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.

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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.

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Symptoms of Canine Dementia240_F_47209224_OQpE0ZMpP5Cox3T4szg1HHVetBmiJ7eY

  • 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.

 

8 comments on “When Your Dog Has Canine Dementia: What You Need To Know

  • Wow, I did not know there was such a thing as canine dementia. It’s really good to know as I have two dogs, one of which who is getting up there in years. We love him and I know we would do anything to make him always feel good, safe and secure. Sounds like Sofie is doing good now, and I like to hear that as I love dogs!

    • Hi Matt’s Mom, I am glad that you read my post and are now aware of canine dementia. Now you are armed with the info that you need if your dogs should display any symptom of dementia. When Sofie and I went to see our vet, she examined Sofie and talked with me and then left the room. When she came back, I simply asked her if Sofie was losing her mind and she said yes. Her symptoms mimicked that of an older person and I was not at all surprised with her diagnosis. The good news is that I can manage her symptoms so she has a better quality of life and both of us have reduced anxiety.

      Take Care,

      Erin

  • This is a really wonderful post and I commend you for providing such great information. And it’s very well written and easy to follow. As a fellow dog blogger I salute you to bringing attention and awareness to canine dementia. It is a topic that isn’t very well understood and can cause a great deal of stress to your pooch as well as you as you try to help. Glad to hear that Sofie is doing much better!

    • Hi Mike, thanks for all your great comments! I agree with you that canine dementia is a very important topic, one that any owner of a senior dog should be aware of. Sofie is doing so much better and I encourage any pet owner that is seeing any signs of dementia in their dog to seek the advice of their veterinarian. Stress and anxiety do not need to be a part of their lives.

      Take Care,

      Erin

  • Hi Erin. I never knew dogs ahs canine dementia. I’ve never owned a dog in my life but many people around me do. I know when they get old, they may not be able to see or hear like human. But I have never heard this. I am going to share your website with my friends. You have great information. In the near future, I am planning to own a dog, too. Your website is very helpful.

    • Hi Naomi, yes it is true dogs can suffer from dementia just like us humans. My dogs are 13 and 15 and both of them have cataracts and have both experienced hearing loss. So it is very important to make sure that older dogs are safe since their senses can be not so keen.

      Take Care,

      Erin

  • Hi Erin,

    Very nice article, I was absorbed by the reading as I love animals! I have two dogs, and one of them is getting old so I worry sometimes, I always check if she is ok or if she doesn’t suffer from something. I think it’s time do go to the vet to do a check up. I didn’t know about the canine dementia until I came across your website and I am glad I found it! Now I will be able to recognize the signs of canine dementia, thanks to your useful article!

    • Hi Daniella,I am glad that you were able to read my article. This is important stuff that all parents of older dogs should know. As our dogs age, I think we all start looking at them a bit differently, looking for signs of physical decline. For me it is a comfort to know that dogs also age mentally. Sofie continues to be an important member of my family, one that I know whose needs have changed.Take Care,Erin

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