What is Dementia?
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Symptoms of Dementia in Dogs
These symptoms can be difficult to identify as dementia-related because there are so many, and they may not be present all at once. One of the reasons CCD is underdiagnosed is because the symptoms can be considered typical physiological responses to the aging process:
- Anorexia (will not eat or drink)
- Change of habits / abnormal behavior
- Constant or increased vocalization
- Disrupted sleep cycle (awake at night, asleep in the day)
- Fixed stare (usually at a wall or door)
- Getting stuck (behind furniture, under objects)
- Hyperesthesia (skin sensitivity)
- Lack of interest
- Lurching forward
Causes of Dementia in Dogs
There is no known cause at this time other than increased canine age. CCD is neither gender nor breed specific. Some dogs will start to show signs at 11 years of age. By age 16, the majority of dogs show signs.
Diagnosis of Dementia in Dogs
Diagnosis is based on the observations reported to the veterinarian of the changes in behavior that the patient has displayed. The most effective way to go about this is to print off a check-list of the symptoms to bring along to the appointment indicating which signs are happening. Without this information, the veterinarian has no clinical reason to do further testing or evaluation. A full physical examination will be performed, as well as a thorough case history report of past vs. present behavior. In some cases, imaging scans of the brain will also provide material to help confirm a diagnosis.
Treatment of Dementia in Dogs
Though there is no ‘cure’ for this syndrome, there are steps that can be taken to ensure the patient is as comfortable, safe and well-cared for as possible.Changes in Diet
This treatment should be approached with the guidance of veterinarian care. There are foods specifically catered to aging dogs with added antioxidants to help slow the process of degeneration. They are nutrient-rich and balanced to help ensure the patient is getting all of the vitamins and minerals required to stay strong and healthy. This is a non-invasive, low-risk method of treatment, as the new choice of food can be gradually shifted over by mixing small amounts with the brand currently being fed.Environmental Changes
To slow the degenerative process as much as possible, it is important to keep the patient active in mind and body. Frequent walks, learning new tricks, active play-time (with and without other dogs) and toys that keep the patient’s interest are key to maintaining health. Since the patient’s ability to navigate obstacles may be diminished, it is important to keep the main area of living as clutter-free as possible.Medications
The veterinarian may decide to supplement the above methods with medication. This syndrome is marked by a decreased amount of the brain compound Dopamine, known for carrying signals from one portion of the brain to another. There are medications that can help build the amount of Dopamine closer to normal levels.
Recovery of Dementia in Dogs
Due to the development in pet care over the years, including better food with greater nutritional value and advanced healthcare, dogs are living longer. This makes age-related issues more prevalent than ever. Though there is no recovery from CCD, it is important to bring your dog to the veterinarian as soon as possible if any of the above symptoms occur so they can be managed effectively. Once the possibility of other illnesses and disease are ruled out, the focus can return to providing the best care possible to keep the patient comfortable for the remainder of their life. If symptoms worsen or become debilitating, follow-up appointments will be necessary to determine the best course of action in further treating the patient.
Dementia Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
Our chihuahua is 16 years old and has begun acting funny the past month or so. Her personality hasn't changed she's just gotten goofy, for lack of a better word. She jumps at things that aren't there, thinks she can now run and play with the younger dogs in the yard but then gets kind of lost/confused though she always knows how to get back into the house and where the water and outside bedding is. Her poop and pee are normal though the former is limited due to diminished food intake. She has developed some really weird habits regarding food /mealtime. It has begun to really concern me because she has lost a lot of weight. It's as if she's forgotten how to eat or that she needs to. Drinking water isn't a problem, however. She will toss bites up into the air or take a bite and shake her head like dogs do with their toys and so the bite goes flying. She'll take bites into her mouth, then spit them out or carry bites elsewhere in the house where they are forgotten. She also ritualistically guards her food whether other dogs are around or not, but she won't eat it. If I feed another dog beside her,(one of my tricks) she attempts to eat as if only to prevent the other dog from getting hers. I know it is not her teeth because over time, her teeth have either been lost or extracted so she has none. I've tried changing canned food, hand-feeding her w/ lots of petting and praise (another trick)or giving her pureed real roasted chicken/steak, baby food, Nutri-cal, or puppy formula, all without much success. She seems happy, doesn't appear to have any pain but she's grown so thin, I've taken to blending up a gruel of ground chicken or steak, Nutri-cal and warm puppy formula. Then using a small squeeze bottle, I squirt small amounts into her mouth until she flat out refuses anymore, much like a human baby does, locking her jaw and flailing to get away. But its never enough.Outside of home, she has always been a nervous wreck so I hate to subject her to the trauma of the car ride(she's mostly blind)and the poking and prodding of a vet's exam if I don't have too. Can you suggest some way for me to get her to eat more of anything and stop being so weird about food and wasting away? Cost and preparation are not a problem.Thank you!
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My dog wakes me up at night and wants treats she will bark at me until I give her one. Sometimes I am up half of the night with her. During the day she will just bark at us.
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