Living with Dog Dementia
Dementia in dogs is an age-related neurobehavioural syndrome, leading to the decline of cognitive function in dogs.Similar to our Alzheimer’s disease, it is also known as Canine Cognitive Dysfunction.
CCD in dogs currently affects around 18% of dogs aged over 14. This number has continued to rise over the previous years.
How is dog dementia diagnosed?
Canine dementia is diagnosed by a professional such as a vet. They first have to rule out other illnesses with a number of tests. Many signs and symptoms of brain diseases are similar to those of other dog diseases so it is important to check a dog isn’t suffering from other issues. Tests may include an MRI or ultrasound scan, blood tests or other diagnostic tests.
What causes dementia in dogs?
The direct cause of CCD is unknown but there are many factors that have the ability to influence it. This includes genetics or a history of CCD in the family, brain tumours or traumas.
Problems such as untreated anxieties and/or depression is a large contributor to brain health in dogs as they age and become senior dogs. Emotions strongly affect our ability to function, mentally and physically, this is no different to our four-legged friends.
Physical and chemical changes in the dog’s body can impact the brain and its functionality. Pathways to the brain can become disturbed and the brain may become starved of what it needs, (oxygen, nutrients, etc), causing it to decline in its health.
These changes tend to happen with ageing.
What are the signs and symptoms of canine dementia?
You may not notice all of these symptoms, especially not straight away. The most common include disorientation, irritability, wandering aimlessly, disturbed sleep/wake cycle, memory loss and anxiety.
Other symptoms of CCD in dogs include:
- House Soiling
- Decreased learning
Altered behaviours also include:
- Pacing back and forth
- Getting lost in familiar places
- Staring into space or walls
- Walking into things
- Appearing lost or confused
- Failing to remember routines
How can you help treat a dog with dementia?
Unfortunately there is no cure for this disease. That is why it is so important to take preventative measures when it comes to their brain health.
Once a dog has been diagnosed with dementia, you’ll be advised how to best help them according to their personal needs and history. Your vet may offer you medication or advise changes to their dog diet. There are also supplements that can help to relieve symptoms of canine dementia.
There are also steps you can take to make your dog feel better.
Here are our tips for caring for a dog with canine dementia:
Have patience. They may experience symptoms that cause confusion and require you to have patience and understanding. Try to stay calm and not get frustrated at their change in behaviour.
Make sure they can always find their essentials. This includes their food and water bowls as well as their bed. Not being able to find their essentials may trigger anxiety and distress. You could also try creating a safe space for them to access.
Exercise. Physical activity is still important. Having exposure to daylight can pay an important part in your dog’s sleep/wake pattern.
Brain training. Mental stimulation and activity will force your dog’s brain to use what it still can. Products like ruffle mats or interactive food mats will challenge your dog mentally and may even cause some fun!
Ensure they have an ID tag on their collar. Dogs with canine cognitive dysfunction have a tendency to wander - this might mean escaping from your home. Make sure they have an ID tag on them at all times just in case this ever does happen. They can then be quickly identified and returned.
Stay in routine. Create a routine in your dog’s day that they are comfortable with and stick to it as best as you can. They will enjoy the familiarity and won’t be thrown off by any sudden changes.
How to prevent Canine Cognitive Dysfunction
There are many things that you can do throughout a dog’s life to stimulate their brain use and promote brain health or development.
Mental and physical activity is always important for many reasons. Mental stimulation may include regularly teaching a dog new tricks or commands or hiding their food with puzzle mats. Physical activity may include long walks, agility courses or even just playtime with other people and dogs.
Feed your dog a balanced diet. This is so important for many reasons. Allowing a dog to access to nutrients that they need will not only help their brain health but a magnitude of other areas too, (gut health, skin health, weight management, etc).
Use brain support supplements. There are many ingredients out there that can help to promote pathways to the brain, help to stimulate chemicals involved in thinking and learning and help to protect cells from oxidative stress. This is one of the most efficient ways to help prevent CCD in dogs.
Socialise with other people and dogs. Dogs are social beings, just like us. Having social interaction helps to stimulate their mind and allows them to connect with others in a different way than with you.
Dementia in dogs can be hard on you as well as them. Learning how to deal with it appropriately and picking solutions that work for your dog will make you both feel more comfortable.
It is so important to consider preventives when it comes to brain health in dogs as many diseases are incurable. If you suspect that your dog may be experiencing cognitive dysfunction, consult with your vet right away.
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