Dog dementia, also known as Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CCDS), is a surprisingly common condition among senior dogs. CDDS is comparable to Alzheimer’s in humans. If our old buddy starts showing signs of cognitive problems such as confusion, anxiety, and listlessness, then he may have already reached a stage in his life when he needs our help. Understanding his condition will allow us the opportunity to give him the care he needs, prevent the worsening of his symptoms, and make his last years with us more comfortable.
What are the signs of dog dementia?
The age of onset of CDDS depends on a dog’s breed. Early clinical signs can appear as early as seven years of age, but the average age at which symptoms of cognitive decline typically appear is 11 years or older. If our canine friend is getting on in years, we should start keeping an eye out for the following symptoms:
- Wandering aimlessly. Older dogs who wander around the house as if they’re lost, or as if they’re “stuck” somewhere, may be developing cognitive decline. CDDS can make it difficult for our aging pooch to remember his surroundings and where to go. We may also notice Fido no longer seems to remember the usual routes we take when we take him out for his walks.
- Behavioral changes. Cognitive decline can lead to changes in how Fido interacts with us and other humans and animals. He can exhibit increased anxiety and fear; he may become significantly less demanding for our attention and less interested in play. It would also be reasonable for him to sometimes forget his house-training and accidentally pee indoors. Anomalous aggression and territoriality may actually become the new norm as this behavioral change usually also comes with dementia. More frequent pacing and whining that’s not caused by boredom may be caused by dementia-related anxiety.
- Changes in sleeping habits. Older dogs normally sleep more often and for longer periods of time. But a senior dog with CCDS will not only sleep more frequently, but also develop odd sleeping hours. As with humans with dementia, it’s common for a dog with the condition to sleep more during the day, and be awake and anxious most of the night.
- Being mentally absent. The most obvious sign of this is Fido staring off into space for prolonged periods. If this behavior is unusual for our pooch, then it should be mentioned to his vet on his next checkup.
What can we do to help our senior dogs?
The earlier dog dementia is diagnosed, the earlier we can give him the help he needs. Luckily, there are ways to prevent his condition from worsening, and we can also take extra steps to give him the comfort and care he needs.
- Keeping a regular schedule. Even if he sometimes forgets what we’ve trained him to do, it is even more important that we keep him on a strict schedule. The routine will help minimize his anxiety and confusion.
- Keep his environment unchanged. As much as possible, we should make sure the layout of our home, larger household items, and his belongings are always in the same place. Any change to his environment, even small ones, can easily throw him off and trigger anxiety.
- Keep him relaxed. Any newly developed aggression can be addressed by following a consistent daily routine because aggressive behaviors can be triggered by anxiety and confusion. If visitors are coming, even if they’re people he’s familiar with, it will help to get him relaxed by tiring him out with a long walk and playtime, giving him a treat or a massage, or engaging in any activity that he always enjoys. His vet may also prescribe medication and supplements to treat his anxiety.
- Exercise him regularly. This stimulates his senses and cognitive skills, helping him stay sharp and engaged. The physical exertion also releases hormones that enhance motor coordination and promote feelings of pleasure. Regular exercise can keep stress and anxiety at bay by burning off excess energy, but the intensity and frequency of his physical activity should still be ideal for his age, overall health, stamina level, and breed.
- Make mealtime challenging. Mealtimes can be an opportunity to fire up Fido’s hunting skills, problem-solving skills, and overall brain function. We can invest in puzzle toys designed for hiding food. To make things even more fun and challenging, we can also hide the toy itself, as long as it doesn’t create more confusion and trigger anxiety or aggressiveness.
- Feed him a healthy diet. It is even more vital as our dog enters his golden years that we give him the right food. There are special formulas explicitly designed to help improve brain function in older dogs. Dog food enhanced with medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), fish oil, B vitamins, antioxidants, and amino acids are the best choice for Fido’s brain health. These ingredients are also available as individual supplements.
As an age-related condition, dog dementia is often inevitable. However, there are ways to keep him healthy and happy, physically and mentally, for the remainder of his years.
Part of growing old, not only often includes some level of dementia; for many dogs, it also means a significant decrease in mobility. EcoMobility is a joint and hip complex for dogs that is not only wallet-friendly but easy to use. Your pup can get the hip and joint support he needs to stay in optimal, agile health with this vet-approved daily supplement.
- “Dementia in Senior Dogs: 6 Ways to Deal With the Effects” Vetstreet
- “5 Signs of Dog Dementia” PetMD
- “Dementia in Dogs: 5 Signs To Look Out For” South Boston Animal Hospital
- “Dogs get dementia? Yes, they do…” Washington State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital