Caitlin UltimoHealth / Symptoms & Solutions

What You Need to Know About Dementia in Dogs

Can Dogs Get Dementia?

As your dog ages, her behavior and habits tend to change. You might notice your pup walks more slowly these days and isn’t as interested in chasing the ball. She may also have an accident in the house or turn up her nose at her favorite kibble. It’s hard to watch a dog in decline, especially since your pet is a beloved member of the family. To keep your furry friend comfortable, and to ease your own mind as she enters her golden years, here’s what you need to know about dementia in dogs.

How Dementia in Dogs Develops

Canine cognitive dysfunction may begin slowly at first—you might not even notice the changes that are occurring in your dog. “Dementia is often an age-related change due to oxidative damage of the brain tissue, and this can cause signs of senility,” explains Dr. Stephanie Liff, DVM, a veterinarian at Pure Paws Veterinary Care in New York City. However, in older pets, we can see behavioral changes due to other neurologic disease such as brain tumors or metabolic disease, including increased or decreased production in cortisol levels, kidney or thyroid disease, she adds. Any behavioral change you notice in your senior pet warrants a visit to the vet. You could also ask your pet professional about a switch in her food. Purina Pro Plan Bright Mind adult dry dog food was developed specifically for pups older than 7 who are slowing down in terms of daily interaction and engagement.

The Signs of Dementia in Dogs

It can be alarming when the pet you know and love starts to act like a completely different animal, but dementia in dogs can transform your fur baby. “These pets often exhibit confusion between day and night, or inappropriate bathroom behavior, and may appear as if they are lost in their own homes,” notes Dr. Liff. You might also hear your dog whine or cry out in a sudden, out-of-the ordinary way, and she may experience a change in appetite.

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Treatment Options

Antioxidants such as vitamin E and fish oil can be helpful, and there are some diets on the market that include DHA and EPA for brain health, reports Dr. Liff. Supplements like American Journey Wild Alaska Salmon Oil contain these same beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. “Selegeline has shown some efficacy in certain patients as well,” she adds. There are some prescription diets, such as Hill’s dog food B/D and Purina Pro Plan Bright Mind adult food that have prompted some brain health benefits, says Dr. Liff. And Neutricks Cognitive Support Dog Chews have a special jellyfish protein that may improve your pup’s focus and mental acuity.

Dealing With “Old Dog Syndrome”

Keeping your pet engaged, exercised and comfortable as she ages is important. Dr. Liff believes that sticking to a consistent schedule without dramatic changes can be helpful. “And keep in mind that along with a loss of cognition, you may also see a decrease in vision and hearing,” she notes. If this is the case with your pooch, be sure she can’t easily wander off and get lost, which can happen in pets who are suffering from dementia. You might consider implanting a microchip in your dog or buying her an identification tag as an extra layer of protection.

Because some older dogs exhibit more anxiety, consider the ThunderShirt Anxiety & Calming Solution for Dogs. You can dress your doggy in it and then add a spritz of ThunderEssence Dog Calming Mist, made with relaxing essential oils such as lavender and chamomile. You can also help calm your older dog with treats; VetriScience Composure Behavioral Health dog chews allow you to treat your dog while supporting balanced, stress-free behavior.

Is Dog Dementia on the Rise?

You might worry that this condition is occurring more often in senior pets, but experts say this probably isn’t the case. Dr. Liff doesn’t feel that dementia in dogs is more prevalent today than in years past; instead, she thinks that pet owners are more diligent about preventative care in general, so they visit their vets more often, and their pets end up living longer. “This is a disease of aged pets, so increased life span would lead to increased diagnosis of dementia,” she states.

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