Evidence Based

Dog Dementia – Facts That You Should Know

Written by: Bojana Radulovic
Nothing beats the happy moments that you get to share with your dog. But, sometimes in that happiness people forget that negative things exist well, such as dog dementia. Dogs are capable of experiencing senior moments that are often followed by disorientation and confusion. Read on and discover how you can postpone dementia and what are the symptoms so you can easily recognize it.

Dog dementia is one of those negative things that people just put under the rug until it appears. If you are a dog owner for some time already, you probably hate thinking about negative things, right? Well, sometimes, being ahead of things is the best thing that you can do for your dog.

A major part of being a good and responsible pet owner is to acknowledge that pets do get sick, and unfortunately, they do age. The more we can learn about all of the above, the better we can take care of them. That being said, step into the realm of dog dementia and learn how you can help your canine with this condition.

Dog Dementia

Some changes can be expected as your pet gets older. Most common changes are seen in decreased energy and lessen the ability to jump and run. In addition, there are also some common hip of back legs problems.

But, finding out that your dog can also have mental problems comes as a strong surprise for many people. Dog dementia, also known as canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD), has become a common problem that directly affects longevity. (1)

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD) is also known as cognitive dysfunction syndrome. This syndrome mostly affects a strong portion of the senior dog population. Yes, this is a lot similar to the occurrence of dementia in elderly people. (2) Interestingly, dogs with this condition live longer when there is joined effort between owners and veterinarian. The biggest issue lies in the fact that 85 percent of cases usually go undiagnosed.

Dog dementia is a serious issue and unfortunately, there is still not much awareness of it. You can probably hear from many the question – ‘Dogs get dementia?’— and that shouldn’t surprise you much, because this topic is yet to become mainstream.

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD) or Dog Dementia is an age-related neurobehavioral syndrome that leads to a strong decline in cognitive function that can be devastating for human/canine communication and relationship.

Signs Of Dog Dementia

Everything can be dealt with if discovered on time, and that applies to dog dementia as well. Being familiar with the signs of dementia will help you recognize any problems in the early stages. Next step is usually a conversation with your veterinarian and concrete action steps to help your canine. Knowing the numerous pet aging signs is an important part of being a responsible pet owner.

9 Signs Of Dog Dementia

Some symptoms are just signs of your canine getting older and they are inevitable. In most cases, you will have to prepare your surrounding for giving your dog peaceful and pleasant days of retirement. In this case you will have to deal with saying your dog goodbye.

However, if you’re experiencing different behavior in your dog you should call your veterinarian and schedule an appointment. Here are the top 9 signs of dog dementia to watch out for. You will notice them as your dog gets older.

  1. Wandering – dogs love to wander around the house or peek out windows. But, as your dog gets older, his wandering may become aimless. Furthermore, if your dog looks like he is lost in his own home, it may be a sign of cognitive decline.

    Moreover, if your dog gets ‘stuck’ in corners of furniture without the specific reason he is suffering from changes in orientation. He may experience day-to-day routine difficulties and even struggle remembering where to go, which is similar to humans with Alzheimer’s disease. (3)

    Quick tip: If your dog is beginning to feel lost, help him with strict routine. A regular schedule will minimize dog’s anxiety and confusion. (4)

  2. Your Dog Interacts Differently – dog’s personality changes as he goes through dementia. As a result, he may act differently around you. You can expect your pet to avoid you, ask for less attention, shows fear and anxiety. These behaviors are common due to confusion, and anxiety triggers them. Of course, this is not a rule, as each dog is different, with unique personality.
  3. Urinating inside the house – if your dog is house-trained but he is going to the bathroom inside, monitor him. Changes in house training are a common sign of dog dementia in senior dogs. They get confused or simply forget which door to use to go outside. Even more, they forget that they have to go outside to do their business.

    Of course, the best thing that you could do in this case is to call your veterinarian as in house urination can be linked with a health problem, such as gastrointestinal distress. If you notice a blood in urine you should react immediately. One accident is usually nothing to worry about, but if it becomes a habit, you should take your dog to the vet’s.

  4. Exaggerated sleeping – it’s known that dog’s sleep a lot, especially as they enter their senior years. Overall, it’s OK. However, with dog dementia, you may notice that they sleep more than usual, or at strange hours.

    Your dog may even show a different wake/sleep cycle. Often and long sleeping hours are an early sign of dog dementia, so you should monitor this occurrence closely and track how much time your dog spends sleeping.

  5. Sudden aggression – if your dog has always been laid back and friendly, but is now in the strong habit of barking, growling or being moody toward everyone, it may be another sign of dog dementia. Your dog will not be aggressive toward you ever unless he doesn’t recognize you.

    This new behavior is something that you should address to your veterinarian, so you can receive professional guidance. If your dog is just aggressive because he is lacking a proper training or strong guidance, that is something that can be easily fixed with proper medications and supplements.

  6. Disorientation – just like with humans, if your dog gets dementia he may show signs of disorientation, including the lack of ability to follow usual routes. (5) But, sticking to the routine is the key when it comes to maintaining the security in your dog.
  7. He doesn’t want to play – as they get older they may lose some interest for play, especially if you are a owner of a low-energy breed. But if your dog has always been down to play, but now has little interest, you should talk to your veterinarian. In some cases, a lack of interest in playing can be a sign of dog dementia or even some health issues.
  8. Whining and pacing – if your dog pace and whines he is probably bored or just wants to go outside. However, dogs with dementia do this more frequently. They are capable of pacing and whining for hours and days. This is increased in evening hours.

