How to Recognize Dementia in Dogs

dementie hond

For dog owners, there are few things more upsetting than watching their pet’s cognitive skills decline. It’s typically a sign of old age and a stark reminder that we are often going to outlive our best friends.

The first symptoms of dog dementia may often be mild, but they can steadily worsen with time. 

Read on to find out more about how to recognize dementia in dogs and what you can do to help. 

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What Is Dementia in Dogs?

We sometimes refer to dog dementia as Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD). It leads to the same type of symptoms as diseases such as Alzheimer’s in humans.

There is typically a correlation between CCD and the age of a dog’s brain. The result is an alteration in behaviors that relate to learning, comprehension, and memory. You’ll be able to spot the clinical signs of dementia in at least a third of senior dogs over the age of 11. 

It’s not unheard of for a dog to start displaying signs of dementia from the age of 9. If a dog lives to the age of 16, they have a high chance of displaying at least one sign of canine dementia.

Genetic factors or other conditions such as brain trauma or tumors can predispose a dog to develop dementia too, sometimes from an unusually young age.

How Can I Recognize Dementia in Dogs?

As dementia takes hold, some symptoms may get more severe. Others may also start to appear. Here are some of the key signs of dementia in dogs to watch for:

  • Confusion, typically in familiar surroundings
  • Anxiety, irritability, pacing, and a lack of enthusiasm to play or groom
  • Failure to recall learned routines, training, or usual walking routes
  • No response to the dog’s name when called or to previously learned commands
  • Wandering aimlessly or staring blankly
  • Loss of appetite and significant changes in the sleep cycle
  • Toileting accidents at home

You may also find it more difficult to get your dog’s attention. Your dog might also display a decreased response to sounds, other dogs, or even people.

Dogs with dementia may become unsettled overnight and begin to whine and bark. That can lead to them experiencing heightened feelings of anxiety and fear. It may also cause them to sleep more during the day.

Diagnosing Dementia in Dogs

If your dog displays some signs of dementia, your vet will want to rule out other possibilities that could have triggered similar symptoms. They may carry out thyroid testing, other blood tests, ultrasounds, urine profiles, and X-rays to check for other diseases that can cause the same kinds of behavioral changes. These conditions include:

Vets will then tend to base their diagnosis on the symptoms you describe to them and that your dog is displaying. They may also recommend advanced imaging like a CT or MRI scan.

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How Can I Help My Dog If It Gets Dementia?

Dogs that suffer from dementia need lifelong support and therapy. Although there is no cure for dementia, the good news is that there is plenty you can do to help your dog achieve a better quality of life. 

Giving your dog a home environment that provides stimulation can help to decrease the progression of cognitive decline. This often involves a strict daily routine of:

  • Play, exercise, and mental stimulation 
  • Sticking to the same bedtime each day

Practically, you should consider making your home as accessible as possible for your senior dog. You also might wish to install night lights to assist your dog if they need to move around in the dark.

A specialist kind of orthopedic foam bed can also help make rest more comfortable increasing the chances of your dog getting a good night’s sleep.

Supplements and Medication for Dogs with Dementia

Your vet may also recommend a specific diet. Doing this may help to improve certain cognitive functions. There are prescription diets available to help maintain brain health. 

These diets tend to be rich in vitamins B, E, and C, antioxidants, carnitine, beta-carotene, and carotenoids. These ingredients have excellent properties for improving a dog’s cognitive functions. 

Supplements of omega fatty acids can also benefit dogs with dementia. Some dogs may need some form of anti-anxiety medication too. This will clearly depend on what kind of symptoms your dog is displaying but your vet will be able to advise you.

Drugs such as Selegiline can also help your dog control many of the symptoms caused by canine dementia.

Keeping Your Dog Active

Ensuring your dog is mentally and physically active may help to slow down the symptoms of dementia. You should incorporate the following into your dog’s daily routine to keep their minds healthy and sharp: 

  • Train your dog to perform new tricks
  • Play plenty of games together, if they are physically capable
  • Always feed your dog a balanced, high-quality diet
  • Ask your vet about brain-healthy supplements 
  • Ensure your dog gets regular exercise at the same times each day
  • Expose your dog to new experiences and regular socializing with other pets
  • Try not to put your dog in stressful situations
  • Avoid exposure to toxins completely

Although dogs with dementia or the early signs of the condition may be less likely to want to take exercise, it’s usually a good idea to encourage them. This is unless it is physically painful or too traumatic for them. Walking your dog may help calm some of the symptoms of dementia.

What Is the Prognosis for a Dog With Dementia?

Because canine cognitive dysfunction is a degenerative condition that tends to happen in senior dogs, issues around life expectancy can be hard to predict. Even in otherwise healthy dogs, dementia will eventually have a negative impact on a dog’s quality of life. However, there is no specific time-frame related to a dog’s lifespan.

Work With a Vet

The best advice is always for owners to monitor their dog’s health and to work with a vet to track their pet’s dog’s quality of life. Owners can understandably become blinded by their attachment to their dogs. It is always a good idea to seek the objective opinion of a vet when trying to learn how to recognize and treat dementia in dogs.We have a team of highly qualified vets who can advise you about dementia in dogs and the actions you should be taking. Book a timeslot today with one of our veterinary experts.

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