Health & Hygiene

Canine Dementia

Written by Nancy Boland

As dogs age it isn’t only their bodies that start to show signs of becoming older. Just as our memories, abilities to process new information and general brain function declines as we get older so does that of our pet dogs. You may start to notice that he doesn’t respond to your voice as quickly, that he is no longer interested in activities or appears distant and confused.

What is canine dementia?

Just like with people, the process of ageing causes physiological changes which affect how your dog feels and behaves. Canine dementia describes a condition which occurs as the brain ages and at present the cause is unknown although certain contributory factors have been identified by research into the condition which is ongoing. Sadly there is no cure, it is possible that some medications  and nutrients can help manage the condition.

Signs of dementia

Signs of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome can be wide ranging, some may appear slowly but others can occur and become an issue for the dog relatively quickly. It is important to talk over the signs with your Vet or Vet nurse as some signs can potentially indicate underlying conditions.

Some of the most common signs are as follows:

  • A blank, lost look in the dogs eyes – they appear distant and unreactive
  • Circling – walking round in a circle continuously
  • Repetitive actions
  • Urinating /Defecating in the house
  • Makes uncharacteristic noises – may whine, pant or bark at inappropriate times
  • Change in sleeping patterns – erratic sleep patterns may be sleeping all day and awake all night , excess sleeping or insomnia
  • Behavioural changes – often due to confusion dogs may become irritable and snappy, even one that was once very placid can withdraw into itself and snap when interrupted.
  • Change in family behaviours – your dog may no longer react to his name or your voice, and may not greet you happily at the door as he has done in the past.

dog dementia

Causes of dementia:

At present there is no conclusive cause known although it is believed that certain changes in the brain can contribute. Nerve function is vital to cognitive function and this relies on the chemical reaction of transmission of information across nerve pathways – from structures known as synapses.

 Tips for managing a dog with dementia

There are some simple tips and techniques which can be used to help your dog and add security and familiarity to his changing life.

  • Keep your dog’s food and water bowls in an easily accessible place, consider investing in a dog crate and keep all his essentials in one place.
  • If your dog is stiff and lethargic, raise his water and food bowl to his level so he does not have to bend.
  • Keep to a strict routine, he will be less likely to get confused or have accidents. Take him outside regularly to relieve himself and take him to the same patch each time.
  • Ensure he gets plenty of exercise within the limits of his physical abilities and plenty of reassurance and time with his owner.

 Prevention of dementia

There are no proven techniques of preventing brain ageing but it is generally thought that keeping the brain active can help aid neurone function.

  •  Regular play periods and varying the games played
  • Regular exercise
  • Create challenge based games like  snack balls, hiding treats, and agility courses
  • Feed a well-balanced diet with essential fatty acids

About the author

Nancy Boland

I'm Nancy, owner of a very spoiled, one eyed Jack Russell called Basil. I'm a trainee veterinarian with a love for all things dogs. I'm especially passionate about dog adoption and always advocate rescue and enjoy writing about canine health and nutrition, alongside overall well-being tips for happy dogs!

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