    Dementia comes with strong changes in sleeping patterns, such as waking up early or in the middle of the night and pacing for a long period.

  9. Staring off – dogs love to stare in one thing more than anything else – their human. So, if they are staring off into space the chances are that your dog is going through some struggle. In most cases, he is probably just bored or lonely.

    In other cases, staring can be a sign of health issues, such as arthritis. This can also be a sign of dog dementia, so if you notice that your dog is acting differently than usual and that he is not being himself lately, you should ask your veterinarian for advice.

It’s not easy to watch your dog as his mind declines, but if it’s happening then you should do whatever you can in your power to help him. Stimulate his mind with fun and interesting games, take him out for more walks, stick to the routine and go with the medications if the veterinarian subscribed them. You should do whatever that’s in your power to help him feel better.

A Dog’s Aging Brain

As mentioned earlier, a dog’s aging brain is quite similar to the human’s brain when suffers from Alzheimer’s. Although Alzheimer’s is a widely recognized disease, dog dementia is still not as is should be and it still needs media attention. Unfortunately, dog dementia can be (and usually is) overlooked during veterinary visits and many people attribute their dog’s behavior changes to the normal aging process.

Bear in mind that changes associated with dog dementia are subtle and it is challenging to notice them on time. However, any change is something that you should discuss with your veterinarian anyhow, especially if you are not custom with seeing different behavior in your dog. After all, as a professional, your veterinarian will know the best if there is any place for being worried.

Luckily, being familiar with the signs of dog dementia will help you recognize any problems in the early stages. Therefore, you can initiate a conversation with your veterinarian and be more than proactive in dog’s care. It’s important to become familiar with the various pet aging signs.

How Common Is Dementia In Dogs?

Dog dementia is more common than you might believe. Actually, most dogs will experience some degree of dementia as they age. According to the Behavior Clinic at the University of California 28% of dogs aged 11 to 12 years displayed one or more signs of cognitive impairment, just to be increased to 68% for dogs aged 15 to 16 years. (6)

Interestingly, the exact number of cases with dog dementia is still unknown, although some researchers like to point accumulation of abnormal proteins in the brain with dog dementia. Furthermore, this can lead to a build-up of plaque which can cause damage to nerves. Damaged nerves can lead to deterioration of brain functions, memory, and certain motor functions.

How To Diagnose Dog Dementia?

Diagnosing dog dementia can be difficult and the key for diagnosing is a veterinarian exam. You should know that there is no test for dog dementia, so the diagnose is usually made based on the exclusion of other possible explanations for dog’s changed behavior.

Your veterinarian will want to hear about every symptom and everything that you have noticed, and he will conduct a physical examination of your dog. Any other step will be determined based on tests. Luckily, in most cases, the diagnose is arthritis or just an average pain.

Dog Dementia Treatment Options

There is a wide range of treatment options. You should always check with your veterinarian first before you introduce any medications. Still, we have listed the 5 most common treatment options for dog dementia.

  1. CBD oil – recently CBD Oil made a huge boom on pets market. CBD Oil is effective for many mild and severe health conditions, including epilepsy. (7)
  2. Herbs – you can treat your dog with natural herbs, including bacopa, lemon balm, gotu cola and gingko. Check any herb with your veterinarian or with holistic veterinarian.
  3. Essential oils – these oils are always a great way to support your dog’s health. Make sure that you avoid citrus oils. Essential oils are great to enrich your dog’s appetite.
  4. Omega-3 fatty acids – antioxidants can enhance brain health, so you can switch your dog to a diet rich in omega omega-3 fatty acids and other healthy antioxidants.
  5. Selgian/Anipryl – this is something that you should discuss with your veterinarian before you implement into your dogs every day life. This combo can prolong the activity of dog’s dopamine. This can improve the memory and help dogs think more clearly. (8)

Of course, there is always an option of natural supplements that can help your dog relax. Again, make sure that you communicate with your veterinarian all along the way so you know what is proper step and how you can safely help your dog. (9)

Tips On How To Make Life Easier

  1. Stick to a daily routine.
  2. Don’t make sudden changes in routine.
  3. Use runners to help your dog navigate around the house.
  4. Use puzzle and swimming toys.
  5. Play calming music: it helps with anxiety.

As always make sure that you consult with your veterinarian before you try any of these options.

Dog Dementia – Key Takeaways

Having a pet means that you will experience a lot of different stage of a dog’s life. You will be there for a puppy walk as well as for the first serious run. But, most importantly you will be there when he gets old. Just like with humans, as your dog gets older his needs and capabilities are shifting and changing, especially when he becomes a senior dog.

As a senior canine, your dog will suffer from a lack of energy and potentially dog dementia.(10) Although, canine cognitive dysfunction is still not under the spotlight its still a real thing, and your dog can massively suffer from it. As a responsible dog owner, you should know what are the symptoms of dog dementia and what you can do to prevent it. The best way to save your dog’s health and the brain is to have regular check-ups and healthy lifestyle for your dog filled with a daily routine.