It can be heartbreaking to watch your dog get older. It’s even worse when you discover that she seems to be dealing with more than just old age. If your dog is doing things that are uncharacteristic of her, even to the point of displaying a personality trait that doesn’t seem quite right, it might be due to dementia. In fact, more than 85% of cases are undiagnosed.
Dementia In Dogs Is Prevalent
Unfortunately, dementia in dogs is a lot more prevalent than most people think it is. In fact, leading veterinarians believe that as many as one in four dogs will eventually develop the disease. The problem is, dogs can’t tell you when they’re not feeling quite right, at least not in the way that human beings are accustomed to communicating. As a result, it is up to each dog owner to pay attention to their pet and look for changes that might signal the presence of a problem. While many dogs won’t experience dementia until their teens, some dogs can begin to exhibit signs of the disease as early as eight or nine years old. The key is to recognize it and have your dog seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible. Your vet can make a definitive diagnosis and then the two of you can work together in order to create a treatment program that can help slow the progression of the disease. Fortunately, there are other things that can be done that might help as well.
Signs of Dementia In Dogs
In reality, the signs of dementia in dogs are not all that different from signs of the disease in human beings. If your dog is suddenly irritable when she has always enjoyed being petted or played with, it could be because of dementia. Unfortunately, this could also be a sign of many other diseases so it’s important to look at the big picture. Other signs that could potentially point to a diagnosis of dementia include eating less, a failure to groom regularly and routinely getting lost, even when your dog is at home or in other familiar surroundings. You might find her going into rooms and then staring aimlessly at the wall without really knowing how to get back out of the room or find her way back to you. Dogs that have dementia often appear extremely confused, just like people do. They may even stop responding to their own name being called, even if they’ve always been extremely well-trained. Perhaps one of the biggest indicators of dementia in dogs involves changes in behavior during the night. Dogs that have the disease often have a tendency to sleep less and wander more. You might find them wandering around the house without having any real sense of where they are going or what they are doing. In fact, it isn’t uncommon for a dog to simply get up during the night and pace around in circles without eating, drinking or doing much else. Some dogs that have dementia are also more likely to have accidents inside the home, even when they’ve always been trained not to do so. It’s almost like they forget that they were trained not to go to the bathroom in the house or they simply don’t realize that they need to go until it’s too late and they can no longer hold it.
Helping Your Dog
If you have a dog that has been diagnosed with dementia, it’s important to realize that all hope is not lost. There is no cure for the disease, but there are things that you and your veterinarian can do that might slow its progress. Typically, this involves medication that is prescribed by your veterinarian along with changes to your dog’s structure. For example, it may be time to hire someone to stay with your dog while you are out at work during the day, as leaving her alone may cause her to have extreme anxiety, thus making her situation with dementia even worse. It might even be pertinent to close off some rooms in your home so that she doesn’t have as much space to roam and get lost if she should manage to get out of sight. One thing that is frequently overlooked but can have a dramatic impact and your dog’s overall health is nutrition. Work with your veterinarian to determine whether or not you should continue feeding exactly as you always have been or if there are other options available to you which might be helpful for improving brain function and cognition. Of course, spending time with your dog and comforting her when she is confused is one of the best things that you can do for her. If other health conditions permit, it’s a good idea to go for walks whenever she can handle it. Last but certainly not least, knowing that your dog has a bona fide diagnosis and understanding it helps you understand how to react when she’s having a bad day. Instead of getting frustrated with her yourself, it gives you an opportunity to take a step back and realize that she can’t help what she’s doing or how she’s acting at the moment.
There is no doubt that it’s exceedingly difficult to watch someone you love get older. It doesn’t matter if the individual in question is a person, a canine or another beloved pet, there is nothing easy about watching someone get older and grow a bit more frail with each passing day. Unfortunately, it is a part of life and it is the price that we all pay for love. The best thing you can do is be there for your dog, support her from an emotional standpoint and make sure that she gets the medical treatment needed as recommended by your veterinarian. At the end of the day, it is your job as a pet owner to care for your pet. Your dog counts on you to do exactly that. When a diagnosis of dementia is involved, it’s important that you understand that fact, as it will be a time when your dog has never needed you more than she does then.