Let’s Discuss Doggie Dementia

Brrrr – it’s cold out here! Winter seems to be settling in just nicely doesn’t it? But it’s that lovely time of year where we get all rugged up and crank the fire (or heater) up at home. It’s also the time to make sure we keep a close eye on our senior pets too. All pets, no matter their age, need to be kept warm during the colder months, but it’s our ‘senior citz’ pets that need the extra warmth and care. In previous blogs we’ve touched base on what we, as pet parents, should be doing to make sure we are doing everything to look after our senior pets (you can click here to read last year’s blog in case you missed it). This year’s Senior Pet blog is going to have more of a focus on Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD), which is just the fancy name for Doggie Dementia.

“Dog’s get dementia?” We hear you ask – there simple answer is yes! A fascinating fact is the same pathological changes are found in the brains of dogs with CCD as are found in human Alzheimer's and dementia patients.  The changes associated with dog dementia are subtle, and the gradual variations in a dog's behaviour can be challenging to notice for even the most attentive fur-parent. Symptoms related to CCD can be linked to medical reasons, which can sometimes be overlooked in the consult room.

So what are the symptoms I should be looking for?

Changes in a pet's behaviour typically include:

  • confusion and disorientation
  • decreased interest in food
  • general apathy (lack of interest or enthusiasm)
  • decreased ability to recognize places and people
  • disruption of the normal sleep/wake cycle – up walking around at night when they normally wouldn’t be
  • wandering
  • repetitive compulsive disorder
  • persistent barking or whining, especially at night
  • loss of learned behaviours, such as toilet training
  • irritability and aggression
  • reduced interaction with the owner

If your old pet is showing some of the above signs, the first step is always to get them checked out. If you need, you can make a booking online via our website.  As some of the symptoms can mean other conditions, it’s important to rule out the behaviour changes are happening due to a medical reason. From here, it can be discussed what treatment options you can look at.

Thankfully there are some treatment options to help your pooch cope with doggie dementia. Though there is no cure for CCD, there are some avenues that can be pursued in order to help them live out their days more comfortably:

  • One of the best things you can do is keep them stimulated! Use games and brain-busting activities daily to keep their brains engaged and motivated. Doing things as simple as going through their tricks they were taught back as a young puppy is a great routine for them and great stimulation (especially when food is involved!). If you need some help with ideas for environmental enrichment, you can check out our handout here
  • Medication is something that is starting to become available in Australia, but would be something that would need to be discussed and researched by your veterinarian.
  • There is a food available too - Hill's™ Prescription Diet™ b/d™ Canine is clinically proven nutrition to help fight age-related behaviour changes in older dogs. It contains increased levels of antioxidants to reduce the free radicals produced in aging brains as well as high levels of Omega 3 fatty acids, Vitamins E and C.

Though it can be tragic to witness your once-playful pooch become a completely different dog, it’s nice to know there are ways to help them adapt to this different way of life. It is an unfortunate part of getting old, so the younger we can keep their brains with stimulation through games and activities the better chance they have of aging in a nice and comfortable way.