Old age, as the saying goes, does not come alone… And for older dogs, unfortunately, that can sometimes mean dementia.
But what is dog dementia and what do you need to look out for?
Thanks to advances in nutrition and medical treatments, dogs are living longer than ever before. As is the case with humans, old age puts them more at risk of dementia.
In dogs, dementia is called Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CCDS). You might notice that your dog no longer responds to your voice as quickly as he used to, or he doesn’t like the same activities he used to enjoy. He might bark more, or appear distant or confused – and even start having accidents in the home.
Again, as it is with the human form of dementia, there is no cure. However, medications and nutrients can help slow the decline. Some of the symptoms can develop slowly – others almost overnight.
But the common symptoms to look out for include:
- Circling continuously;
- Repetitive actions;
- Changes in sleeping patterns, such as excessive sleeping, sleeping all day and awake at night;
- Changes to behaviour – a once placid dog might become irritable and snappy, for example;
- Urinating or defecating in the house;
- Unresponsive to his name;
- Blank look to the eyes.
There isn’t a single test which will diagnose CCDS, but a vet will look for other underlying conditions so they can be excluded. Two medications can be prescribed which will help, and certain dog foods are made specifically for older dogs. You can also buy supplements that have antioxidants, choline, essential fatty acids and B vitamin complex, all of which reputedly help with brain ageing.
If your dog does have dementia, then some small steps can be taken to help manage the condition:
- Ensure you visit the vet regularly for advice
- Keep note of the symptoms and severity so you can tell the vet what is happening
- Stick to a strict routine, as this will be less confusing for the dog
- Take him outside regularly so he can go to the loo
- Give him plenty of exercise – as befits his capabilities
- If you need to go out and leave him alone, put him in a crate if possible. This will be familiar and will stop him getting lost or confused.
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