Advance 880, with a combination of these increasing the chance for improvement in a particular pet. Additional considerations include good quality food, coconut oil and a prescription medication known as Selegiline.
The management plan is different for every pet, but your veterinarian should be able to guide you through this process if cognitive decline is the suspected cause of your girl’s symptoms. Best wishes for you and the health of your girl.