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15 September 2021

What is dog dementia? The signs, symptoms and remedies

 Dogs suffer from Alzheimer like conditions too. This is referred to as dog dementia.


Is your dog displaying behavioral changes? Is he or she failing to remember the regular routines? Does your dog appear to be confused or disoriented? If so, then your dog might be suffering from canine dementia. This is also referred to as dog dementia. In this blog post, I will be discussing what is dog dementia? How does it affect canines? What can you as a dog guardian do to prevent as well as care for your dog if he or she is suffering from dementia?


What is dog dementia?


Dog dementia is also referred to as canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD). Dog dementia is specifically a cognitive disorder that affects dogs. Dog dementia is basically an umbrella term that comprises of four different cognitive diseases which cause a decline in the brain function of the dog and wreaks havoc on the canine-human relationship. The four cognitive problems which come under the CCD spectrum are:


Involutive depression


You may not have heard this before but dogs also suffer from depression. There are several factors behind dog depression. However, the primary reason behind dog depression is the non-treatment of the anxiety faced by the dog. The symptoms of dog depression are wandering around the house, cycling or pooping at inappropriate places. These symptoms increase when the dog is kept in confinement or is feeling very anxious. Other symptoms of this form of dog dementia include sleeping disorders, decreased vocalizing as well as a reduction in learning capabilities and increased lethargy.


What is dog dementia?
What is dog dementia?


Dysthymia


Dysthemia is mainly observed in case of senior dogs. It often involves loss of awareness of the dog regarding his or her body length and size. Most dogs who suffer from dysthemia tend to get stuck in corners, behind furniture, or any other narrow regions where their body will not fit. To get out of such a situation all the dog has to do is to walk backwards. However, the dogs seem to be unable to comprehend this simple fact. 


Other symptoms of dysthemia include excessive whining, increased aggressiveness, repeated growling behavior and finally it disrupts the sleep wake cycle of the dog. If you interrupt your dog while he or she is in the dysthymic state, there is a high chance that your dog may get angry and bite you. The primary reason behind this has been observed to be hyperadrenocorticism like Cushing’s disease as well as long-term therapy involving steroids.


Confusional syndrome


Confusional syndrome in dogs causes a reduction in the dog's cognitive ability. This disease is the one with symptoms closest to Alzheimers disease in case of humans. In confusional syndrome, dogs do not learn well under any kind of training. They tend to forget the familiarity of their regular lives like other people and pets. When this disease goes into the advanced stages, dogs even start to forget who their guardians are.


Just like in the case of human dementia, the causes of confusional syndrome has not been properly deciphered. However, the accumulation of proteins called as beta amyloid plaques around the neurons as well as breakage of neurons resulting in neurofibrillary tangles has been implicated to be the major culprits. Just as it is observed in humans, these two phenomena work to interrupt the nerve impulse transmission in the brain causing the symptoms.


Hyper aggression


If you have a senior dog who suddenly starts to display aggressiveness for no reason, this behavior could most likely be associated with the dysfunction of structures related to the serotonin neurotransmitter in the dog's brain. This may be caused due to the presence of cortical tumors is well. Dogs who have this form of CCD lose their capability to communicate with other dogs or animals. They do not give any kind of communication signal to the other animals or guardians nor do they understand the instructions given to them. Such dogs are likely to bite first and warn later.


What happens in the case of dog dementia?


Canine dementia causes aging of the dog's brain. This leads to changes in the behavior of the dog as well as changes in regions that control comprehension capability, learning as well as memory. Clinical signs of dementia have been found in over 50% of the dog population beyond the age of 11 years.


The current advancements in veterinary medicine have improved the healthcare system for dogs which allows dogs to have a longer life. However, this also increases the incidence of dogs getting affected by CCD. Around 85% of the cases of canine dementia go undiagnosed and unnoticed.


In case you suspect that your dog is suffering from canine dementia, you should take your dog to your veterinarian immediately. Your vet will make a formal assessment and diagnose if your dog is suffering from CCD after he or she has ruled out any other medical cause behind your dog's disorientation like


  • Loss of vision
  • High BP
  • Loss of hearing
  • Cushing’s disease
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Diabetes
  • Arthritis
  • Kidney disorder
  • Skin disorder

DISHA is an assessment tool that is used by a veterinarian to rule out other diseases and helps in diagnosing the dog for canine dementia.


