Veterinarians are more commonly diagnosing dementia in dogs. This isn’t necessarily because it’s becoming more common, but may be because we are better able to recognize the symptoms. It is also known as canine cognitive dysfunction, and, as with people, it is a disease of elderly animals.
One of the first signs that your dog’s mind isn’t working as well as it used to, is when they start to stare off into space. They may also appear confused as to where they are going or what they are doing. As time goes on, they will forget even their basic obedience training, and may even go to the toilet in the wrong place. They may develop separation anxiety, and start to bark more. One of the most inconvenient symptoms of canine cognitive dysfunction is pacing the floor, particularly at night. This can make for a very disturbed night’s sleep.
Dogs with canine cognitive dysfunction appear to have a reduction in the number of nerve cells in their brain. They also have a lower amount of dopamine, a chemical which allows brain cells to communicate with each other.
If you suspect your senior dog is starting to develop dementia, your first port of call is your veterinarian’s office for a full checkup. Your canine companion may be urinating inside because they have a urinary tract infection, and they may be unsettled at night because of arthritic pain. Make sure there is no medical reason for their unusual behavior.
If all is well with your dog’s general health, then there are things you can do to ease their symptoms and make life a little easier for them.
Your veterinarian can prescribe medication that can make a big difference to your dog’s mental health. Anti-oxidants can also help, and can be added to their dinner once or twice a day. Alternatively, choose a dog food that has anti-oxidants as part of their ingredient list.
Although canine cognitive dysfunction isn’t curable, it can be managed in such a way that life is more enjoyable for both you and your dog.
In Summary – It’s important to keep your dog’s mind active, and keep training them and making them think. Develop a routine that they can become familiar with, as this will make them feel secure.