2001-Wed Mar 29 15:00:55 EDT 2017
Vetstreet. All rights reserved. Powered by Brightspot.
Vetstreet does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. See Additional Information ›
Confusion, disorientation, dogzheimers. Call it what you will, but canine dementia (known clinically as canine cognitive dysfunction) can be a serious problem. Just like humans, dogs can suffer from many of the same symptoms:
But getting old and loopy doesn’t have to be as stressful as all that — not for dogs lucky enough to be cared for by owners willing to learn what it takes to mitigate the effects of dementia as they age.
Here’s how, in six mostly simple steps:
The early signs of canine cognitive dysfunction can be subtle and difficult to detect. They can even be misinterpreted as "just getting old." However, early recognition and intervention are helpful. Owners should be on the lookout for mild versions of the symptoms listed above.
Sensory deficiencies, such as hearing and vision loss, can cause anxiety for some pets — and their owners. When pets lose these faculties, they can become disoriented far more easily. Simple things, like failing to hear an owner’s call, can make daily life challenging for aging pets and their owners.
But many pets with hearing deficits can be trained to recognize hand signals, and pets with limited vision can often learn their way around, as long as furniture and other objects remain in the same place.
Although there’s not much we can do about hearing loss in most cases, we have options for treating some diseases of the aging eye. Cataracts, for example, are super common and highly treatable. I personally recommend surgery for pets who have cataracts with or without dementia. But you should ask your vet if this is the best option for your dog.
Adhering to a set schedule when it comes to feeding, walking, turning lights on and off, and bedtime can be excellent therapy for confused pets. It’s orienting.
Most dementia dogs display some degree of stress, especially when lost in the corner of a room or if they find themselves awake and alone in the middle of the night. Managing anxiety requires owners to know what works best for their individual dog, such as soothing music, aromatherapy or a long walk.
Additionally, I also recommend crate training early on in life, which can sometimes help curtail stress-exacerbating nighttime wanderings. Although, in some cases, it could cause further stress to the animal. If the wandering is extreme, talk to your vet about whether anti-anxiety medication may also be effective.
For severe cases of canine dementia, veterinarians will sometimes discuss the potential benefits of dementia-specific medication that seem to reverse some of these symptoms, albeit to a minor extent for most patients.
The most comprehensive approach to canine cognitive dysfunction involves the assistance of a veterinary behaviorist. These specialists can often help owners dramatically re-orient their confused and stressed-out geriatric pets.
To read more opinion pieces on Vetstreet, click here.
Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!
Take our breed quiz to find your next pet.
Get all the best pet news and information sent right to your inbox!
Thank you for subscribing!
Bartonella is a type bacteria that can be transmitted to cats, dogs and humans from exposure to infected fleas and…
Want to give your pup yummy, low-calorie treats? We’ve got the skinny on which foods are OK to feed him.
Not sure about food puzzles? Our veterinarian reveals why the payoff for your pet is well worth any extra work.
With these simple dental care tips, you can help keep your canine’s adorable smile shiny and healthy for life.
The friendly and inquisitive LaPerm has an easy-care coat that comes in a variety of colors and patterns.
Check out our collection of more than 250 videos about pet training, animal behavior, dog and cat breeds and more.
Wonder which dog or cat best fits your lifestyle? Our new tool will narrow down more than 300 breeds for you.
If the video doesn't start playing momentarily,
please install the latest version of Flash.
Thank you for subscribing.