Understanding Dementia in Dogs

People often think of dementia as a human condition, but it is something from which dogs can also suffer. More dogs than ever are getting dementia, which is also known as canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome. This is because dogs are living for longer thanks to advances in veterinary medicine. It is estimated that 25 percent of dogs aged 10 or over show some signs of suffering from dementia and it is more common in medium or large sized dogs than it is in smaller dogs.

Signs of Dog Dementia

It can be tricky to identify the signs of dementia in dogs as they will not misplace their keys or forget their own date of birth in the way that humans do. The biggest sign of canine dementia is confusion and disorientation. Other symptoms to look out for in your dog are unusual sleep patterns, interacting less with family members or other pets, barking for no reason or excessive barking, no longer greeting you at the door, becoming less active, having housetraining accidents, anxiety, and general changes in behavior.

It is often difficult for a vet to diagnose canine dementia as the symptoms of this are similar to those of many other conditions. These can include hearing loss, kidney disease, vision loss, arthritis, diabetes, cancer, incontinence, and many other health issues. For example, housetraining accidents can be as a result of dementia, but they are also a sign of diabetes and kidney problems. Similarly, a lack of interest in going for a walk may indicate dementia but the reason could also be that your dog is suffering joint pain from arthritis. If you think that your dog is showing signs of dementia, then it is important that you schedule an appointment with your vet as soon as possible. The vet will need to conduct a full physical examination to rule out other potential problems before diagnosing dementia.

Is There Medication for Canine Dementia?

If your dog is diagnosed with dementia, then the first thing most people think of is whether or not there is something that will help your dog. In some cases, vets will prescribe a drug called anipryl, also known as selegiline hydrochloride. This helps the symptoms that are associated with canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome. There are also some supplements that your vet may recommend your dog takes to support their brain health. These may include Senilife and S-adenosyl-L-methionine. These contain a combination of ingredients that support the health of the brain, such as Vitamin E, Ginko Biloba, and phospholipid membrane stabilizer. There are also dog foods available that contain ingredients that support brain health. Some are sold directly from pet stores while others require a prescription from your vet.

Will Exercise Help?

Medication is not the only way to help a dog with dementia. One of the simplest ways to help them is to improve your dog’s cognitive function through exercise and this is completely free. According to studies, exercise has a positive impact on the brains of both dogs and humans, so exercising together is beneficial to you both. The evidence from the studies has shown that increasing the levels of physical activity will strengthen the brain. In turn, this will offset some of the effects of aging. Even a simple activity, such as a brisk walk, will benefit the health of your dog. Walking increases blood circulation and this sends both glucose and oxygen to the dog’s brain tissue. As this is a low-impact activity, all the oxygen and glucose are sent to the brain rather than to the muscles, which is what happens with high-impact activities.

The benefits of exercise are increased if you make regular changes that will stimulate the dog’s brain. You should try to visit new areas with different environments for your walks. So, one day you can walk along the road to a friend’s house and another day you can visit the local park. If you live near woodland or a beach, try to include these in your routine as they offer different surroundings. Other ways that you can add changes to your dog’s walks is by introducing them to new social settings where they can meet new people and other dogs, and by allowing them the time to stop and sniff new things.

What About Interactive Play?

Research has shown that interactive play can help to stave off dementia in dogs in the same way that humans are told to keep their brains active by challenging themselves mentally. It can also help with dogs that have already been diagnosed with dementia. Recommended activities include low-impact dog sports, such as canine freestyle of nose work. Try teaching your dog new tricks or giving them new toys or playing ball games with them.


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