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Just like humans, as dogs get older, they can develop dementia. We’re used to our dogs being excited, energetic pets, but as they age, their physical and cognitive function start to decline. So if you’ve noticed some behavioral changes in your dog, like disorientation, confusion, or failure to remember routines, these could all very well be early signs of dementia.
Dementia can be very debilitating for dogs and make them act unlike their usual peppy selves. But in order to treat dementia in dogs, you have to be aware of the various signs and symptoms. Knowing what the signs of dementia in dogs are can be helpful so that you can identify it as early as possible.
In this blog post, we’ll be discussing what dementia in dogs is, what the various signs of dementia in elderly dogs look like, how you can treat a dog with dementia, and more .
What Is Dementia?
Dog dementia, also known as cognitive dysfunction syndrome, is very similar to Alzheimer’s in humans. Cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS) includes symptoms that have to do with the aging of the canine brain. These symptoms often cause a loss of memory function and learning abilities, as well as a change in social interactions and ability to use the bathroom. Disruption of the sleep-wake cycle and anxiety are other common symptoms.1CDS is an age-related neurodegenerative disorder, meaning it causes the central nervous system to degenerate over time. Because of this, CDS mainly affects eldery dogs, specifically those over the age of 8. CDS is a common disorder– in fact, between 14% and 35% of the dog population has CDS.2
Just like with humans who have Alzheimer’s, there is no known cure for dogs with dementia. However, there are ways you can improve your dog’s cognitive abilities and help them live a higher quality of life with their condition. The earlier you can have your dog’s dementia diagnosed by a vet, the sooner you can implement these treatment methods into their life.
What Are The Signs Of Dementia In Dogs?
There are various signs of dementia in dogs that dog owners should know. The early signs of dementia in dogs can be hard to detect and mirror other health conditions, so make sure your pet has regular checkups with your vet to evaluate their overall health.
Some signs of dementia in dogs include3:
- Disorientation and confusion
- No longer wanting to play
- Changes in their interactions with their owners, other pets, and their environment
- Disruptions in their sleep-wake cycle
- Forgetting how/where to use the bathroom
- Changes in activity
- Lack of self-grooming
- Decreased appetite
- Aimless wandering
- Unresponsive to their name or familiar commands
- Stares blankly at walls
- Doesn’t remember routines or house rules
If you notice your dog exhibiting any of these signs, don’t just brush it off as old age. Your dog might just be getting old, but they also might be developing dementia and need some extra care to help them live comfortably. While these are more advanced signs of dementia in dogs, it’s important to keep an eye out for milder versions of these signs that may indicate your dog is in the early stages of dementia.
How Is Dog Dementia Treated?
Before you can get your dog’s dementia treated, you need to get a diagnosis from a vet. While any of the above symptoms could very well be a result of dementia, they could also be signs of other illnesses, so it’s important to bring your dog to the vet as soon as possible. Your vet will run appropriate tests to rule out other conditions.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for dog dementia, but you can help manage your dog’s symptoms with the help of your vet. You can manage your dog’s symptoms in a couple of ways, such as with environmental and behavioral therapies, dietary changes, nutritional supplements, and pharmaceutical treatments.
You’ll most likely have to make some changes to your environment to accommodate your dog’s growing needs. For example, you may have to bring your dog out to use the bathroom more often or exercise them more during the day if they aren’t sleeping at night. Dogs with dementia are also more prone to anxiety, so it’s crucial to be careful when making any additional changes to their environment, as to not disturb them more than necessary. You should also maintain a routine with your dog, which can help reduce anxiety and provide mental stimulation.
As for dietary changes, you’ll want to make sure your dog is getting plenty of antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids. A diet full of flaxseed, carrots, spinach, vitamin E, and vitamin C is ideal for a dog with dementia. In addition to dietary changes, it’s also important that your dog exercises on a regular basis. These are all part of improving your dog’s overall well-being and cognitive abilities.
There are some medications that can be given to dogs to relieve dementia symptoms, but it’s important to discuss with your vet prior to giving your dog any type of medication. Selegiline hydrochloride is one medication that can help control signs of dementia in dogs, but there are some potential side effects to keep an eye out for.
Some other treatment methods for dog dementia include compression garments, aromatherapy, herbal supplements, acupuncture, massage therapy, or physical therapy. Just remember to always consult with your vet before trying out any treatment method for your pup.
As for dog dementia prevention, it’s hard to know exactly how to prevent dementia in dogs, but keeping your dog physically and mentally active may be one way. While your dog is young and growing, you should play games together, make sure they get regular exercise, feed them a balanced diet, teach them tricks, and avoid stressful situations. Overall, just prioritize giving your dog the best quality of life as possible.4
Dog Dementia: Frequently Asked Questions
How can I tell if my dog has dementia?
Every dog is different and may present unique symptoms. Signs of dementia may also indicate other underlying health conditions, so it’s important to talk to your vet about ruling out other conditions. But some common signs of dementia in dogs that you should watch out for include disorientation, sleep-wake cycle changes, house soiling, decreased activity levels, lack of appetite, irritability, and anxiety.
How do you comfort a dog with dementia?
If your dog suffers from dementia, the most important thing you can do is be there for them. While there might not be a treatment for dementia, there are several ways you can comfort your pup. Making changes to your environment to accommodate their needs is one way, and dietary changes and regular exercise is another. Depending on the severity of your dog’s dementia, your vet may also recommend medication to relieve symptoms. The goal of dementia treatment is ultimately to improve your dog’s quality of life and make them as comfortable as possible.
How quickly does dementia progress in dogs?
All dogs are different. One dog’s dementia can progress over the course of six months, and another dog’s dementia might take over a year to get worse. However, the progression from mild to moderate dementia, in most cases, is rapid. About 25% of dogs who are diagnosed with mild dementia progress to moderate dementia in six months, and 50% progress in one year.1
Finding out your dog has dementia might be heartbreaking to hear, but it’s important to know that a dog with dementia can live a happy and healthy life. You just have to help them get there!
If your dog suffers from dementia, it’s crucial to have a vet on hand who you can contact if anything goes wrong, and Dutch.com is the perfect solution for convenient pet care.
Dutch is an online pet telehealth service that connects pet owners with licensed veterinarians. Dutch can help you get your dog the care they need, with the simple click of a button. When you sign up on Dutch, you’ll be connected with our network of highly qualified vets who can diagnose, treat, and prescribe your dog with the necessary medication and treatment. And the best part of Dutch? You’ll get that treatment delivered right to your door in just 7 days’ time. To get started, all you have to do is sign up online and you’ll be on your way to helping your pup live their best life again in no time.
Madari, Aladar, et al. “Assessment of Severity and Progression of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome Using the Canine Dementia Scale (Cades).” Applied Animal Behaviour Science, Elsevier, 31 Aug. 2015, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0168159115002373.
JJ;, Dewey CW;Davies ES;Xie H;Wakshlag. “Canine Cognitive Dysfunction: Pathophysiology, Diagnosis, and Treatment.” The Veterinary Clinics of North America. Small Animal Practice, U.S. National Library of Medicine, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30846383/.
Ozawa, Makiko, et al. “Physical Signs of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction.” The Journal of Veterinary Medical Science, The Japanese Society of Veterinary Science, 26 Dec. 2019, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6943310/.
Dr. Seibert owns a behavior referral practice in Roswell. “Management of Dogs and Cats with Cognitive Dysfunction.” Today's Veterinary Practice, 20 Oct. 2020, https://todaysveterinarypractice.com/management-of-dogs-and-cats-with-cognitive-dysfunction/.