Dementia is a terrifying ordeal. And it is also not limited to humans. Canine dementia is very real. Clinically, it is known as canine cognitive dysfunction. For the purposes of this article, we will refer to it as canine dementia.
Like dementia in humans, canine dementia tends to affect older dogs. As the brain ages, it can deteriorate and cognitive function will diminish.
The exact cause of canine dementia is not known, but it is believed that genetic factors may be one cause. If you have a senior dog, there are definitely signs to watch for.
Here are seven signs your dog may have dementia:
If your dog normally has its wits about him or her and suddenly seems disoriented and confused frequently, it is a troubling sign.
2. Decreased desire to play
Your pup used to be spry and playful, but these days has zero interest in any sort of play. This could be a sign of the early onset of canine dementia.
3. Seeming disregard for previously learned training or house rules
Your dog never peed in the house, and now does so quite often. They could be acting out, or it could be a sign of canine dementia, as they have forgotten the rule.
4. Slow to learn new tasks
Sure, they say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but we all know this isn’t true. If your dog is taking an inordinate amount of time to learn new tasks, it could be a sign.
5. Inability to follow familiar routes
Similar to the forgotten rules, if your dog is suffering from dementia, they may begin to lose their sense of direction and forget the normal walk routes you take.
6. Lack of self-grooming
Sometimes older dogs just hit the point where they don’t care about grooming, but those dogs are typically not great groomers from the get-go. If your normally pristine pup has suddenly decided to go dirty, dementia may have robbed them of the knowledge of self-grooming.
7. Changes in sleep cycle (i.e, night waking, sleeping during the day)
As you can see, a lot of these symptoms are changes in behavior. That is because dementia attacks the brain and cognitive functioning. If your dog is suddenly awake at night when they never were before, they could be losing that cognitive function.
If your dog is showing any of these signs, contact your veterinarian immediately. Canine dementia is not an easy diagnosis and it will take several tests to determine. If your dog is suffering from dementia, you and your veterinarian will devise a plan for dealing with it.
“Dogs with this cognitive dysfunction syndrome require life-long therapy and support. However, your help can make a world of difference when it comes to improving your dog’s cognitive functions. For example, although it will not “cure” your dog, maintaining a healthy and stimulating environment will help in slowing the progression of “cognitive decline.” This typically involves imposing a daily routine of exercise, play, and training.”
It won’t be easy, but it will be manageable. Continue to consult with your veterinarian and monitor your dog’s condition.