Dementia in Dogs

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.

What are the potential symptoms of dementia in dogs?

The symptoms of dementia in dogs are generally noticed in behavior changes, known as DISHAAL:

  • Disorientation. They might be wandering around, seem lost, or have difficulty getting around objects or people.
  • Abnormal interactions. Your dog might start behaving strangely, not recognize familiar people, or altering how they interact socially.
  • Sleep cycle changes. They might have trouble sleeping at night and pace excessively. As a result, you may notice anxiety, agitation, or excess sleepiness throughout the day.
  • Anxiety. Which can turn up as excessive vocalization, especially persistent barking at “nothing”.
  • Activity changes.Your dog likely won’t do as much, and won’t seem as interested in things or people that once got their attention.
  • House soiling accidents. If your previously housebroken dog begins having accidents inside, that can be a sign of dementia.
  • Learning changes and memory loss. Your dog might no longer know how to react to commands it was once used to.

What tests are used to confirm dementia in dogs?

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:

  • Personal interview. Your vet will ask you questions about your dog’s behavior and how it has changed.
  • Quality of Life Scale. This will be an ongoing ranking that measures things like your dog’s happiness, mobility, hunger, and so on.

What is the treatment for dementia in dogs?

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.

What is the typical cost of treatment for dementia in dogs?

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.

What are the recovery steps for dementia in dogs?

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.

How do I prevent dementia in dogs?

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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