The life expectancy of dogs has increased dramatically in recent years. This is largely due to improved animal medical advances, as well as improved nutritional quality and technological advances in veterinary surgery. Despite these advances, we are seeing dementia in a large number of older dogs.
This cognitive dysfunction in the dog is not always dependent on other physical ailments and is sometimes difficult to recognize. How do you notice that your dog is demented and what can you do best about it? Can the vet do anything for the demented dog?
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What is Dementia in Dogs?
Dementia is also sometimes referred to as senility. In the dog, the term CDS or Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome is even more used. Dementia is a serious condition in which the functioning of the brain gradually deteriorates. Dementia takes various forms. In the older dog,
dementia shows more similarities with Alzheimer’s disease. This causes an accumulation of protein between the brain cells, with the result that the brain can no longer function properly. Dementia has a slow onset and a progressive decline. It occurs frequently in older dogs without the need for other ailments. However, in some dogs,
dementia can progress more quickly due to medical conditions such as brain or spinal cord tumors, lumbosacral diseases, or heart and kidney failure, among others.
Cause of dementia
The nervous system and especially in the brains of older dogs are very sensitive to free radicals. Free radicals are aggressive molecules that take their missing electron from healthy cells, causing these cells to become damaged. Under the influence of free radicals, amyloid, a protein fragment that the body normally produces, is deposited in the blood vessels, making them narrower.
This creates an oxygen deficiency in the back parts of the brain. The dog’s body responds to this by opening the blood vessels with the result that oxygen-rich blood flows in the blood vessels. Unfortunately, this oxygenated blood causes the formation of free radicals that damage the brain. This often causes behavioral changes associated with dementia.
From what age is the dog senior?
Depending on the breed, dogs reach the senior stage at different ages. In general, we can give the following guidelines. This is an average. Much depends on their general health and fitness.
- Small breeds (up to 10 kg): 8 years
- Medium Breeds (10kg -25kg): 7 years
- Large breeds (26 kg – 40 kg): 6 years
- Very large breeds (over 40 kg): 5 years
From this age, it is useful to regularly check the dog for age-related ailments that older dogs may be physically confronted with and behavioral changes that could indicate dementia.
Symptoms of dementia
- Loss of orientation: the dog gets lost in its own house, barking at invisible things
- Sleep pattern change: day-night rhythm reversal
- Uncleanliness: the dog can suddenly start peeing in the house again
- Altered social interactions and activities: some withdraw, no longer recognize places, people, and peers, others become very affectionate
- Separation anxiety: they are restless when left alone (start barking or howling)
- Forgotten commands and learned behavior
- be disobedient
- Decreased appetite
- Decreased excitement: lacks enthusiasm for activities
- Hearing disturbance
- Difficulty with complex actions such as going up and downstairs, difficulty moving
- Tremors, circling, compulsive disorders
- Making abnormal noises
- In rare cases and in irritable dogs, aggression, fear, or pain may occur
These behavioral changes happen gradually. But before you label it purely as dementia, it is recommended to go for a check-up at the vet. Physical ailments of old age can also be the basis of a number of symptoms.
The sense of orientation may decrease due to a reduced sense of sight or smell. Uncleanliness can result from a poorly closing sphincter of the bladder. Pain can also bring about a change in behavior and pain-relieving medicines can then possibly be a solution.
- The vet can prescribe medication that slows down dementia.
- Food can also be prescribed that slow down dementia. These foods combat brain aging and contain a high content of antioxidants and fatty acids from vegetables, which inhibit and render harmless the harmful free radicals.
- As an owner, it is important to give him structure and to avoid stress
- Stimulate him both physically and mentally, for example by searching games and often repeating learned commands or behavior.
- Try to give him a lot of activities in the evening so that he falls asleep at night tired.
- Surround him with lots of love and attention because a dog with dementia is more likely to be anxious and insecure.
- Try to identify dementia as soon as possible, the earlier the treatment, the better the result, even if you cannot cure dementia.
Dementia remains a life-threatening condition, but if you recognize the symptoms early and start treatment early, you will have the best results. Some owners are not aware of this and simply attribute a lot of behavior to aging. When caring for the older dog becomes too difficult, some come to the vet to have the animal put to sleep and this is unfortunate.
With a combination of proper handling, care, patience, and understanding, it is possible to improve your dog’s quality of life so that you can make the most of his final years. If it is no longer feasible for your dog’s well-being to give him a quality life, discuss it with the vet, and don’t feel guilty if you have to make an unavoidable decision.