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Symptoms of dog dementia


According to DISHA, the following symptoms are common in dogs who are suffering from dementia.


Disorientation


Disorientation is one of the primary signs that your dog is suffering from dementia. You may notice that your dog is wandering around the house like he or she is completely lost. The dog may seem confused about the surroundings and even forget the door which leads to the backyard or outside the house. Other signs of disorientation are that your dog may stare at walls, floor, or into the distance for no apparent reason. Your dog will have difficulty maneuvering around furniture and other objects in the house and may stop recognizing people, guardians or other animals in the house.


Interaction changes


If you notice abrupt changes in your dog's behavior like not showing interest in the activities he or she loved to do on a daily basis, stops being social, and starts to withdraw, these are signs that your dog might be suffering from dog dementia. Your dog may become more clingy or may want nothing to do with you. It can be either of the two behaviors with extreme repetitiveness.


Disruptions of the sleep-wake cycle


This is possibly one of the most uncomfortable aspects of canine dementia. It causes changes to your dog's sleep-wake cycle. Your dog may stop sleeping at night, roam around the house, bark at nothing, etc and sleep during the daytime. This destruction in the sleep-wake cycle is likely to cause your dog to feel heightened levels of emotions like fear, aggression or agitation.


Other common symptoms of dog dementia are:


  • Anxiety
  • Not responding to their own names or familiar commands 
  • An extreme level of irritability
  • Reduced desire to play or interact with other dogs
  • Reduced grasp of any new command
  • Loss or reduction of appetite
  • Lack of self-grooming behavior

Unfortunately, the initial signs of dog dementia can be hard to detect even for experienced dog parents. Most often, guardians think that the dog is just getting older. However, the sooner you recognize the signs of dog dementia, the sooner your dog can get treated and live longer with a healthy mind.


What are the causes behind dog dementia?


The exact cause behind canine dementia has not yet been uncovered. However, a few theories are available. It is believed that the most common cause behind dog dementia is that with ageing, the physical and chemical changes which occur, cause the brain function to decrease. However, the cognitive decline related to age is not the only cause behind dog dementia. Other factors like brain tumors or genetic predisposition may also make your dog susceptible to developing dementia in advanced years.


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How is dog dementia diagnosed?


Dog dementia is generally diagnosed by a veterinarian. There are no blood tests available to make a diagnosis for dog dementia. However, if the need arises, your vet can conduct an MRI to make the final diagnosis. However, it is imperative that your vet rules out all the other underlying medical conditions which can cause symptoms similar to dog dementia.


Is it possible to prevent dog dementia?


Unfortunately, since the exact cause behind dog dementia is not known, it is pretty hard to prevent dog dementia. However, you can do a few things to keep your dog physically and mentally active in his or her advanced years. This will help prevent or reduce the chances of your dog developing dementia in the long run. The primary objective here is to keep your dog's mind healthy and sharp for the longest possible period. To achieve this you can do the following:


  • Teach your dog some new tricks from time to time
  • Play games with your dog
  • Feed your dog a balanced nutritious and complete diet
  • Provide your dog regularly with brain health supplements
  • Make sure that your dog gets his or her daily dose of exercise
  • Allow your dog to socialize with other dogs and to have new experiences
  • Do not put your dog in situations that are stressful or make your dog anxious
  • Do not expose your dog to any kind of toxins

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Is there a cure available for dog dementia?


Unfortunately, at the moment there is no specific cure for dog dementia. Research is being conducted to find a cure, but so far the specific causes have not been found. Since dog dementia leads to brain deterioration of the dog, there is no method that can cause regeneration of the brain tissue. On the contrary, if you are keeping your dog's mind sharp and healthy, there is a chance that your dog will develop dementia late or may not develop dementia at all.


What are the current treatment options available for dog dementia?


At this moment there is no specific cure or treatment which can completely cure your dog of dementia. However, you can always provide your dog supplements, a good diet, prescription drugs, etc. which can prolong the mental health of your dog. It is best that you have a discussion with your veterinarian about your dog's condition and decide on the best course of action


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What should I do if I feel that my dog might be suffering from dementia?


In case you notice that your dog is showing any signs of canine dementia, the best course of action to follow is to consult your vet. Your vet will conduct a thorough physical examination of your dog, check his or her cognitive abilities, discuss with you about your dog's previous medical conditions, history, etc. Your vet may also recommend a few diagnostic tests like ultrasounds, x-rays, and blood tests to rule out any other medical condition which might be causing the symptoms. The final prognosis of canine dementia can be done after an MRI is conducted of your dog's brain.


