Dementia Can Afflict Dogs, Too! Here Are the Signs You Should Watch Out for

Dementia. A most dreaded condition, causing millions of afflicted people to lose touch with the world and themselves.

From loss of memory and concentration to difficulty in speaking, reasoning, and making decisions, dementia has devastating impacts on a patient’s life. Alzheimer’s disease alone, the most common type of dementia, accounts for 60 to 80% of dementia cases.

Photo: YouTube/GeoBeats Animals

But did you know that dementia can afflict dogs too? It’s known as Canine Dementia, Canine Alzheimer’s, and Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS). It’s common among senior dogs, but people often mistake Canine Dementia as a mere sign of aging.

And yes, just as we care about people with dementia, we should also show concern for dogs who are suffering from cognitive decline. They cannot communicate their difficulties just like humans, but Canine Dementia can make the existence of these dogs a painful one.

Hence, it’s important for us to know the signs of Canine Dementia according to PetHelpful, so our dogs can receive early intervention that may slow the progression of this crippling condition.

Photo: YouTube/GeoBeats Animals

Signs Related to a Dog’s Disorientation and Confusion

  1. Staring into space. You may observe your dog staring at the wall or ceiling. He may be feeling lost or disinterested in his surroundings.
  2. Barking at the house ceiling. This may be caused by confusion and disorientation that makes a dog frustrated or anxious. He resorts to barking to release feelings of stress. He may also be seeing things that are not really there.
  3. Getting lost in familiar surroundings or getting stuck in corners. Canine dementia is similar to a person’s Alzheimer’s disease. Just as an afflicted person may not remember how to get back to his house after taking a walk, a dog may find himself unable to move around at his own home. He no longer remembers areas and passageways as he used to, finding himself in a completely strange place. He may even get stuck in a corner, not knowing how to get out.
  4. Photo: YouTube/GeoBeats Animals
  5. Aimless wandering. A dog who’s experiencing disorientation will try to look for a place that’s familiar to him, hence he keeps wandering. He may also keep on pacing to relieve his stress and anxiety. There are times that a dog may do this at night due to changes in his sleep/wake cycle.
  6. Failing to recognize familiar persons. Due to feelings of confusion and disorientation, a dog may lose his ability to recognize familiar faces. His memory diminishes, and fading vision or hearing due to old age can aggravate the situation. Sadly, he may not even remember his own family.
  7. No more response to commands. A dog who’s afflicted by cognitive decline can also forget about his training. He no longer remembers commands, responses, tricks, and other things he used to do before. At times, he may recall some of the cues, but he experiences difficulty in performing the tasks. Of course, with this mental condition, you shouldn’t expect your dog to learn new tasks. However, you should also be observant if your dog is feeling any pain as he struggles to obey you. He may have other health conditions that need veterinary attention.

Problems with Housetraining

This is another aspect in your dog’s lifestyle habits that’s impacted by Canine Dementia.

  1. Pee/poop accidents at home. For so long, your dog had been following his housetraining to the letter. But lately, you may have observed that he has been peeing and pooping almost anywhere. But you shouldn’t reprimand or punish your dog for these accidents since he no longer has control over it.
  2. Accident after a potty break. Blame this on your dog’s feelings of disorientation or confusion. He can no longer remember where he should potty, outdoors or indoors.
  3. No longer giving any signal for a potty break. A dog with dementia may also forget about his need to signal when nature calls. Or he may just stand at the side of the door, feeling disoriented as to where he should position himself to be let out.
  4. Accidents in uncommon areas outdoors. Before, your dog had a particular spot where he went to potty. But as his brain ages, this habit may also change, and he starts to seek other places.
  5. Photo: YouTube/GeoBeats Animals
  6. Accidents in your dog’s sleeping area. Now, this may seem really strange because dogs naturally refuse to pee and poop where they eat, drink, and sleep. But since your dog’s brain has been changing, his housetraining is no longer ingrained in his mind. But you should also determine if this habit is caused by a urinary problem or a neurological matter.

Changes in Social Interactions

Don’t be surprised if your dog no longer interacts with people and other animals the way he used to. Cognitive decline affects social behavior too.

  1. Distant or no longer sociable. No more enthusiasm for the activities he used to enjoy before. He stays by himself, seeming to be in another realm. Sometimes, your dog may ask for petting but suddenly walks away.
  2. More irritable. Your dog no longer likes children and other pets. He could become aggressive to the point of snapping and biting. It’s best to consult a vet to determine if something is causing his aggressive behavior, like physical pain or discomfort.
  3. Photo: YouTube/GeoBeats Animals
  4. Not wanting to be left alone. Instead of being distant, your dog may become more clingy. He follows you everywhere and sleeps by your feet. He may also suffer from separation anxiety.

Changes in Sleep/Wake Cycles

Just like in humans with Alzheimer’s, a dog with dementia can experience the discomfort of sundowning. From late afternoon till evening, he suffers from confusion, restlessness, or agitation.

  1. Sleeping less in the evening. An afflicted dog may spend most of the night pacing, barking, or howling.
  2. Sleeping more during daytime. Just when a dog should be active, a dog with dementia sleeps the day away soundly. It’s part of the changes in his sleep/wake cycle.
Photo: YouTube/GeoBeats Animals

Changes in Activeness

Gone is your dog’s fondness to play and engage in a lot of stimulating activities. He shows lack of interest in his environment and prefers to simply lie down. Other dogs may become hyper-active and restless.

  1. Unusual degree of activeness. Pacing and panting, it’s what a dog with dementia may do as he feels nervous and restless. He feels more stressed when there’s change in his routine and surroundings. You should know what triggers your dog’s fear, because it may not have anything to do with Canine Dementia. Hence, any other triggers should be dealt with accordingly.
  2. Lethargy and apathy. Your dog just wants to be left alone. He feels no interest to explore his surroundings, even though dogs are naturally curious. He may not even want to be petted like in the old days.
  3. Photo: YouTube/GeoBeats Animals
  4. Repetitive behaviors. This means a constant repetition of certain behaviors like pacing, wandering aimlessly, licking, and other movements or vocalizations that are performed based in a pattern: same way, same time.

Of course, after observing your senior dog and some signs that appear to indicate Canine Dementia, you should take your pet to the vet for proper diagnosis. It’s still possible that the signs you’ve observed are caused by another medical condition, such as low thyroid levels, diabetes, and arthritis.

Whatever is the result of the diagnosis, stick by your pet’s side. A case of Canine Dementia does not mean it’s the end of the world. Opt for early treatment and help your dog enjoy the rest of his life by taking him outside more often, providing him with a vet-prescribed diet and medications, giving him the best sleeping space, and other things that express your pure love for him. Having your love for each other, the two of you can overcome this challenge and make your time together the best it can ever be!

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