We know dementia is a condition that affects people in their old age but did you know dogs can have it too?
Vets are urging owners to be aware of the signs of dementia in their dogs.
Dementia Awareness Week runs from May 21-27 for humans but as pets are living longer, it’s an illness that is affecting them too.
Half of dogs over the age of ten and 68 per cent aged 15 or older show signs of the disease – also known as CCD or Canine Cognitive Dysfunction.
Symptoms include pacing, anxiousness, unexplained barking, getting lost and going to the wrong side of doors, staring, loss of appetite and sleeplessness.
Stuart Becker from Willows Vet Group says owners who notice any symptoms should speak to their vet because while dementia is a progressive illness that can’t be cured, there are things we can do to help.
He said: “Many owners put the signs of dementia like changes in sleep patterns and mood, decrease in activity, anxiety and going to the loo in the house as their dog slowing down.
“But there are ways to treat cognitive decline and help senior dogs continue to enjoy life.”
Stuart recommends a drug named Vivitonin, which is available on prescription and increases blood flow to the brain, heart and muscles and increases the amount of oxygen and nutrients to these organs.
He also suggests a nutritional supplement, Aktivait which contain vitamins, antioxidants and fatty acids that can prevent damage in the brain and food like Purina One Vibrant Maturity 7+.
Adapting the home and keeping to a strict routine can help.
Stuart says: “The severity of dementia can be improved if owners continue with training, play, exercise and use interactive toys.
“They should consider the individual dog’s physical ability, so if they have arthritis, we’d suggest short walks and find and seek games.
“They may require more frequent toilet trips and, as mobility can be affected, owners should put down rugs or carpet on wooden or tiles floors.
“They can also add smell, texture or sound cues to different places in the home such as the bed or food bowl to help their pet navigate the environment more easily.
“All these things will make life more comfortable for them.”
My dog Daisy was diagnosed with dementia in January. She began snapping at other dogs then she became clingy and restless at night.
She would shake and pace in the middle of the night, and on a few occasions I’d need to walk her at 3am to settle her.
Her ability to judge distance changed and she began leaping over kerbs, misjudging steps and walking close to walls and edges.
She seemed confused by doors, going to the hinge side and kept going into the corner of rooms and climbing under chairs.
But medication helped with her sleep and mood and within a few days of taking Vivitonin and Activait she was much brighter.
We got Daisy a crate to sleep or relax in, put down rugs and carpet, used enrichment toys and kept bowls in the same place.
Sadly she had a brain tumour and was put to sleep in April, but recognising her dementia and treating it certainly helped her quality of life in her final months.
I also found the following websites helpful for advice on caring for a senior dog.
Hindy Pearson’s www.caringforaseniordog.com. Hindy was inspired by her own senior dog Red who sadly passed away in May at the age of 17. She’s a dog trainer and behaviour consultant and a pet grief support coach.
Eileen Anderson’s www.dogdementia.com Eileen was inspired to set up the site after her dog Cricket was diagnosed in 2011.
She died in 2013 and Eileen wrote a book, Remember Me: Loving and Caring for a dog with CDD which I would highly recommend.
With thanks to Jackie Tucker Photography for the images on this story.