How should I care for my dog suffering from dementia?


If your dog is diagnosed with dementia, it is best that you consider your dog first and make some lifestyle changes. You can prevent dementia from increasing and you can keep your dog healthier for a longer period of time by using the following methods


  • Give you a dog lots of opportunities to play during the daytime and engage your dog in daytime activities
  • Provide your dog more opportunities for social interactions
  • Provide your dog a lot of sunlight. This will help regulate your dog's sleep-wake cycle
  • Walk your dog regularly. Do not cut down on physical activities. If your dog is unable to walk, use a wagon or a stroller to take your dog outside. Do not undermine the power of nature, fresh air as well as interaction with other people and dogs.
  • Dog proof your house like you did when your dog was a puppy or like would you do for a toddler
  • Establish specific watering, walking as well as feeding routine which is comfortable to your dog
  • Use waterproof bedding, pads, or diapers if needed
  • Switch to prescription senior dog food or a prescription diet as recommended by a veterinarian
  • Add brain supplements to your dog's diet after consultation with your veterinarian
  • Explore other forms of treatment for your dog
  • Do not rearrange the furniture. Keep your dogs surrounding and home as familiar to him or her as possible
  • Remember to keep in mind the limits of your dog when introducing new people, food, toys or other dogs.
  • Keep your commands simple, compassionate and short.
  • Show your dog how much you love him or her
  • Install a GPS tracker on your dog’s collar so that you can keep track in case your dog ever gets lost.


Related post: How to take care of a senior dog? 16 brilliant tips


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Nutritional options and supplements


There are two primary categories for nutritional options: commercial or homemade diet. If you go for prescription dog food, it would contain a lot of antioxidants for maintaining your dog's cellular health and reduce the oxidative stress which the brain is going through. Diets rich in omega-3 would provide your dog medium-chain triglycerides which are great for cognitive improvement. However, there are very few commercial dog food manufacturers who offer prescription senior dog food.


Related post: Commercial dog food: which is the best for your pup?

In case you decide to go for homemade dog diet, make sure that your dog is getting the apt amount of brain supplements, antioxidants, and amino acids so that further cognitive decline can be circumvented. You must provide your dog a balanced as well as wholesome diet along with these supplements. The antioxidant supplement SAMe (S-Adenosyl-l-Methionine) has been observed to be effective not only to prevent the symptoms of CCD, it also reduces the symptoms of canine dementia. Other nutritional supplements which you can give your dog are Cholodin, omega-3 fatty acids, Denamarin, silybin as well as Solliquin. Remember to consult with your veterinarian before adding any supplements to your dog's diet.


Currently, there is one drug that is given to dogs were suffering from CCD. This drug is referred to as Selegilin. Selegilin is a monoamine oxidase inhibitor. It has been observed to improve your dog‘s brain chemistry by reducing the breakdown of neurotransmitters like dopamine is etc.


The prognosis for dog dementia


The unfortunate scenario here is that dementia is unavoidable. Even though it can be heartbreaking to watch your best friend suffer like this and watches for her health decline with every passing moment, there are a few things that you can do to make your dog's life safe and as comfortable as possible. But, the most important thing that you can do is to be strong for your dog, show him or her how much he or she means to you, and be prepared once the diagnosis of dog dementia comes through.


Conclusion:

What are your thoughts on dog dementia? Do you have any more tips which can make the dog's life easier when suffering from canine dementia? Please share your tips and experiences with us and the rest of the world in the comment section below. 

In case you have any queries pertaining to this blog post or any other, feel free to mention your queries in the comment section. I will be happy to help you.

See you in my next blog post

Shruti 

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  1. I didn't realize that dementia in dogs was a thing. It is so sad. Right now I just have a cat, but he's definitely getting older and showing the signs of it, and right now I'm dealing with him going blind. It is so sad to watch, and know that he's struggling. Your tip on being strong for your pet is so important. Sometimes I just have to pick my little guy up for some extra cuddles and take him to his favorite spot to just rest and relax. Slowing down my day to help make sure he isn't stressed has been a huge key to helping him so far.

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    1. It is sad to see our kids grow old at a much faster rate than us. I have 15 foster kids...They are the reason I am a dog blogger. They are also the reason I have so many articles on dog care. I just want for them to have a long and happy life :)

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