Do Dogs Get Dementia?
By Pierre Mouchette | Bits-n-Pieces
As your dog ages, you may notice them being irritable, forgetting their routine, having accidents inside, or getting lost in the house. These can be signs of dog dementia. Dog dementia, also known as canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD) syndrome, is a degenerative brain condition that causes memory loss, mood changes, and behavior changes. It is estimated that nearly 15% of dogs over age 8 develop CCD.
Seeing a once-spirited dog deteriorate and become disoriented in their surroundings is overwhelming. There is no cure for this disease, but with proper diagnosis, medication, and supportive care at home, pet parents can help their dog live the most extended and best life possible.
What is canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD) or dog dementia?
Canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD) is the dog version of Alzheimer's disease in humans. The start of dog dementia leads to the inability to remember or process information. In turn, it affects the brain’s signals to the body. This declining cognitive function is partly due to increasing amounts of beta-amyloid protein as a dog ages, which is toxic to the brain. Less blood flow and malfunctioning neurons can also contribute to the first signs and symptoms of dementia. Neurons are a type of cell that helps carry messages throughout a dog’s brain and body.
At what age does dog dementia start?
Dog dementia begins to affect dogs around the age of 9. But dogs as young as eight may also develop the condition, and the chances of your dog developing CCD increases as they age.
What are the signs and symptoms of dementia in dogs?
The signs of cognitive dysfunction appear over time as your dog ages. Some of the leading indicators and symptoms of dementia in dogs are:
Anxiety and fear - Confusion caused by dementia can lead to stress and anxiety, and your pet may become more clingy and develop separation anxiety. They may also get more anxious and restless and have mood swings after sundown. Also, your dog may start to have new phobias or fears, especially if they experience vision or hearing loss. Anxiety may also cause loss of appetite. Canines with CCD may express anxiety through repeated actions, such as licking, compulsive pacing, or going in circles.
Disorientation and confusion - Your usually alert dog will act confused and lost in their familiar surroundings. It may manifest as wandering, staring, or moving to unusual places. Your dog may also have trouble finding food and water bowls, backing out of a corner, or getting around furniture. As the disease progresses, your dog may no longer recognize their name, family members, or familiar commands.
Extreme irritability - Dogs with dementia have less patience and may show their irritability with a growl or a bite. Your dog may also avoid other pets in the house or be unwilling to meet new people or go places.
Forgetting routines, training, or house rules - Older dogs with dementia can fail to remember their house training and any other training they received. It may result in inappropriate urination and defecation in the house.
Less desire to play - Even though your dog may be pacing at night, they may not want to go for a walk or play during the day as the disease progresses. They may also have less energy during the day.
Night vocalization and walking - Your dog may bark, whine, or cry for no apparent reason or because they feel anxious or stressed due to confusion. Some dogs may pace around the house at night. To help your pet, add motion-sensor lights so your pet can see clearly.
How is dementia diagnosed in dogs?
If your dog shows any of the above signs and symptoms, take them to the veterinarian for a checkup. The veterinarian will use the Canine Dementia Scale (CADES) and perhaps a behavior checklist for dog dementia called DISHAA as part of your dog’s evaluation.
DISHAA is an acronym that asks about different types of symptoms:
The veterinarian may also suggest:
Treatments available for dogs with CCD
There is no cure for dementia. But, your veterinarian can prescribe treatments to help slow the progression of the disease or ease your dog’s symptoms.
Medications - Your veterinarian may prescribe selegiline hydrochloride (Anipryl). It is given to your pet daily by mouth in the morning. This medication can take at least 2 to 4 weeks to take effect and 8 to 12 weeks to see if it helps your dog improve.
Supplements - May also protect your dog’s brain health and improve dementia symptoms. These include:
What can I do to best support my dog living with dementia?
Dogs with dementia need more patience and care to stay safe and live healthier lives. The following are some ways you can make your canine’s life a bit more comfortable:
How long does a dog with dementia live?
Dogs with CCD can have an entire life span if the pet parent and veterinarian support them. But, dogs with severe symptoms are often euthanized within 12 to 24 months from the start of the disease and diagnosis. It is because of the progression of dementia or other health-related problems, like heart disease or cancer.
Talk to your dog’s veterinarian with any questions and what to expect from your pet.
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