Can dogs get dementia?

Your canine best friend has been with you for many years now. You live under the same roof, and adhere to the same feeding and walking schedule everyday. But suddenly, your dog starts to lose familiarity in their home. Your dog seems to get lost within that supposedly familiar living room and does not respond well to your commands. If this sounds familiar, it could be possible that your dog is suffering from dog dementia, or Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD), so the answer is yes, dogs can get dementia. 

What causes dog dementia

Currently, it is unclear if there is any specific trigger that leads to dog dementia. However, we know that dogs who do suffer from dog dementia have significantly aged brains. This is similar to Alzheimer’s in humans. Hence, this disease seems to affect senior dogs uniquely. The average age at which a dog starts to display symptoms of dementia is nine years old. 50% of dogs aged 11 show signs of dementia and the figure rises to 68% at 15 years old. 

Symptoms of dog dementia

It is important to be able to recognise when your dog might be suffering from dementia. If your dog happens to display a combination of these signs, it is best to seek help from a vet who would be able to properly diagnose if your dog is truly suffering from dog dementia. 

These are some of the signs to take note of: 

Disorientation

A disoriented dog will display uncertainty in a familiar environment. This could mean walking into the wrong door to try and get out or walking into corners of the room for no reason. One thing to look out for is when your dog starts to deviate from its common behaviour. Your dog might be disoriented if your dog is always used to moving around the house in a certain way, but is no longer able to navigate with ease. Other signs could include purposeless pacing about and acting dazed.

Anxiety

For humans, being disoriented and lost is an anxiety inducing experience. This is no different for dogs. Anxious dogs may bark more than usual, or withdraw from social contact. Every dog will display anxiety differently, so it is important to keep a lookout for signs that are unique to your own dog.

Forgetting training

As dog dementia is a disease that impairs a dog’s cognitive capabilities, dogs may start to lose their ability to remember how they have been trained. This could mean forgetting where they are allowed to to relieve themselves or not responding to your commands. 

How to cope with dog dementia

Dog dementia is not easy on anyone. It is nerve wracking on our dogs and it pains us to see our dogs act differently from what we are used to. 

Since there is no cure to dog dementia and it is unclear what can trigger the onset of dog dementia, the next best course of action is to try to delay cognitive degradation for as long as possible. This means keeping your dog’s brain active. Some tips can include teaching your dog new tricks, or having more social interaction with other dogs or humans.

If your dog does suffer from dog dementia, you can approach your vet to ask if it is appropriate for your dog to take selegiline, antidepressants, or anipryl. Such drugs can potentially help your dog cope with the symptoms that arise out of dog dementia. Additionally, you can also take measures to prevent your dogs from hurting themselves as a result of dog dementia. If your dog has a tendency to wander out of the house unknowingly, it would be good to place a GPS tracker on your dog. If your dog starts to bump into table corners more, you can babyproof those table corners as well. 

The ageing process of a dog is inevitable. Our furbies will grow old eventually, but we can prepare and do our best to ensure that they can live well even in their twilight years.