Dog dementia is a serious health issue in canines. It can affect a dog’s brain function. Find out the causes of dog dementia, its symptoms, and treatments as you read on.
What is dog dementia?
Dog dementia is also known as canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD). It is a neurological disorder that causes gradual degeneration of a dog’s cognitive function. This erodes the comprehension and learning skills as well as the memory of affected canines.
Dogs with dementia are observed having cellular changes of abnormal neurofibrillary tangles and shrinkage of the brain. These portions of the brain are vitally responsible for memories and shaping of behaviours, and when they are damaged, it leads to a serious problem.
What types of dogs are commonly affected by dog dementia?
Dementia commonly afflicts dogs during their senior years. 28% of dogs aged 11–12 and 68% of dogs aged 15–16 is known to exhibit at least one sign related to canine dementia. Dogs over 9 years old have high chances of developing this condition as well.
Although dementia is quite common in older dogs, it is not considered a normal phase in ageing. Doggy dementia is a problem that should be addressed early on to slow down its progression.
What are the causes of dog dementia?
Dog dementia may have no specific cause, but there are a few factors that make some dogs more susceptible to it:
- Abnormalities in the brain cells
- Decreased dopamine production
- Less blood transmitted to the brain
- Genetic health issues including brain tumours
- Injuries or trauma to the brain
Some claim that some dog breeds are prone to dementia; however, it is yet to be scientifically proven.
What are the signs of dementia in a dog?
Dog dementia’s common symptoms tend to be subtle particularly during its early stages. Around 85% of dogs with CCD remain undiagnosed. Dog owners must be perceptive of any sudden changes in their pooch’s behaviour to catch this health problem early.
The following are the most common symptoms of dementia in dogs that you need to look out for:
Dog Dementia Symptom #1: Disorientation
Have you wondered, “Why is my dog walking around aimlessly?” Dementia in dogs causes affected canines to be unreactive, absent-minded, and distant.
A dog with dementia might dwell in familiar hiding spots but will have trouble getting himself out. Standing on the wrong side of a door whilst waiting for it to open or blankly staring at the wall is a common behaviour too.
Dog Dementia Symptom #2: Interactions
Is your pooch aggressive instead of his usual friendly and sociable personality? Does he withdraw himself from his favourite activities? Does he appear uninterested in dog walks? These are usually the first few signs of dog dementia.
Dog Dementia Symptom #3: House Soiling
Does your house-trained dog suddenly urinate and defaecate inside? There may be changes in behaviour due to memory loss caused by cognitive decline.
Dog Dementia Symptom #4: Activity Level
Is your dog doing repetitive actions such as walking in circles and head bobbing? Does he pant, whine, or bark at inappropriate times? Then, he may be suffering from dog dementia.
Dog Dementia Symptom #5: Changes in Sleep-Wake Cycle
Have you noticed erratic sleeping patterns in your dog? Has he been awake all night or sleeping excessively?
A common sign of dementia in dogs includes interference in their circadian rhythm. This health condition causes affected pooches to be sleepless during the evenings.
Does dog dementia get worse at night? No, dementia in dogs does not worsen at night. However, certain symptoms can become more intense, particularly agitation and anxiety. This often causes constant barking and whining.
It is believed that a dog with dementia may manifest only one symptom and can have more throughout his life. Dr. Denise Petryk, a former emergency room vet, advised dog owners to go to the vet immediately once their pooch show signs of dementia.
Take the “Does my dog have dementia?” quiz to discover whether or not your canine companion has developed this condition.
What are the stages of dog dementia?
Dog dementia has 3 different stages: mild, moderate, and severe. Here’s how the severity of each stage affects the behaviour of affected dogs.
Dog Dementia Stage 1: Mild Dog Dementia
Mild dog dementia condition is barely noticeable and often overlooked by many dog owners. Afflicted dogs are observed to have changes in sleep patterns. This condition also alters the interactions of affected dogs with their loved ones. They will become distant and less enthusiastic.
Dog Dementia Stage 2: Moderate Dog Dementia
Dogs with moderate dementia may have prevalent issues such as loss of house training and frequent potty accidents. They are also prone to night hyperactivity. During this stage, the behavioural changes in dogs will become more apparent to family members.
Dog Dementia Stage 3: Severe Dog Dementia
Canines suffering from a severe form of dog dementia will show almost all symptoms of the illness.
Dogs with severe dog dementia get extremely anxious at night, are prone to inappropriate elimination, and are unresponsive towards family members. Some tend to be aggressive as their condition causes disorientation.
The progression of dementia in dogs from mild to moderate is very swift. According to a study, approximately a quarter of canines with mild dog dementia had progressed to the moderate stage in 6 months. After 1 year, half of the pooches had moderate dog dementia.
Researchers observed that the progression rate of dementia in dogs is 5 times faster than in humans with Alzheimer’s. They believe the reason behind this is that the life expectancy of our dogs is about one-fifth of ours.
