Have you recently seen your dog look all bored and sleepy as if it has just lost the zest for life? It has not only has stopped greeting you joyfully at the door, but also forgotten the old tricks you taught it! Well, this might be the result of dementia or cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS), which usually affects aging pet dogs.
Canine dementia or senile dementia in dogs is sometimes compared to Alzheimer's disease in humans. It is usually caused as a result of old age when the brain begins to naturally accumulate beta amyloid, a protein that damages nerves. As this buildup increases, the starch-like protein causes plaque in the brain, which inhibits the transmission of neurological signals. This leads to progressively severe cognitive dysfunction or dementia in your dog. The disease is also referred to as "old dog syndrome", "brain aging", "doggie dementia", or "senility".
Identifying Dog Dementia Symptoms
One of the most common signs of dementia is a feeling of disorientation or the "lost look" in your dog. It may display a wide variety of unusual behavioral attributes including:
- No longer responding to its name or familiar commands
- Getting stuck behind furniture or in corners
- Appearing lost or confused in familiar surroundings
- Walking in circles compulsively
- Staring blankly at walls or at nothing
Irritability and Unresponsiveness
As the dementia progresses, you may observe changes in the dog behavior. Your pet may appear to have become more and more "anti-social" as it no longer greets friends and family or seeks petting, praise, and affection. You may find your dog simply walking away when being petted. All the attempts of showing affection may just fall flat as the dog tends to isolate itself. It will also be increasingly irritable and annoyed, especially near children.
Changes in Sleeping Habits
Canine dementia will also affect a dog's sleeping habits as dogs display insomnia-like symptoms. Most times, instead of sleeping they just wander around, or on the other hand, are nearly constantly asleep. Sometimes they have the day and night reversed, so they end up sleeping in the morning and are awake all night.
Training Slip Ups
If your dog is afflicted with dementia, then watch out for the "accidents" in the house. This is due to a physical loss of bladder and bowel movement control. The dogs will also stop asking to be let out, or when outside, forget the reason for being there, and return home and soil the carpet and furniture.
It is observed that the large dog breeds are more prone to dementia than the small dogs. However, by 11 years of age, it is observed that one in every three dogs is affected by the disease. If you believe that your dog has dementia, then it is best to consult a veterinarian as fast as possible. Once diagnostic tests are performed, the doctor may be able to distinguish it from other health problems with similar symptoms, such as hydrocephalus, encephalitis, renal, heart failure, and urinary tract infections. Based on this, the doctor may recommend treatment options like behavior modification exercises or a specific drug therapy.
Dementia in canines is a confusing and alarming disease for which there is no cure. However, identifying the symptoms and watching out for it may allow a chance for the disease to be controlled and the cognitive ability improved in your aging dog.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of a veterinarian.