Dogs Can Get Dementia Too: How To Recognize Sign & Care For Ageing Pets

Although it is lesser-known, dogs, like humans, can also develop dementia as they age.

3 min read

Video: Anoushka Rajesh and Garima Sadhwani

Dementia is most often associated with the elderly, but did you know your pets are susceptible to this neurodegenerative disorder too?

Dementia refers to a group of conditions associated with deteriorating brain function. It can include memory loss, impaired judgment, and other changes in the body and mind.

Not much is known about what causes dementia in humans, and how one can prevent or even treat it. However, even less is known about Dementia in dogs, known as Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD).

What we know is that it is a cognitive and behavioral syndrome that affects aging dogs above the age of 8.

It's not very widely known because of how hard it can be to diagnose it in dogs.


What Causes Canine Cognitive Dysfunction?

Speaking to FIT, Dr Swati Sharma, a veterinary officer in Himachal Pradesh, explained that this condition takes place "due to ageing of the brain and degeneration of the immune system."

She says that free radical damage to the brain leads to a loss of normal brain activity.

A recent study by the Dog Ageing Project on the prevalence of CCD found that 1.4 percent of the dogs they tested had canine dementia.

It was observed that as dogs age, their risk of developing CCD goes up. At the same time, the risk of CCD was found to be lower in dogs that have high activity levels. 

How To Recognize Canine Dementia In Your Dog?

Although it is lesser-known, dogs, like humans, can also develop dementia as they age.

Signs of dementia in dogs.

(Photo: iStock)

Pet parents must keep a check on their ageing dogs and should watch out for early symptoms of canine dementia. According to Dr Swati Sharma, some signs to look out for are,

  • Disorientation

  • Slowing response to commands

  • Getting lost often

  • Lack of interest in social interaction

  • Decline in learning abilities

  • Suddenly becoming uncoordinated, bumping into objects

  • Laziness, drowsiness

  • Potty-trained dogs soiling inside the house

Dr Bhanu Dev Sharma, practising at Max Vets Animal Healthcare, Delhi adds to this, saying dogs with CCD may become irritable and wander anxiously, yet aimlessly. They may also,

  • Lose their appetite

  • Struggle with their sleep cycle

  • Bark continuously at night

  • In some cases, the dogs' hearing ability might reduce

"Anxiety is also something which one must look for when the patient starts ageing. These dogs may get very anxious, and sudden development of anxiety is an indicator of senile changes."
Dr Swati Sharma, veterinary officer

All these symptoms point to cognitive dysfunction in canines. Upon noticing out-of-the-ordinary signs like these, it is advised you take your pet to an expert for a diagnosis.

How To Care For A Dog With Dementia?

Although it is lesser-known, dogs, like humans, can also develop dementia as they age.

How do you care for an ageing dog?

(Photo: iStock)

Like dementia in humans, there is no treatment for canine dementia as yet, and vets can only treat certain symptoms.

However, if diagnosed at an early stage, the condition can be managed well.

Once diagnosed, it's important that you are patient and caring towards your dog with Canine Cognitive Dysfunction.

"A structured social interaction, a proper diet, and spending more time with them should help in caring for these dogs."
Dr Bhanu Dev Sharma, Max Vets Animal Healthcare, Delhi

Dr Bhanu says it's important to make your dogs socialize and interact with other pets.

  • Take them out in the sunlight for activities that helps boost their morale.

  • Switch to senior prescription dog food along with multivitamins and supportive medicines designed for ageing dogs.

  • Provide them with a calmer environment without sensory overloads.

Dr Swati, adds to this, saying, "as the free radical damage happens, the patients must be provided with antioxidant-rich food."

A nutritionist can help develop a meal plan for your dogs as well.

Dr Swati also suggests setting a timetable and a fixed schedule for your pet dog's everyday activities.

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Topics:  Dogs   Pet Dogs   Dementia 

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