Dog parents may find themselves worrying over each small change in a dog’s behavior. Lack of sleep at night, increased anxiety, getting stuck behind the door, forgetfulness, and other symptoms in your dog could signify the possibility of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD) or dementia.
Dementia in dogs is a disorder that interferes with the effective functioning of the dog’s brain, causing behavioral changes such as loss of memory, changes in sleeping patterns, and increased anxiety, among other symptoms.
Though almost never fatal on its own, the physical and cognitive issues that result from dementia can be debilitating to a dog. Unfortunately, owners of dogs with dementia may find themselves wondering when to put a dog down due to dementia.
The effects of dementia on dogs are similar to Alzheimer’s in humans. And the disorder is common in aging and elderly dogs, with an estimated 14 to 35 percent of senior dogs being diagnosed.
Are you struggling with this decision, yourself? Or maybe you’d simply like to learn more about dementia and what to expect if your dog is diagnosed. Let’s look at the signs of dementia in dogs and what to do if your pup is in cognitive decline.
Signs of Dementia in Dogs
Dog dementia is an insidious and terminal condition whose management is only possible if the condition is identified in its early stages.
That is why you must familiarize yourself with the signs of dementia in dogs so that you can help your canine friend when the need arises.
Knowing the signs will also help you understand when to say goodbye to your furry friend comes — as heartbreaking as it may be, you and your vet may come to the conclusion that this is what’s best for your senior dog.
The various signs of dementia in dogs include:
Dogs with dementia suffer from the general loss of direction. For instance, the dog may:
- Remain confused most of the time, to the extent of getting lost in a familiar location.
- Fail to recognize its caregiver, other family members, other pets, and its offspring.
- Fail to recall previously learned tasks.
- Get stuck in corners, behind doors, or other confined places in a familiar house.
- Stare blankly at walls, objects, or even into empty space most of the time.
- Fail to respond to instructions. However, you should not suspect dementia until you have confirmed that the dog is not suffering from hearing loss.
Poor Social Interaction
Another symptom of dementia in dogs is the change in the way the dog interacts with people, other dogs, and animals. For instance, the dog may:
- Exhibit a desire to withdraw. For example, the dog may fail to welcome you when you come home from work, or may walk away during training or exercise.
- Show increased irritability and aggression like lunging, biting, and snapping.
- Choose to spend a majority of his time alone.
- Show reduced affection and interaction with canine counterparts or their caregivers.
Changes in Sleep Patterns
Your dog may:
- Remain asleep during most of the day and stay awake at night.
- Show uncharacteristic nighttime behaviors like wandering, motor restlessness, and vocalization.
Changes in Activity
Dementia may cause changes in the dog’s habits. Changes in appetite, a shift in playfulness, wandering, or repetitive behaviors like defecating in the house or inappropriate locations are examples.
In short, dementia may cause behavioral changes in your dog through no fault of his own. If your dog is diagnosed with dementia, you should expect new, uncharacteristic behaviors from your pet.
How to Diagnose Dementia in Dogs
If you spot any of the above signs, you should call a vet to assess the animal and advise you on the next steps to care for a dog with dementia.
Important note: The symptoms described may be triggered by another condition present in the dog. For example, a decline in vision or in the animal’s ability to hear can cause several of these signs of dementia. Your vet can give your pup a nose-to-tail checkup to rule out secondary ailments.
During your dog’s checkup, your vet will ask you a series of questions about your dog. For instance, she’ll ask you when you first noticed symptoms, and will likely ask about your dog’s diet, his sleeping habits, and changes in his overall temperament. As such, it can be helpful to keep a journal of your dog’s activities and behavioral changes. Bring this diary to your vet for discussion.
In addition to a conversation with you, your vet will want to draw blood and take stool and urine tests. This can help rule out infection in the blood, digestive tract, or urinary tract.
If no infection is found to be present, other tests may be performed. X-rays, ultrasounds, and even Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) will detect the presence of any tumors, blockage, or injury of your dog’s internal organs.
Remember, illnesses like diabetes may trigger symptoms like reduced activity, change of appetite, and confusion in dogs. Also, the symptoms of dementia may be similar to those exhibited by growth or injury in the dog’s brain.
Ruling out the other possible causes of the symptoms makes it easier for your veterinarian to diagnose dementia in dogs, and a very detailed interview can help determine when to put a dog down due to dementia.
Dog Dementia Life Expectancy Stages
Generally speaking, it may be hard to predict the life expectancy of a dog with Canine Cognitive Disorder. This is because different specific factors influence lifespan in dogs, whether they have dementia or are healthy! Examples of these factors include the dog’s diet, the amount of exercise your dog receives, and the severity of the dementia at the time of diagnosis. Your dog’s prognosis may be as long as many years, or as short as several months.
Despite external factors that are unique to your dog, it’s thought that all dogs with dementia will experience three stages of the ailment.
The Mild Stage
In this stage, you may notice just minor changes in your dog’s habits. For example, if your dog exhibits changes in sleep or in social interaction with you and your family, this could be a sign of mild dementia.
