What Do You Know About Dog Dementia?

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    Sep 26, 2013
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What Do You Know About Dog Dementia? Photo by Raquel Cervera

The simple mention of dementia normally causes a negative reaction in everyone who hears it, typically fear. Why? Because we know it is something we cannot “cure” and that is a trigger for elevated stress in those around the person or dog suffering it. Did I say dogs with dementia?

It is important to establish a difference here between the natural results of aging in dogs and what constitutes dementia.

Every living form of life gets old, even if we hate the idea. Old age is the synonym of losing abilities, like physical energy, endurance, strength, resistance, flexibility, etc. and also mental capacities, like memory, focus, speed at solving problems and many others. One of the nowadays given more attention to is the loss of memory, identified in humans as Alzheimer’s disease.

All the above mentioned symptoms occur the same in dogs as in humans. Your favorite pet has slowly shown signs of not being able to walk as fast with you or last as long while playing. Perhaps its hearing, smelling or seeing capacities have been diminished considerably.  Maybe you notice a graying muzzle or less bright coat. It may have even lost some of its teeth. All of these are simple signs of the aging process and should never take us by surprise.

There is, on the other hand, something else called  Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, or CCD, which has a completely set of symptoms the dog owner should be able to recognize for her to know what to expect and also what to do about it.

Some of the most common behaviors in dog dementia or CCD are:

• The dog becomes lost in even very familiar settings.
• It becomes hard for the dog to learn anything new.
• There is no response to its name or other commands.
•  The dog does no longer recognize family members or other frequent friends, toys or even other pets in the house.
• It may seem either lost or trapped in corners.
• It is common for the dog to pace around the house continuously without any specific purpose. This can be done for hours.
• Loss of appetite.
• Changes in sleep patterns.
• The dog loses interest in otherwise enjoyable activities and doesn’t even want to go out many times.
• There may be frequent tremors or shakes, both in standing or lying down positions.
• Even if house trained, the dog may begin to eliminate inside the house again.
• The dog may sit and stare at a point on the wall for hours, as if not knowing what else to do.
• It may show hesitancy to accept treats, to drink water or even eat its food.
• You may notice it bumps against doors or walls as if not knowing its way around anymore.

The first and most important thing the dog owner should do is keep some sort of record of the behaviors she observes in her dog and take these to its veterinary for the correct diagnosis. Some of the above mentioned conducts may have physiological origins and it is for the expert to do the ruling out and not the dog owner.

Although, as we said at the beginning, dog dementia or CCD has no cure, a new medication has come out called Anipryl which, even if it expensive, has shown to improve the dog’s life and enjoyment.

The veterinarian can also recommend certain adjustments be made so the dog’s needs can be satisfied better when at home. Sometimes, just moving furniture out of the way can simplify things considerably. Besides this, it is recommended for the dog owner to increase the dog’s brain activity using interactive toys, as an example. A change to a diet rich in antioxidants seems to help also in maintaining that mental health we all want so much in our dog.

Losing patience is never the solution to anything. In this case, if dog dementia unfortunately makes your beloved pet its victim, the best thing you can do is return all the loyalty, company and love your dog has given you throughout the years and help it live to the fullest all the moments it has left with you.


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The author is running a site and a blog related to dog training,grooming and dog care. For more information about dog training and dog care, pay them a visit.

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