Dementia In Dogs – Care & Treatment for Dogzheimers

Medical review by K9 Healthcare Council of America (K9HCA). Intended for educational purposes only. Always seek medical advice from your veterinarian.

What is Dog Dementia?

Dementia in dogs, also known as Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CCDS) or ‘Dogzheimers’, is a cognitive disorder in dogs that causes similar symptoms to Alzheimer’s Disease in humans.

CCDS is a condition related to the aging of a dog’s brain, which leads to changes in behavior and primarily affects your dog’s memory, learning, and comprehension. Severe cognitive decline interferes with your dog’s ability to process verbal cues & eventually takes a heavy toll on the Quality of Life of your beloved pet.

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

It’s well known that dogs age faster than humans, but when your dog enters their senior years, you may notice a rapid change in their daily behavior.

These changes can be hard to spot at first, but if your senior dog is showing obvious behavioral changes, it may be time to take them to the vet to find out if they have Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD). CCD is also known as dementia in dogs, sundowners, or “dogzheimers” but all are terms for the same cognitive decline impairment.

Signs Of Dementia In Dogs

It’s no secret that as dogs mature, they become more susceptible to age-related health problems including cognitive issues. If your pooch is displaying concerning behaviors such as disorientation or confusion, they might be suffering from canine dementia.

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CCD or CDS) is a condition related to the aging of your dog’s brain–which ultimately leads to changes in awareness, deficits in learning and memory, and decreased responsiveness to stimuli.

signs of dementia in dogs
While your dog cannot tell you that they forgot something, they can communicate to you that they are scared or worried or don’t know where they are.

So as your pet progresses through stages of aging, it’s important to pay attention to their habits & routines so that you can know when something is “off” and recognize the early signs of dementia in your dog.

The list of symptoms of dog dementia is extensive, ranging from mild to severe as the disease progresses. Initial symptoms of dog dementia are often mild, but they gradually worsen over time.

Below are the most common symptoms of dog dementia:

  • Disorientation/Confusion
    – Getting stuck going around objects (can’t remember how to exit the room)
    – Not recognizing familiar people or pets
    – Staring blankly at walls
    – Pacing – aimless wandering
    – No longer responding to their name or familiar commands
  • Changes in Behavior
    – Failing to remember routines or previously learned training or house rules
    – Extreme irritability
    – Decreased desire to play
    – Excessive licking
    – Lack of self-grooming
    – Loss of appetite (anorexia)
  • Anxiety/Restlessness/Impaired memory
    – Seeming disregard for previously learned training or house rules
    – Slow to learn new tasks
    – Inability to follow familiar routes
    – Lack of bowel control (fecal and urinary soiling in the home)
  • Changes in Sleep Cycle (‘sundowners’ syndrome’)
    – Sleep more during day
    – Nighttime waking
    – Night vocalization
    – Night pacing
  • Changes in Hearing or Vision 
dementia in dogs treatment
Dog Dementia: A dog with dementia often won’t seek out human companionship, and sometimes will avoid contact or even walk away while being petted. Dogs with dementia often won’t recognize their surroundings or greet family members when they come home.

Care & Treatment for Dogs with Dementia

Canine Dementia isn’t something your dog should have to deal with alone. Trust the bond you’ve built with your dog to hold strong as cognitive changes begin to present challenges to your communication.

As much as possible, interact with your dog; offer your furry friend physical comfort & reassurance with frequent reminders of your presence.

Try to be physical with your dog as much as possible (human touch provides both comfort and necessary confidence to dogs with dementia). Also, continue to provide external stimulation and sensory cues such as rides in the car, walks, visits to the dog park & playtime with other dogs to keep the world available to your aging dog.

Be aware that the confusion & disorientation dogs experience with progressive states of dementia can be terribly upsetting to them! Don’t assume that your dog will “just roll with it” and relax into a kind of “it’s no big deal” state of mind.

Caring for a dog with dementia
Be present for your dog. Human touch provides both immediate comfort and necessary confidence to assist dogs with dementia.

The love and compassion from human touch is valuable for dogs with dementia because eventually the confusion and loss of cognitive function frightens them–they begin to get anxious, panic and become fearful. And that’s no way for any dog to live!

