It's no secret that as dog's age, they are susceptible to more health problems. If your pooch is displaying concerning behaviors such as disorientation or confusion, they might be suffering from canine dementia. Our Oakland vets explain.
What is dog dementia?
Dog dementia, also known as Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD), is a cognitive disorder in dogs that causes similar symptoms to Alzheimer's in humans. It’s a condition related to the aging of a dog’s brain, which leads to changes in behavior and primarily affects memory, learning, and comprehension.
Clinical signs of dementia are found in 50% of dogs over the age of 11.
What are the symptoms of dog dementia?
The symptoms of dog dementia are extensive, ranging from mild to severe as the disease progresses. Initial symptoms of dog dementia are often mild, but they gradually worsen over time. Below are the most common symptoms of dog dementia:
- Disorientation and confusion – Appearing lost or confused in familiar surroundings
- Failing to remember routines and previously learned training or house rules
- No longer responding to their name or familiar commands
- Extreme irritability
- Decreased desire to play
- Aimless wandering
- Staring blankly at walls or at nothing
- Slow to learn new tasks
- Lack of self-grooming
- Loss of appetite
- Changes in sleep cycle like night waking and/or sleeping during the day
How to diagnose dog dementia
If your dog is exhibiting any of the symptoms listed above, it’s important to note that these symptoms do not necessarily indicate dog dementia. They could be signs of another possible illness that your dog is suffering from.
Diagnosis of dementia in dogs must be done by a veterinarian, and the current means to do so is to rule out all other potential conditions. So if you suspect that your dog may have dementia, a trip to your vet is necessary. Your vet can conduct the appropriate diagnostic tests to rule out any other conditions or use an MRI to make the final diagnosis.
Why do dogs get dementia?
The exact cause of dog dementia is currently unknown. However, the disease is often caused by the fact that brain function is affected by the physical and chemical changes that occur in conjunction with the aging process. But age-related cognitive decline is not the only condition that causes dementia in dogs. Genetic factors or other diseases like brain tumors and brain trauma may also predispose an animal to develop dementia.
How to treat dog dementia
While there is no known cure for dog dementia, there are several options to treat this condition in our canine companions. Treatment includes medication, diet changes, life enrichment, supplements, and surgery. If you suspect your dog might have dementia, we recommend consulting with your vet immediately to determine the best treatment options for you and your elderly dog.
How to prevent dog dementia
Since veterinarians aren't sure what the exact cause of the condition is, it is hard to determine how to prevent dementia in dogs. However, keeping your dog physically and mentally active may help to prevent dementia. It is recommended to do the following with your dog to keep their mind sharp and healthy:
- Teach them new tricks
- Play games together
- Feed them balanced, whole food diet
- Consider brain-healthy supplements
- Make sure they get regular exercise
- Allow them to have new experiences & regular socialization
- Avoid putting your dog in stressful situations
- Eliminate exposure to toxins
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding people or pets. Always follow your doctor's advice regarding asthma or other allergy symptoms.