Dementia in dogs (Canine Cognitive Dysfunction)

Dementia, or Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD) in older dogs is becoming a more common occurrence as dogs are living longer. Studies on the brains of old dogs with dementia have found that their brains show changes very similar to those in human beings suffering from dementia. As the dog ages, physical and chemical changes occur to the brain structure and which have a direct result on the behavior of your dog. Usually the changes are gradual over time but sometimes the changes can occur quite quickly.

Changes that can indicate possible Canine Cognitive Dysfunction are listed as follows, although it should be remembered that some of these symptoms are indicative of other health problems.

Possible signs of CCD include :

* Confusion in familiar situations or with familiar faces

* Becomes lost in familiar places

* Becomes trapped in familiar places such as behind furniture.

* Tries to exit a door on the wrong side

* Wanders around the house, sometimes panting or whining for no reason

* Starts doing strange things

* Starts to do things they are trained not to do

* Wanting to go in and out of a room continuously

* Panting and trembling for no reason

* Becomes more withdrawn and sleeps more. Fails to greet people.

* Wakes in the night and sleeps all day

* Forgets that they have been out for a walk or to the toilet.

* Incontinence issues caused by forgetfulness

These are some of the more common signs of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction in dogs.

There can be are different levels in the severity of dementia in dogs and it depends how far the condition has progressed.

I think that a certain level has to be expected as your dog enters its latter years but if the changes seem more pronounced, you notice significant changes in your dogs behavior, and it is affecting the quality of their life, then you should always visit your vet to seek their advice. My own dog Pippa is certainly suffering from a form on dementia or CCD, but for now her symptoms are manageable. The main things that I have noticed are that Pip gets confused and she has started to do some strange behavior!

These include :-

..Getting disoriented on walks. Sometimes when she has been sniffing the floor she looks up and forgets where she is. She wonders where I am or where she is. If I was not watching her she would walk off in the wrong direction.

..Walking around the house panting, sometimes whining softly when there is no reason for her to (Some pain for arthritis is taken in to consideration).

..Sometimes she also trembles for no reason.

..Continuously scraping up the door mat as if she is making up a bed (even though she has a lovely comfy bed in the same room and she has never done this behavior before)

..Developed a strong liking for tissues for some unknown reason. She knocks the bedroom waste bins over repeatedly(which contain no food) then sifts through the contents for any tissues which she then eats or rips into shreds. I then have the unenviable task of having to pull them out of her rear end when they pass through and get stuck half in and half out! She even got her head stuck in the top of a swing bin recently and came crashing down the stairs still wearing it, but it has still has not put her off!

..Wanting to go in and out of rooms continuously! She taps on a door to come in. She comes in. Next thing she is tapping on the door to go back out. She goes out and then a couple of minutes later she is tapping to come back in...and so on! This happens constantly when she is in this mood but then other times she is ok and does not bother.

..Does a ridiculous high pitched continuous bark on the rare occasions that she is feeling energetic and wants you to play! She never used to bark like this and she will not even stop when told! It is like a puppy bark. Maybe she is going back to her childhood, or rather puppyhood, which can happen to people with dementia?

..Several times she has urinated in her sleep. Luckily this has only been on rare occasions and when she has been in a deep sleep but she never did this when she was younger. She is totally unaware of what she has done.

As you can see, Pippa does have a few symptoms of CCD but these are manageable for now with love and understanding.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for Canine Dementia.

This does not mean, however, that nothing can be done to help your elderly dog and friend.

There is a drug called Anypryl which has been approved to help dogs with more severe cases of dementia. It is the veterinary name for a drug (selegiline hydrochloride) which increases dopamine, a chemical messenger within the brain. This has been shown to improve cognitive ability. It is used in human beings for Alzheimers disease and Parkinsons disease. As a veterinary product, it is relatively new although there has been some very positive results reported so far. I have no experience with its use so cannot vouch for its effectiveness.

There are other things you can do to help your dog with dementia. Perhaps what I feel is the most important is learning to understand their changing behavior due to CCD. Be aware of their condition. Take care on walks, especially if your dog is off their lead, and beware of the increased risk of your dog getting confused and lost. Even familiar walks pose a risk and your dogs spells of confusion should never be underestimated. This is something I have had to learn and has caused me a few scares. A pet locator is invaluable in situations like these.

Keep your doors and gates closed so your dog does not wander out, even if they are trained not to do so and have never done so before - again something I had to learn by experience. My children have a bad habit of leaving doors open and Pip is quick to wander out. I have tried to teach them the importance of closing doors and to be fair, most of the time they do but kids forget. Again, a wise investment is to consider purchasing a pet locator so if your dog does escape or wander out they can be quickly found.

Make allowances and adapt you surroundings to suit your dog. I have also found that a gentle sense of humor also helps you adapt to some of the changes. Last of all remeber your dog for the dog they use to be in their prime and give them the dignity and respect they deserve.

Click here to return from 'Dementia in Dogs' to 'My Old Dog Homepage'