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January 10, 2013

Old dog with shakes may have dementia

NORMAN — Dear Dr. Fox: My 17 1/2-year-old West Highland terrier-mix has an odd problem, and my vet does not know what causes it.

As she is about to go out, as soon as she gets to the door, she backs up a bit and shakes her head from side to side — sometimes her body shakes, too. However, when she is indoors at night, she has no problems.

The vet says she has no eye issues. She does have arthritis in her hips. Her appetite is good.

Last night at about 2:30 a.m., I heard her scratching a wartlike thing on her leg. When I went to put some medicine on it, she jumped up from her bed and went down the hall to the back door to go out. I let her out, and she had no shaking problems. But when she came back in, she paced back and forth between the bedroom and back door for an hour before I was able to lay her down on her bed. I stroked her neck until she fell asleep. She slept until about 9 this morning.

She did not have the shakes this morning. She ate a healthy amount of food, then laid down on her bed, getting up only for toilet or water.

I have medication for her warts and pain pills for her arthritis — both are vet prescriptions. I hope you will have answers for me. My vet hasn’t made any suggestion as to what her shaking problem is.

— B.M., Camp Springs, Md.

Dear B.M.: In part because dogs and cats enjoy longer lives than in the past, we see more of them with age-related neurological and cognitive problems, including dementia.

Try giving your dog up to 2 tablespoons of coconut oil, a few drops of fish oil (working up to 1 tablespoon) and one human multivitamin and multimineral supplement mixed in with her food per day. Discuss with your veterinarian supplements such as Resveratrol, Effac (esterified fatty acid complex), SAMe and choline, and also the potential benefits of various herbs such as ginkgo biloba, gotu kola and Asian ginseng.

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