As your dog ages, they will quite likely develop some form of dementia. It’s a condition related to their aging brain, which isn’t something we can control. Dementia in dogs is also called Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD) and is similar to the progression of Alzheimer's Disease. It can lead to a change in behavior and memory loss. According to the Behavior Clinic at the University of California at Davis, about 68% of dogs aged 15 or older show signs of dementia but typical age of onset is 7-9 years.
The symptoms of dementia in dogs are generally noticed in behavior changes, known as DISHAAL:
Before anything else, your vet will run tests to rule out other conditions, like kidney or liver disease, and ask about medications that could be contributing to these symptoms. Following that, there’s not really a definitive test. Be prepared for the following:
There is no cure for dementia in dogs. There are, however, different therapies that can relieve the signs of dementia (although these have variable results). There’s some hope that these therapies can delay the progression of CDS. You can give them supplements to support their brains and increase blood flow, as well as some medications to relieve some symptoms. But most importantly, you’ll want to enrich their environment and continue helping them engage their brain with games and tricks. Bored dogs are more likely to decline more quickly. You may also want ot make some changes to your home to make navigating it a bit easier.
There is no treatment available for dogs with dementia. It is an irreversible condition.
Hours at the vet: As little as 1 hour, as long as 3 hours.
Dementia in dogs is not a condition that dogs will recover from. Current available care includes working to delay the progression of CCD; research is underway on aging mechanisms in dogs to try and learn the best methods for CCD recovery.
Although you can’t prevent dementia in your dog — there’s no way to stop the aging process — you can give them supplements and engage their brain in regular play sessions to try and keep them sharper longer.
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