Tips to Recognize & Help Your Dog Cope

Time passes for all of us, dogs are no exception. Just like their human owners, age can exact a toll on your fur buddy. You see them slowing down, sleeping more, fur graying, eyes cloudy, response times are longer. Maybe they don’t come when you call their name, perhaps familiar things are no longer familiar. This is all normal for an aging dog, until it’s not. Your fur friend can suffer from canine cognitive dysfunction, better known as Dog Dementia.

The average amount of time a dog will live after being diagnosed with dementia is about two years. That time estimate is drastically impacted on the stage of the disease when it is caught. That’s why it’s critical that you never dismiss or ignore a change in your pets behavior or routine. This is especially important when they reach their senior years. A noticeable difference in their behavior, appearance, appetite, or mood should trigger a trip to your wellness provider for a checkup.  In most cases they will say it’s nothing to worry about. If they do find issues, you will have knowledge of the concern and time to plan and manage the diagnosis. Don’t you owe it to yourself and your dog to know for sure?

Dog Dementia moves slowly and quietly. Signs of the illness aren’t easy to see until they get to a critical stage. It’s picking up the initial subtle signs that will allow an early diagnosis and allow you to prepare for the advancing stages. lists the following as signs your dog may be developing dementia.

  • A noticeable and repeated sense of being disoriented. Much like their humans, when dementia strikes it will start with the dog losing their way or seeming to be confused in his own environment. They may wander aimlessly in their own home, appear to not know their way around in familiar places. They can’t find his food and water, or after years of using the same door they are suddenly unsure where to access the outside

  • They seem to get “stuck” in corners of rooms, get “lost” behind furniture and can’t find their way out. Sometimes they will stare, blankly, at walls or at nothing. Dementia dogs will become lost in time, no longer on that normal schedule of eating, sleeping, and using the bathroom

  • They lose the ability to use visual signs, like darkness, to help them manage their expectations. This turns night into day, and day into night, throwing off their normal routines. You’ll find them wandering, crying, unsettled, or suddenly active when they would normally sleep with or near you

  • They seem to forget people they’ve know for years. You’ll find that normal relationships with people, even those they’ve known and loved for years, is suddenly off or difficult. They react differently to their fur family and are aggressive towards strange animals. A room full of people could, suddenly, produce anxiety or fear that didn’t exist before. Things most loved, likes walks or cuddle time, might not interest them any longer. Doorbells that used to cause a physical and emotional explosion are now ignored. Even favorite food or treats don’t excite them or seem new and foreign

  • Sudden potty accidents in the home after years to being dependable to notify their people of their urgent needs. They might lose control of their bodily functions, or just slowly forget the need to tell someone that it’s that time. With dementia, they eventually just lose the understanding that they need to go outside, or in a specific area

  • Repetitive motions or actions that are new or more severe. Things like head bobbing, shaking, or pacing that just weren’t there before. This is due to the degeneration of the dogs brain, its not something they can help or fix, and it’s nothing they are doing with purpose

  • Sudden aggressiveness, even with those they love the most. Dog dementia can cause pain, like a dull headache in humans. Normally this is something most dogs would ignore or overcome. As dementia advances, the ability to manage the pain is impaired and the threshold for pain is lessened. Dogs will act out by whining, nipping or even biting

Sadly, these things get worse as dementia takes a bigger toll on your dog. It’s your reaction and planning to the disease that will help your dog cope with the symptoms. Once diagnosed, a lifelong regiment of therapy and support from their humans is critical for the dog to continue functioning in their environment.  PetMD gives the following tips on how to best help your fur kid live in the ever changing and diminishing world of Dog Dementia.

  • Create and maintain a healthy and stimulating environment. This helps to slow the onset and progression of the disease

  • Daily exercise, playtime, and mental games to stimulate their brain activity

  • Keep a strict routine. Do the same things, at the same times, in the same ways, without variation. This helps the dog to hold on to familiar routines and keep a more regular recognition of sleep and awake cycles

  • Place night lights in dark areas to help improve their navigation and night time vision

  • Assure the home is accessible and constant. No changing of room designs, adding of bulky items. Make sure pathways are clear and consistent. Don’t move their beds, food dishes, or toys

  • Put training pads near doors to help the dog find the path to outdoors. Worse case, they have a play to potty if they cannot make it outside before nature calls. Having the pads in the same place, all the time, provides stability and normalcy to their world

  • Provide orthopedic foam beds with washable covers. This will be easier on old bones and provide a safe and familiar place to sleep. Having the washable covers allow their people to keep the bed fresh and comfortable after accidents happen

  • Your wellness provider may suggest a special diet designed to improve your dogs cognitive functions, or even medication to resist the advancement of the disease. It is critical that you follow these suggestions, and keep a regular schedule of feeding and giving medication

  • See your veterinarian on a regular schedule. Once diagnosed, a regiment of twice a year visits is suggested. This will increase as the dementia advances

As your dog advances in age, the chances they will develop Dog Dementia climbs. After age 10, the chances of dementia increases by 52% each year. Dogs that sleep long hours, that do not exercise, and that do not play or romp outside are more likely to be diagnosed with dementia. Experts don’t know if this is a symptom of the disease, or a cause of it.

Currently there is no current cure for Canine Cognitive Disorder, only ongoing wellness care and maintenance routines. The long term prognosis is dependent on the caregiver and a stable and loving routine.

Once diagnosed Dog Dementia is a part of your pets life, and a part of your life, for their remaining years. It is critical that owners have a plan, stick to that plan, and are forgiving of the animals as the disease advances. If you don’t think you can manage the expectations of CCD in your pet… shame on you. Its obvious you didn’t ask for or expect this additional effort or need when you brought the dog into your life… but how absolutely cruel it would be to abandon a pet who has been an active part of your family and life, just when they need you the most. How would you feel if your loved ones let you go if you were diagnosed with an advancing and incurable illness?  A dogs love is forever, and limitless. Do the bare minimum for them and give the same in return. It will be challenging, it will likely be difficult, and some days it will seem impossible to deal with. Things will change, your pet will change, your life and home will be impacted… but isn’t all that worth it for one who has been well loved, and who has loved well?  We certainly believe it is.

If you suspect your pet has signs of early onset Dog Dementia, please see your veterinarian as soon as possible. As we stated before, hopefully you’ll be given a clean bill of health. In the worst case, you will know what you’re up against and be able to plan a routine that will allow your best friend to live out their days with the respect and love they’ve earned.

We hope this blog post has been informative. We certainly understand the weight and sadness that comes with this topic, but we believe every owners needs to understand the numbers and symptoms of this disease.

You’ve reached the end of this weeks Dog Blog. As we do each week, we wish health, happiness, and an endless supply of love for you and your pets. Feel free to review and read all of blog’s, which are available at the Freddie’s Place web home. From all of us, to all of you, be safe in the week to come.

#FreddieSez, “If wishes were dishes, my wishes for you would be the finest china in the world!”