The Moderate Stage
At this stage, the dog starts to forget his house training and becomes hyperactive at night. You’ll probably find that your dog needs a little extra TLC during this phase of the disease. You may find yourself cleaning up more of your dog’s messes, or even physically handling him a little differently. Some dogs may crave more attention while others would prefer to be left alone.
The Final/Severe Stage
This is the most advanced stage of CCD, and it’s the stage when most pet owners wonder when to put a dog down due to dementia. Your dog may begin to exhibit behavioral issues such as barking throughout the night, wandering, lack of response to commands, increased house urination, and soiling indoor spaces.
What Causes Dementia in Dogs?
Unfortunately, the primary cause of dementia in dogs remains unknown. However, the condition may result from chemical and physical changes in the brain as the dog ages. That is why dementia is most common in adult dogs aged nine and above.
Other causes of dementia in dogs may include genetic factors, brain tumors, brain injury, and other brain complications.
Treatment for Dogs With Dementia
Unfortunately, there is not yet a cure for dementia in dogs. However, there are various management options that can help you slow the advancement of the cognitive dysfunction, and these options can boost longevity and the overall quality of the dog’s life. These treatments include:
Giving Nutritional Supplements to Your Dog
Some dog supplements can help revert or slow the signs of brain aging. An excellent example of clinically proven dog supplements is the New Hill’s Prescription Diet® Canine b/d.
According to studies, the New Hill’s Prescription Diet® Canine b/d contains various nutrients and minerals that slow the signs of brain aging and encourage learning in old dogs. These nutrients include:
- Vitamins C and E
- Antioxidants such as selenium, alpha-lipolic acid, and beta carotene which can inhibit brain cell damage
- Carotenoids and flavonoids from fruits and veggies
- Omega-3 fatty acids which can help enhance cell membranes
- L-Carnitine, which can enhance mitochondrial function
Specialized Nutritional Supplements for Your Dog
Giving specialized nutritional supplements to your dog can help to correct the cognitive brain disorder and improve overall brain function. Examples of these miraculous food supplements include:
- Senilife: Counters some behavioral changes associated with the brain aging process
- Denosyl®/Denamarin® (SAMe): Maintains the dog’s brain health
- Proneurozone: Protects the dog’s brain cells from oxidative damage
You don’t have to worry if you don’t know which supplement can work effectively with your dog. Your vet should examine your dog and recommend the most effective supplement. She can also help you decide when to put a dog down due to dementia if treatments aren’t bettering your dog’s quality of life.
Most dog keepers believe that keeping your dog mentally active can help slow their brain degeneration. You can help by providing your dog with mentally stimulating toys, playing with him, and allowing them to socialize with other dogs as long as his behavior permits.
Administering the Prescribed Medications
After diagnosing your four-legged friend with dementia, your vet may recommend various medications to help manage the condition. It’s important to understand that dementia medications are largely experimental, so while they may help, they don’t offer a guarantee that your dog’s cognitive function will improve.
When to Put a Dog Down Due to Dementia
As earlier mentioned, dementia gradually interferes with the dog’s quality of life. If your pet is suffering from the condition and you don’t know what stage of dementia your animal is undergoing, it may be hard for you to know when the time to say goodbye comes.
Though the situation may vary from one dog to another, common signs imply that the dog’s state of mind has almost completely deteriorated. These may include:
- Becoming lost in a familiar environment
- Exhibiting signs of distress such as pacing, restlessness, circling, and others
- House soiling
- Frequent and abnormal vocalization
Observing the above symptoms in your dog could mean that the dog is ultimately out of its mind. Your vet should help you determine whether your senile dog should be put down.
If the vet realizes that the animal’s brain is completely damaged, they may use anesthetics and other medication to put the dog to sleep.
Tips for Caring for a Dog With Canine Dementia
If your dog is diagnosed with dementia, you should do everything possible to help your canine friend live out the remainder of his days in comfort and as happily as possible. Your veterinarian can help guide you in the process, but there are two key points you should remember as you care for your dog:
- Offer the animal physical comfort and reassurance that you are there for their welfare.
- Always be optimistic with the animal to encourage it to live a positive life.
Conclusion: When to Put a Dog Down Due To Dementia
Dementia is a severe condition that a dog cannot handle on its own. Once you notice the symptoms discussed in the article, you should call your vet to diagnose the condition.
If the animal is positive for dementia, the vet will advise you on whether to manage the condition or put down the dog to relieve it from suffering.
Other articles you would like:
- When to put a dog down with seizures?
- Where Can I Euthanize a Dog for Free or Cheap?
- When to Put Down a Dog With Degenerative Myelopathy?
Dr. Chyrle Bonk received her veterinary degree from Oregon State University in 2010. She has been practicing in a mixed animal clinic in rural Idaho ever since at Clearwater Valley Veterinarian Clinic. When she’s not busy writing, treating animals, or working on her cattle ranch, she may be found somewhere in the Idaho wilderness with her husband and kids. Dr. Chyrle Bonk is a writer for We Love Doodles and verifies that the information we post is accurate the up to date! She is also an advisor and editor.
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