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Dogs with Dementia: Signs to Look for and How to Help

 by danielle on 29 Jul 2014 |
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Due to modern health care innovations, dogs, like humans, are living longer than ever before. This means we can now enjoy many more years of play and cuddles with our canine pals than we might have done in the past. However, with this increased life span we have also seen a rise in the number of dogs affected by cognitive dysfunctions like dementia. 
Physical changes in the brain and its chemicals resulting from the aging process lie at the heart of canine dementia or Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD) as it is also known. Studies of suffering dogs have shown brain lesions evident on scans similar to those displayed by human sufferers of Alzheimer’s. Essentially, these brain changes lead to differences and deterioration in how your dog thinks, learns and remembers.

You dog may have dementia if they:

However, it is important to note a dog displaying one or a number of these behaviours does not necessarily have dementia. Some dogs become increasingly deaf as they age, meaning their lack of response to commands could derive from their inability to hear them correctly. A loss of the same bladder control they had when younger can lead to accidents rather than confusion over where they are supposed to go.
A vet diagnosis is essential to establish whether or not your beloved senior is suffering from CCD or is simply aging gracefully. If your dog is affected by dementia the drug Anipryl has been shown to be extremely helpful in a number of cases. Supplements and vitamins such as omega-3 fatty acids and anti-oxidants can be also be useful by supporting brain function also.


No solution however will entirely turn back the clock. Keeping your elderly dog’s life comfortable as well as showing patience and compassion is the best way to help keep them happy as they live out the remainder of their days in your care. 

Try to maintain a solid routine of feeding and exercise to keep things as simple as possible and avoid moving around your furniture and other objects in your dog’s world to keep down their levels of disorientation.

Most of all, enjoy the time you have together while you still have it and thank them for the years of love and loyalty they have shown to you with patient affection.

  • Seem to become lost or disoriented in the house or backyard they used to know well
  • Fail to respond to their name or other training commands they used to
  • Wander the house endlessly without purpose
  • Struggle to learn new commands or how to navigate about new places
  • Become increasingly withdrawn and sleep a great deal
  • Seem to forget their housetraining and have increased accidents
  • Fail to recognise family members
  • Incessantly bark for no apparent reason


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