Is your dog showing some curious behavior changes? Failing to remember routines? Appearing disorientated or confused? These are some of the most common symptoms of dog dementia, also known as Canine Cognitive Dysfunction.
What is dog dementia?
Dog dementia is a cognitive disorder in dogs associated with effects similar to those of Alzheimer’s in humans. It’s a condition related to the aging of a dog’s brain, which leads to changes in behavior and primarily affects memory, learning, and comprehension. The initial symptoms of dog dementia are often mild, but they gradually worsen over time. Clinical signs of dementia are found in 50 percent of dogs over the age of 11, and it is actually estimated that by the age of 15, 68 percent of dogs will suffer from dementia.
What are the symptoms and signs of dog dementia?
The symptoms of dog dementia are extensive, ranging from mild to severe as the disease progresses. These are some of the most common symptoms of dog dementia:
- Disorientation and confusion – Appearing lost or confused in familiar surroundings
- Failing to remember routines and previously learned training or house rules
- No longer responding to his name or familiar commands
- Extreme irritability
- Decreased desire to play
- Aimless wandering
- Staring blankly at walls or at nothing
- Slow to learn new tasks
- Lack of self-grooming
- Loss of appetite
- Changes in sleep cycle like night waking and/or sleeping during the day
The early signs of dog dementia can be difficult to detect. They can often be misinterpreted as “just getting old.” However, early recognition is very helpful and all dog owners should be on the lookout for mild versions of the symptoms listed above.
The exact cause for dog dementia is currently unknown. However, the disease is often caused by the fact that the brain function is affected by the physical and chemical changes that occur along with the aging process. But age related cognitive decline is not the only condition that causes dementia in dogs. Genetic factors or other diseases like brain tumors and brain trauma may also predispose an animal to develop the dementia. Because an exact cause is unknown, it is difficult to know how to prevent dementia in dogs. However, keeping your dog active and mentally stimulated by teaching new tricks, playing games and exercising might help keep his/her mind sharp.
Coping with dog dementia
Since the symptoms often get be misinterpreted as “just getting old”, many dog owners simply do not mention their dog’s changed lifestyle to their veterinarians. But a combination of a number of the above symptoms are not normal to the aging process and should be taken very seriously. If your dog is showing any of the above signs of dementia, it is important that you visit your veterinarian for a check-up. Your vet will go over your dog’s history with you in great detail and perform a complete physical examination to evaluate the overall health status and cognitive functions of your dog. Your vet may also recommend some diagnostic tests, like blood tests, ultrasounds, and X-rays, to check for other health problems. If your vet determine that your dog has beginning dementia, he or she will then discuss various options with you.
What YOU can do
In the meantime, you can help your dog cope with dementia by considering his or her needs when it comes to your home and the surroundings, and of course with lots of love! By incorporating a little care and a modified lifestyle, your are actually able to slow down or stop further development of the disease. In fact, studies have found that regular, moderate physical activity and mental stimulation with interactive toys may help maintain your dog’s mental health. And last but not least, try to keep your dog’s home and surroundings as familiar and friendly as possible. Like for example…
- Try not to change or rearrange furniture
- Know your dog’s limits when introducing new toys, food, people, or other animals
- Develop a routine feeding, watering, and walking schedule
- Keep commands short, simple, and compassionate
- Encourage gentle and involved, short play sessions
Have you ever had a dog with dementia? Please share your story with us!