What is Canine Dementia?
An aging dog will most likely display behavior changes. Dementia, also known as cognitive dysfunction syndrome is characterized by aging of the canine brain. This affects your dog’s memory, learning ability, understanding and focus and responses. Dementia is connected to a decrease in Dopamine, a neurotransmitter.
The changes in your dog’s behaviour, physical appearance, appetite, sleep pattern and routine activities could be very small and subtle initially. Dog parents must watch their pets closely when they enter their senior phase. Seek your vet’s advice upon noticing any minor or major change in your pet’s conduct to rule out the presence of a medical problem before you blame cognitive dysfunction for the change/s.
Common Symptoms of Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome in Dogs:
- Confusion/Getting lost around the house: An old dog may often get confused about the location of its food and water bowls in-spite of them being placed in the same spot daily.
The dog may find it hard to get to a certain location in its very own familiar home. For instance to get back inside the house from your backyard the pooch may stand in front of the wrong door. Also the pooch experiences a loss of spatial awareness.
- Pacing anxiously in the house: Your four legged oldie will walk aimlessly around the house with no particular destination in mind or purpose.
- Disturbance in the sleeping routine: Dementia causes the dog’s brain to get confused about its day and night routines, causing the dog to stay active or restless through the night and sleep during day-time. In some cases due to a reversal of routines, dogs may end up sleeping more than normal.
- Appetite loss: You will notice a decrease in your senior pet’s appetite. It may even forget to eat its meals.
- Loss of house-training: The house-trained pooch could begin to poop and urinate inside the house. Never scold the pet for having such accidents. Its also important to immediately consult a vet, since the pet could be suffering from urinary tract infection, kidney problems, diabetes or gastrointestinal issues. The vet will conduct tests to rule out the presence of a medical problem. This will help you ascertain the behavior change to Dementia. The cognitive change is behind your pooch forgetting to go out for the purpose of urinating/defecating. It also loses its control on functions concerning its body.
- Does not reciprocate in the same way to its humans: When the geriatric dog’s cognition gets affected it will begin to react differently to its favorite humans and other things. It will show disinterest in greeting or being petted by its owner. In some cases an otherwise friendly pooch may turn aggressive or fearful towards children, guests and other dogs. An unpredictable conduct could also be caused by a painful injury or illness. Therefore such a behavior change isn’t always brought about by cognitive dysfunction. A visit to the vet’s clinic will help fix the exact cause and necessary treatment.
- Decreased energy and enthusiasm for toys/games: For physical strength of your dog to decline with age is somewhat a normal event. But if this is coupled with a disinterest in your outdoorsy pooch to go out and play or a lack of enthusiasm towards its favorite toys, it is a sign of cognitive dysfunction. In such a scenario the pooch may also loose focus halfway through a game of fetch, etc. Sometimes arthritis or a painful injury could slow down a senior pooch.
The dog may stop responding to commands given out by its owner. If a hearing problem is ruled out, then it is a case of degeneration of the brain. The dog fails to process and react to a command the way it should. In later stages of this malady, it may also not be able to recognize/respond to its name.
- Repetitive Barking: Cognitive dysfunction causes confusion in a canine. It may not be able to recognize its human family, causing it to bark at them. It may feel lost in a certain section of the house and could bark trying to find its way around.
Repetitive motions such as moving the head quickly down & up, walking in circles and shaking the legs are connected to Dementia.
Sadly it is not possible to cure Dementia. It only gets worse as time progresses. However you can manage & slow down the consequences and symptoms with the help of a veterinarian to make your pet feel more comfortable & happy. The vet may advise dietary changes and inclusion of supplements to slow down the effects of aging and cognitive dysfunction.
Antioxidants and Omega 3 fatty acids improve cognitive functioning and promote the health of cells. Talk to your pet’s doctor about relevant herbal cures and homeopathic treatments.
Daily activities you should try, to fight dementia:
It is important to stick to a daily routine of exercise and feeding. Do not go over-board with exercising the old four legged chap. To know how much exercise would be enough for the senior pet, you can consult the vet. Also do not re-arrange your pet’s personal things or other furniture in the house.
Introduce the senior to new tricks that will sharpen its mind.
Offering treat dispensing puzzle toys will provide sufficient mental stimulation to the pet dog along with rewarding it with its favorite delicacy.
Spend quality time with your dog and cosset it with your love.
Present it with opportunities to socialize with other friendly dogs. Cognitive decline can be slowed down by keeping the pooch mentally and physically active.
Regular check-ups at the vet’s clinic are important to keep a close watch on the condition and to deal with associated changes/problems. A vet may also prescribe medications for Dementia. The focus should be to improve the quality of your pet’s life in its golden years and suitably reward it for the loyal companionship it has bestowed upon you.