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Pets Can Get Alzheimer's Too

May 2003


Pets are living longer just like people, so they are subject to the same types of illnesses. Vets say cats and dogs get Alzheimer's too. Symptoms include excessive sleeping, poor appetite and house training problems. Some pets that are experiencing cognitive disorders may act out in odd ways, like barking or miaowing at the wall. If you notice this, or any other changes in your pet, it's important to have them checked out to rule out any other physical diseases.

Treating Alzheimer's in Dogs and Cats - By Shawn Messonnier, D.V.M.

Alzheimer's disease is a devastating progressive neurological disorder of older men and women. A comparative disease occurs in dogs and cats and is called canine and feline cognitive disorder (doggie and kitty Alzheimer's) respectively. As in people, it is most commonly seen in older pets. It is estimated to affect 10 million to 15 million pets in the U.S. alone. Microscopically, beta amyloid plaques within the brain and its blood vessels are seen (as in people with Alzheimer's.)

Recently, the drug AniprylR has been approved for treating cognitive disorder in dogs. While effective in some patients, the drug can have rare side effects. If effective, AniprylR must be used for the life of the dog. Since the medication is expensive, a less expensive option might be preferred.

One safer, less expensive alternative that I have been using in my practice for many years is the B vitamin supplement CholodinR. CholodinR contains the B vitamin choline, phosphatidylcholine, methionine and inositol. Recently, in an attempt to quantify response to CholodinR, the manufacturer asked me to perform a study using the supplement in dogs and cats. The results of these two studies are presented here.

Twenty-one dogs of various breeds were enrolled in the study. The age of the participants ranged from 10 to 16 years of age. Nine neutered males and 12 spayed females were enrolled in the study.

At the beginning of the study, owners were asked to identify any problems commonly associated with cognitive disorder. The following abnormal signs were reported by pet owners:

  • Deafness.
  • Lethargy/lack of energy.
  • Excess sleep (sleeps a lot during the day).
  • House-training problems (usually urinating inside the house).
  • Staring at the wall.
  • Occasional lack of recognition of the owner.
  • Lack of awareness of surroundings.

A blood profile including a T4 test was performed prior to the start of the study. Each pet was supplied with a two-month supply of CholodinR to be administered according to label instructions. At the end of a 30-day period of treatment, the dosage was doubled if improvement was not seen.

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 percent better) and significant response (greater than 50 percent improvement in clinical signs.)

The results of the study indicated the following:

  • 1 dog showed no response.
  • 5 dogs showed minimal response.
  • 4 dogs showed moderate response.
  • 5 dogs showed significant response.
  • 3 dogs was lost to follow-up.
  • 1 dog was euthanized for acute liver failure not related to cognitive disorder or the supplement.
  • Two dogs, owned by the same owner, showed an exaggerated response and became quite hyperactive, causing the owner to stop the supplement. As a result, the two dogs reverted to showing signs of cognitive disorder, which the owner felt was more desirable than the improved, hyperactive state.

The study in cats enrolled 21 cats 10 years of age and older. Owners were invited to enroll their cats in the study if the cats showed any of the following signs:

  • Deafness.
  • Lethargy/lack of energy.
  • Excess sleep (sleeps a lot during the day).
  • Poor coat (excessive shedding or thin, dry coat).
  • Poor appetite.
  • Chronic constipation.
  • House-training problems (usually urinating outside of the litter box not related to anxiety behaviour problems).
  • Staring at the wall.
  • Occasional lack of recognition of the owner.
  • Lack of awareness of surroundings.

As with the canine study, cats were screened with a blood profile prior to entering the study to be certain that underlying disease was not the cause of the clinical signs.

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 percent better), and significant response (greater than 50 percent 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.

Most cats showing no or minimal response had house-training problems as the only complaint from the owners. In most cases this behavior problem was a long-term problem and unlikely to be related to cognitive disorder. The cats showing the greatest response were those showing lethargy and lack of energy, excess sleep, staring at the wall, occasional lack of recognition of the owner, and lack of awareness of the surroundings.

These studies showed that supplementation with the B vitamin choline supplement CholodinR is safe and effective for reversing signs of Alzheimer's disease in dogs and cats. My own clinical experience indicates that if given to older pets before clinical signs appear, many pets taking choline supplementation will not develop signs of Alzheimer's disease (cognitive disorder.) CholodinR is safe, inexpensive, and has no significant side effects.

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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