Treatment for Canine Dementia

Dogs with canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CCDs) require lifelong therapy and support. While there is no cure for dog dementia, there are several options that you can do at home to improve your dog’s cognitive functions, help them be less anxious & be more comfortable.

Treatment options include medication, diet changes, life enrichment, supplements, and surgery.

First and foremost, maintaining a healthy and stimulating home environment will help slow the progression of cognitive decline. This typically involves imposing a daily routine of exercise, play and mental stimulation.

Make your home safer & more accessible for your senior dog:

  • Maintain a strict home feeding & exercise routine, especially at bedtime, can help to minimize CCD symptoms.
  • Position night lights to help your senior dog navigate in the dark or dim lite floor areas,
  • Place potty pads near doors to give your pup a place to go if they can’t make it until you come home or wake up,
  • Provide an orthopedic foam bed (with washable covers) to make sleep time more comfortable.

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Supplements

Supplementation of omega fatty acids can be extremely beneficial to dogs with CCD. Other supplements that may benefit your dog include melatonin, additional vitamin B, and s-adenosylmethionine (Sam-e).

Some dogs benefit from anti-anxiety medications if anxiety related symptoms are a major factor of your dog’s CCD. Anipryl (selegeline) is a prescription medication geared just towards dogs with CCD. This medication inhibits MAOB, which allows neurotransmitters to remain in the brain where they are needed.

Is CBD Good for Dogs with Dementia?

CBD is a great supplement for supporting your dog with dementia. CBD-rich hemp oil has been shown to help animals with many symptoms and ailments, from seizures to anxiety to pain, and even neurological issues in dogs. In fact, the U.S. government has a patent on cannabis as a neuro-protectant.

CBD has been shown to help support brain function. Research in humans has shown CBD can provide symptomatic relief for Alzheimer’s, specifically, CBD can “reverse cognitive deficits”.

CBD has also been shown to help ease behavioral issues in dogs related to anxiety and stress. For dogs with dementia, CBD can help minimize their over-reactive stress response so vital for helping dogs with dementia stay calm and comfortable in their senior years.

Best CBD for hyper dogs
Cannabinoids (including CBD and THC) have been used in humans to reduce the signs of dementia in Alzheimer’s’ patients. Because dementia in dogs is a model for AD, this would suggest CBD may work to decrease distress, agitation, and aggression & help improve mood, appetite, and sleep quality in canine patients.

For dogs with dementia or ‘dogzheimers’, I recommend K9 Medibles’ Core Function CBD – Essential Wellness Formula oil, as it has 585 mg of full-spectrum CBD (Cannabidiol) and has a perfect balance of fatty acids and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids from natural hemp seed oil to decrease anxiety and improve the quality of your dog’s sleep.

What is the Life Expectancy for Dogs with Dementia?

In geriatric dogs, any physical or behavioral changes can be serious–so it’s important to talk to your veterinarian at the first signs.

If your dog is exhibiting any of the symptoms listed above, it’s important to note that these symptoms do not necessarily indicate your dog has dementia. They could be signs of another possible illness or sensory impairment (e.g., hearing/visual loss), that your dog may be suffering from. Your vet can conduct the appropriate diagnostic tests to rule out any other conditions or use an MRI to make the final diagnosis.

Since canine cognitive dysfunction is a degenerative process that occurs in a dog’s senior years, similar to Alzheimer’s in humans, life expectancy can be a tricky prognosis to make. If a dog is otherwise healthy, then the dementia will eventually diminish your dog’s Quality of Life, but there has not been a specific timeframe established.

The best way to monitor your dog’s health and cognitive functioning is to work with your veterinarian and track your dog’s quality of life.

If you suspect your dog might have dementia, I recommend consulting with your holistic vet immediately to determine the best natural treatment options & potential herbal supplements like all-natural CBD to support your cherished, senior dog.

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Checklist

dog dementia checklist
In addition to pacing, anxiousness and staring for long periods, if your dog is exhibiting any of the signs listed above, it’s important to note that these symptoms do not necessarily indicate dog dementia. They could be signs of another possible illness or sensory impairment that your dog is suffering from. You need to first rule out hearing or vision loss before determining dementia is interfering with your dog’s ability to process normal cues.

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