Adrienne is a certified dog trainer and former veterinarian assistant who
partners with some of the best veterinarians worldwide.
Dogs may get old, but they often remain young at heart. Catch early signs of
dementia so that you can help your aging pup.
Alexadry, all rights reserved
Understanding Dog Dementia
In humans, old age often triggers a variety of physical and mental changes.
These changes may take place gradually over the years, or they may seem to
have a sudden onset, almost out-of-the-blue. In humans, these symptoms are
mostly caused by a disease known as Alzheimer’s disease.
Similarly, when canines age, they also go through a variety of changes
affecting their mobility, senses, memory, and general bodily functions. This
canine version of Alzheimer’s disease is known in the veterinary field as
Canine cognitive dysfunction. The main trigger of this condition appears to be
the accumulation of beta-amyloid in the brain, a protein responsible for
damaging nerves. With time, as the buildup of this protein progresses, the
brain eventually develops plaque which interferes with the proper transmission
of neurological signals.
As much as this condition sounds like bad news, the good news is that just as
in humans, if this condition is detected in its early stages, it can often be
slowed, improving the dog’s overall brain activity.
According to Pfizer Pharmaceutical, 62% of dogs age 10 years or older will
develop signs of this condition.
Signs of Dementia in Dogs
There are several signs that suggest the possible onset of dementia in dogs.
These age-related signs are often accepted in dog owners as signs of ”getting
old,” but there is a lot that dog owners can do to help their aging four-
legged friends. While there currently is no diagnostic test to actually
confirm the onset of dementia, most veterinarians will recognize the signs of
dementia after a thorough examination and provide the most appropriate
treatment plan. Here are some signs of dementia in dogs.
This condition can affect senior dogs and often may leave dog owners puzzled.
The dog may appear clingy, following the owner around the home. If left alone,
the dog may urinate and defecate and may also develop barrier frustration
chewing at the doors and scratching at the windows. Often, this form of
anxiety develops when the dog’s senses start to fail, leaving the dog fearful
of being alone. The article ”Why is My Elderly Dog Suffering From Sudden
Separation Anxiety?” will prove a helpful read for these circumstances.
Getting Lost in the Home
Dog owners may complain their dog gets ”lost” in the night, barking,
howling, and appearing disoriented. In other circumstances, the dog may stare
at a corner or get ”blocked” behind a piece of furniture. They appear
confused in familiar surroundings appearing often helpless and disoriented.
Some just stare aimlessly at walls or objects as if daydreaming.
Pacing Around at Night
Senior dogs are often reported to pace around the home aimlessly for no
obvious reason. This may be seen often at night because dogs affected by
Alzheimer’s also develop changes in their sleeping patterns. They may be
sleeping more during the day and staying awake more in the night.
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Not Responding to Commands
Dogs suffering from canine dementia may also not respond well to commands as
before. However, this may also be due to hearing loss, a condition quite
common in senior dogs. Owners also report that their dog is more ”distant”
and no longer greets people he knows and asks less for attention.
Loss of House Training
Dogs suffering from canine dementia may forget to go potty when outside and
may therefore not be able to keep it when inside. Or they may not even realize
they are urinating at times. As much as this is indicative of canine dementia,
it is important to have a dog exhibiting such symptoms seen by a vet as there
are several medical conditions mimicking this condition. A senior dog
urinating on the rug may be suffering from a urinary tract infection,
arthritis, lack of bladder or bowel control, and other conditions.
Senior dogs may forget to eat and drink and must be often reminded. However,
if there is a lack of interest in food, a vet visit is warranted to rule out
medical conditions and find a way to provide adequate nutritional intake.
Dehydration may set in quickly if the dog does not drink enough.
Managing Canine Dementia
Unfortunately, there is no treatment for canine dementia, but there is a
medication (Anipryl) known to slow down the process. Dog Appeasing Pheromones
may help relax some dogs and reduce anxiety. Several steps may be taken to
manage the dog’s environment such as:
- Maintaining the dog’s routine as stable as possible.
- Bight lights may help dogs that become disoriented at night.
- Feeding foods with anti-oxidants, vitamin E or prescription diets such as Hill’s B/D.
- Encourage play.
- Review obedience commands and tricks if the dog responds to them.
- Remind the dog to eat, drink and go potty outside.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It
is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription,
or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional.
Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a
© 2011 Adrienne Farricelli
moonlake from America on November 06, 2011:
We have a dog that I think may have some dementia. He’s 13 and he stays close
to us. In fact we trip over him all the time. We have told our daughter we
won’t be coming to her house for Christmas because this dog can’t handle the
confusion of being in a different house. We sure can’t get anyone to take care
of an elderly dog on Christmas.