Regardless of how old they get, dogs always remain a pet parent’s little bundle of joy. No parent can see their pooch in an upsetting situation. However, age does catch up in dogs too, making room for degenerative ailments like dog dementia, which can severely affect their mental and physical wellbeing. Therefore, such ailments are better diagnosed early.
According to the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC) Journal, the incidence of CCD in dogs more than 8 years old is nearly 67 percent and the risk increases with age. Dog dementia or canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD) is an age-related neurodegenerative disorder in dogs, resulting in the deterioration of the brain function. This condition impairs the canine’s ability to learn, remember, and interact with others.
Only an expert veterinarian can offer an accurate diagnosis and prescribe the most suitable disease management option for your pet. Hence, it is critical to be aware of the common signs of this disorder, allowing you to take timely remedial measures.
Watch out for the worrying signs of CCD shared below and talk to your vet on how you can help your furry mate stave off its aggravating symptoms.
Disorientation and Confusion
Dementia involves a profound decline in cognitive ability, causing your canine mate to experience disorientation and confusion. For instance, your pet may enter the wrong block when finding their way back home. They may lose their ability to follow the usual route when going out for a walk.
They often get stuck behind the couch because they have forgotten how to their way out. What’s more, they may forget their favorite food treats and seem disinterested when you offer it.
Another sign of disorientation is when your old mate doesn’t respond to your voice or commands. However, this could also be due to a hearing disability which is quite common in senior dogs. Your vet will evaluate various health parameters based on diagnostic tests like blood and urine tests, MRI, and CT scan. He/she will point to dementia as the cause of these behavioral issues only when other health issues are ruled out.
Impaired Social Interaction
When a dog is suffering from dementia, they are constantly anxious, confused, and uncertain or confused about the routine. This impairs their ability to interact with humans and other pets. For instance, they may fail to notice the doorbell, refuse to greet a visitor, or bark when a known visitor like the newspaper man arrives.
If your once sociable pal has started acting cranky, irritable, or destructive in the presence of people or other pets, it’s a sign that something’s not right. At times, your mutt may even growl or get territorial with family members and friends as they have lost the ability to recognize them.
This is a part of cognitive decline where the canine has lost their ability to recognize people. Often, pet parents mistake this behavior for hostility. If you see signs of new aggression in your pooch, point it out to your vet, enabling him/her to suggest a corrective treatment.
Change in Sleep Pattern
Dogs generally have a great sense of timing. However, if you find your senior pooch wandering around the house at night or staring blankly into space while in bed, it’s a sign of something serious.
Many dogs suffering from dementia reverse their day and night time activities. If that’s the case, you will see your old furry fellow pacing or barking all night and sleeping through the day.
Impaired sleep pattern is an early sign of CCD; talk to your vet if you see your old mutt oversleep or sleep during odd hours.
Being confused about their routine, canines with dementia often forget to leave the house to do their business. This may cause them to defecate or urinate in the house despite being housetrained.
Though house soiling may point to other health issues like a bladder or gastrointestinal infection, it is a good idea to take your pooch for a medical checkup.
Lack of Interest in Physical Activities
When dementia strikes, dogs often lose interest in exploring their environment or getting involved in activities they used to enjoy. They slow down physically, lose focus quickly, and show signs of heightened anxiety. At times, your canine pal may fail to respond or seem disinterested when you pick the leash to take them for a walk or throw a ball to play fetch.
What You Can Do to Make Your Senior Buddy Feel Better
When pets get dementia, they undergo a personality change. The associated anxiety, depression, and fear cause them to behave in a strange manner. If you see the above-mentioned signs in your pet pal, it is wise to bring them to the notice of your family vet. Keep a log of the specific concerns and the frequency of their occurrence. Talk to your vet about these changes and work with him/her to explore various treatment options for your furry friend.
Further, use the tips shared below to manage the symptoms of dementia.
Stick to the Routine
One of the major symptoms of canine dementia is disorientation and confusion. If you feel your aged mutt is uncertain and anxious about their routine, create a simple schedule for them and adhere to it. This will make them feel secure of their surroundings. Make sure their bed, food and water bowls, and toys are in the same place always. Keeping a consistent environment will reduce your furry mate’s anxiety, enabling them to feel reassured.
Practice Mental Stimulation
Involve your senior pal in regular low-impact exercises like walking, doga, or free-style dance to keep them healthy. If you are playing a game, avoid putting too many difficult levels. For instance, games involving sniffing out hidden objects can help keep your pal engaged without stressing their brain. On your walks, allow your pet pooch to sniff around, enabling them to stimulate their brain with interesting scents.
Teach them new tricks and encourage them to play with puzzle toys or treat-releasing toys to keep your dog’s brain engaged, thereby arresting the progression of CCD. Engaging your pooch in such activities will give their brain and body much-needed workout, thereby improving their cognitive function.
Be Aware of the Medication Your Vet Is Prescribing
Depending on the severity of dementia, your vet will prescribe certain medications that help reverse the progression of the disease, alleviate the distressing symptoms, and improve their cognition. He/she may also put your mutt on medicines that aid in sleeping and relieving anxiety.
Make sure you understand the role of these medications and adhere to the dosage regimen, thereby helping your old pal feel better. Talk to your vet about the side-effects of these medications, allowing you to manage them proactively.
For instance, Selegiline is a common medicine prescribed by vets in cases of canine dementia. However, it is often associated with side-effects like vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and lethargy. Being aware of this information will help you prepare adequately, allowing you to offer full support to your furry friend during this trying period.
Soothe Your Mutt with Natural Remedies
Several natural remedies are known to relieve the symptoms of dog dementia minus the harmful side effects of medications. Omega-3 fatty acids supplements, for instance, are known for their health-restoring properties. Similarly, including coconut oil in your mutt’s diet can improve their cognitive function. Many vets also recommend the use of CBD oil for dogs to relieve pain.
Talk to your vet about trying a natural remedy and soothe your four-legged friend’s anxiety.
Remember to Express Your Love
Managing your old furry pal battling dementia can be quite overwhelming. Take time to express your affection towards your pet. Whether you make a special treat or merely sit with them by a pond, spending quality time with your furry friend will calm their anxieties, making them feel secure and loved.
Cognitive decline in dogs along with behavioral changes can be an extremely distressing experience for pet parents. However, by recognizing the signs of canine dementia, you are pre-emptively working towards ensuring your pet’s wellbeing.
If your aging furry pal is exhibiting behavioral changes like irritability, disorientation, and new aggression, visit your vet for examination and consultation without delay. Early diagnosis of canine dementia can help arrest cognitive decline, thereby allowing your senior buddy to age gracefully. So, take notice of the warning signs mentioned in this post and make an appointment with your vet.
When it comes to a dogs health and safety, Vivek Patel never misses an opportunity to share the knowledge with pet lovers. He works tirelessly to write about dog health, behavior, and training skills, besides this he is the digital marketer and Local Search Specialist at E2M. He turns innovative ideas into achievable search strategy. You can reach him on twitter @vivekrpatel.