Getting old is hard, even for your pets. Creaky joints, failing eyesight, hearing problems, and general aches and pains are not exclusive to aging humans. Your canine companion can develop various age-related issues, including canine dementia.
What is dog dementia?
Dementia in dogs, also known as Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD), is similar to Alzheimer's in humans. According to research, CCD is a cognitive disorder related to the aging of your dog's brain, which affects things like memory and learning.
50% of dogs over 11 have been found to display signs of dementia, but typically, the symptoms of dementia start at around age 8 or 9.
Dog dementia presents with a wide range of symptoms ranging from mild to severe. These symptoms are progressive and worsen over time. The most common symptoms of dementia in dogs include the following:
- Confusion and disorientation (particularly in a familiar setting);
- Failure to remember the training, house rules, and even routines;
- No longer responding to their name or commands they previously learned;
- Zoning out or staring blankly – at walls or even at nothing in particular;
- Aimless wandering;
- Loss of interest in play;
- Decrease in grooming;
- Loss of appetite;
- Changes in sleep patterns.
Diagnosing dog dementia
When you spot the signs that your dog is beginning to behave a little strangely, head to the vet for further investigation. Various other conditions can cause similar symptoms to dementia in dogs, so it's best to let your vet investigate to make sure. Conditions that can be mistaken for dog dementia include, but are not limited to:
Your vet will use the acronym DISHA to make a formal diagnosis and will ask you various questions about your dog's behavior:
This is the most noticeable sign of dog dementia. Disorientation includes behaviors like wandering around, seeming lost in a familiar setting, as well as zoning out or staring into space, at walls, at the floor, and at nothing in particular. Other behaviors include failing to recognize people they know and having trouble moving around objects like coffee tables, lamps, etc.
Include things like your dog no longer wanting to be petted and spending more time away from the family. Dogs may appear much less into being social with humans or other animals, or they may become extremely clingy and anxious at being separated from their humans.
Sleep/wake cycle disruptions
Your dog may begin to display changes in his sleep/wake cycle. This leads to a situation where your dog cannot sleep through the night and so will end up walking around the house, barking, and even whining while the family is trying to sleep. As they're awake at night, your dog may sleep more during the day.
House soiling, memory, and learning
Well-house-trained dogs will often begin to have accidents in the house. They don't alert you to the fact that they need to go and then go in various areas throughout the house. Commands or tricks your dog used to respond to no longer elicit any reaction from your dog; in fact, it seems harder and harder to get your dog's attention.
Your once active and energetic pup is now less interested in exploring or reacting to the usual things that would excite them. Things like other dogs, birds, people, and neighborhood noises that used to get a reaction, now no longer appear interesting at all. Things like grooming become less frequent, appetite decreases, and your pet may seem a little restless.
Treatment and prevention
Sadly, there is no cure for dog dementia, but there are several treatment options to consider in managing the condition. These may include medication, diet changes, supplements, and even surgery in some cases. The sooner you begin these, the better the prognosis.
They say prevention is always better than cure, so what can you do to prevent canine cognitive dysfunction in your beloved dog?
As there's no clear cause for dementia in dogs, it's hard to know how to prevent dog dementia. But, maintaining a physically and mentally active life may help to prevent dementia in dogs. Aim to include things like:
- Keep teaching new tricks;
- Playtime is essential, as is regular exercise;
- Maintain a balanced diet;
- Choose supplements for brain health;
- Regular socialization and new experiences.
- Install the interactive pet camera to watch what your pup is doing over the day.
A dog with dementia is at risk of getting lost, wandering off, or finding itself in dangerous situations more frequently. Because of this, having a plan for emergencies is highly recommended. In the worst-case scenario, you don't want to find yourself without the financial means to care for your canine companion's health.
Petcube's Emergency Fund is an affordable alternative to traditional pet insurance. For just $29 a month, you have 24/7 access to an online vet and up to $3000 per year of emergency veterinary care for up to 6 pets.
In an unexpected veterinary emergency, you can enjoy peace of mind that your pet will be taken care of.
What is canine cognitive dysfunction?
Canine cognitive dysfunction is also known as dementia. This is a degenerative condition that affects older dogs, causing a mental decline that is similar to Alzheimer's in humans. Can a dog have dementia? Yep!
What is the average dog's dementia life expectancy?
How long can a dog live with dementia? On average, a dog can live for around two years after an official diagnosis. That said, it depends on the dog's overall physical and mental health, how fast the disease progresses, and how early the signs of dementia were picked up.
Which dog breeds are prone to dementia?
There aren't any specific dog breeds that are more prone to developing dog dementia than others. All dogs are at risk of developing dementia, but smaller dogs have a higher instance of dog dementia, mainly because they tend to live longer than larger breeds.
Canine cognitive dysfunction supplements?
A diet rich in antioxidants can help slow down the progression of dog dementia. Antioxidants to look for include: vitamin E, vitamin C, selenium, L-carnitine, flavonoids, and carotenoids.
Other beneficial supplements include Omega-3 fatty acids and B vitamins.
How to calm a dog with dementia at night?
Routines are important to dogs, but more so for those with dog dementia. Keeping a consistent routine will help your dog know when it's time to go to sleep and help avoid the anxiety that can come when your dog is confused.
Make sure you keep your vet up to date with these changes in your dog's behavior. They may be able to prescribe something to help or give you some pointers in managing your dog's new life phase.