August 28, 2016 | Erin | 8 Comments Since middle age first knocked on my door, I could not help but be aware of how my body is aging. I feel aches and pains for no apparent reason, I tackle chores a bit slower, my hair seems to suddenly be much grayer. Bedtime comes earlier and I seem to be awake for the day in the middle of the night. As human beings, we have the cognitive ability to understand and to a certain degree, to prepare for the aging process. As much as we may dislike and resent the changes that we experience as we age, we can comprehend the why behind them. Our dogs age in many ways that are similar to us and it is our job to interpret the clues they send out. My Boston Terrier Sofie, now 13 years old, had recently been displaying consistent, strange behaviors that included anxiety and general confusion. Knowing my dog so well, I was not surprised when the vet advised that Sofie’s mental status was changing. The increasing white in her fur and cataracts in her eyes have made me aware that my girl is growing old so the diagnoses came as no surprise. If you have noticed different and possibly odd behaviors in your older dog, I urge you to pay attention as it may be canine dementia, also known as canine cognitive dysfunction or CCD. Paying attention to your senior dog not only makes you aware of behavior changes, it can go a long way in reducing stress for you and your dog. Symptoms of Canine Dementia Repetitive behavior Decreased activity levels Generalized anxiety Staring at walls Disorientation Sleep and wake cycle disturbance Inappropriate vocalization Less social interaction Pacing Incontinence 5 Ways to Reduce the Effects of Canine Dementia Manage Anxiety – Almost all dogs with dementia experience stress so it is important to know what works best in calming your pet. This may mean soothing music or the use of a crate that makes your dog feel safe. Pay close attention to any changes in hearing or vision which both commonly accompany dementia. Disorientation can be worse for the pet that has a loss of these facilities. Hand signals can work for the dog that has lost some hearing. Keeping furniture in the same place can give a visually impaired dog a sense of security. It is important to note that cataracts are highly treatable and you may wish to discuss this with your vet. Sticking to a strict schedule can help orient your dog. Mealtimes, walking and bedtime should remain on a schedule as this can be therapeutic for a confused dog. Talk to your veterinarian about medication which for many dogs, provides relief from the symptoms of dementia Lastly, the most comprehensive approach to caring for a dog with dementia includes the help of a veterinary behaviorist. Dramatic results can provide orientation to a confused and stressed dog, These days. Sofie is much better. Her most troubling symptom of dementia was her anxiety. She would shake and tremble and no matter what I did to try and calm her, she would remain in this agitated state. After speaking with her vet, it was decided that she would benefit from Fluoxetine, which is better known as Prozac. While she may still exhibit signs of confusion, her anxiety is a thing of the past. She will wander aimlessly in the yard, walking back and forth, or stand facing a corner for the longest time if I don ‘t pick her up and put her in her bed. These behaviors are ones that I gladly deal with. Medication should never be a first choice, but for Sofie, it has made a tremendous difference.