How can I help my dog with dementia?
The quality of life of a dog with dementia may be put at risk due to cognitive dysfunction. The good news is that there are things that you can do to help your pooch maintain a quality life.
- Your pooch does not have to face dementia alone. Make sure to be there for him to provide physical comfort.
- Keep your dog’s brain active. Expose him to physical and mental stimulations such as car rides, dog park visits, and playtime sessions with other dogs. Be sure to do activities in your company, and keep in mind the limits of his physical abilities whilst exercising.
- Make all necessary things easily accessible to him such as his sleeping bed or crate, dog food, water bowls, and others.
- Do not chastise a dog with dementia for accidentally peeing or pooping in the wrong area. It is not within his control. Instead, place a potty pad near him in case he needs to eliminate it immediately.
- It is important to keep track of any health and behavioural changes that you can easily report to the vet for the next appointment.
- If you have to leave your dog alone, provide him with a more secure and restricted space to relieve him from possible episodes of disorientation.
- Dogs with dementia are at high risk of wandering around and getting lost. Make sure that he has up-to-date information on his collar and microchip.
How is dementia in dogs treated?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for dementia in dogs. However, there are dog dementia supplements that help improve the symptoms and quality of life of patients.
Upon the confirmation of your dog’s dementia diagnosis, the vet will likely introduce appropriate veterinary medicine including selegiline hydrochloride and propentofylline. Natural supplements that can be taken in combination with the vet’s prescription are as follows:
- Melatonin restores your dog’s sleeping patterns. Moreover, it helps in alleviating his anxiety, especially at night. The effects of melatonin typically last for around 8 hours.
- Coconut oil has a rich content of medium-chain triglycerides that benefit the brain. However, the dosage should be kept minimal, especially if he is susceptible to pancreatitis. Vulnerable breeds include Miniature Poodle, Miniature Schnauzer, and Cocker Spaniel.
- Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil, flaxseed oil, and others aid a canine’s cognitive health and hinders dog dementia.
- Thundershirt offers a sense of relief to over 80% of dogs with anxiety. But it is important to seek advice from the vet first before giving anything to your furry companion.
Although dementia in dogs is currently incurable, efforts to find a definitive cure continue. Veterinary and human medical researchers from the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre were able to restore cognition in suffering dogs.
They achieved this by using the stem cells of dogs. These are planted into the sick dog’s brain in hopes to improve their brain function. Whilst more research is needed to make this a reliable treatment, it provides hope that it is the answer for curing dog dementia.
Dogs with dementia life expectancy
The life expectancy for dogs with dementia is difficult to predict. Although a degenerative disease, there is no specific time frame set as to how long a dog can live with it.
Research was done to compare the lifespans of dogs with and without dementia. 98 senior dogs were a part of the study. The results show that there is no difference in longevity between dogs with dementia and without dementia.
Most of the pooches with dementia were able to live normally. Researchers believe that it was because they were given top-notch vet care to manage dog dementia. During the final follow-up, 6 of the senior dogs were euthanised due to dog dementia.
As there is no way to tell how long a dog with dementia will live, make sure to plan ahead. Consult the vet and be proactive in maintaining your pooch’s health. In this way, you will be able to gauge how much time he has left to spend with you.
How do you know when to put your dog down with dementia?
Dementia in dogs is an unstoppable disease, and in some cases, there is no other way for dog owners than to put their beloved pooch down. There is no clear-cut answer as to when the right time is to euthanise a suffering dog.
The most common sign that it is time to let go is when your pooch’s condition is rapidly deteriorating.
If you have tried all possible treatments to slow dog dementia down but no progress is seen, then it may also be the time to discuss the possibility of euthanasia with the vet.
Choosing this option is heartbreaking, but it is understandable. Saying goodbye to your cherished canine companion is extremely painful.
However, it is also worth considering that it would be better to let him go instead of allowing him to continue suffering and wasting away.
How can you prevent dementia in dogs?
As mentioned earlier, dog dementia has no cure. Thus, prevention is very crucial to safeguard your pooch from this neurological disorder. Here are a few preventative measures that you can do:
- Avoid unnecessary and unsafe dog vaccinations. Technically, the vaccination process may replace healthy cells and result in a very unhealthy, chronically inflamed, humoral, hyperpolarised immune system.
- Processed food causes inflammation. Packed food contains synthetic vitamins and minerals. It also has carbs, starch, and sugar.Provide a healthier option for your pooch, especially with his dietary nutrition intake. Provide him with a well-balanced diet that is rich in essential fatty acids.
- Live an active lifestyle with your dog. Keeping his brain active contributes to the slow degeneration of his nerve processes. Engage him in regular exercise and dog sports such as agility course.
Unusual behaviour in dogs might be frustrating and depressing at the same time. However, any changes should be taken seriously as they can be an indicative sign of dog dementia.
Face dementia in dogs by having nutritional and medical support and by giving affected pooches proper mental and physical stimulation to give them a better quality of life.