There are many signs in your dog’s behaviour that can lead to a dementia diagnosis. In the canine world, doggy dementia is known as canine cognitive dysfunction.
Your pet probably won’t be able to tell you he is forgetful, but if you notice him ignoring his usual walking route, or he no longer greets you when you return home, he could certainly be suffering from dog dementia. This illness is also known as the canine version of Alzheimer’s. Our pets are living for longer, with the advances in medicine, but this results in more senior dogs being diagnosed with dog dementia. If your dog lives to the ripe old age of 12, 14 or even older, there is every chance that he can have CDS or cognitive dysfunction syndrome. The illness seems to be more common in larger type breeds of dogs, rather than small dogs.
Signs of dementia in dogs
If you’ve noticed any odd behaviour in your older pet that you don’t have an explanation for, it could be down to dementia.
According to the Journal of Veterinary Behavior, “the same pathological changes are found in the brains of dogs with canine cognitive dysfunction as are found in human Alzheimer's and dementia patients.” Here are eight of the most common symptoms you might spot.
Symptom #1: Waiting for a door to open
This is probably one of the most common signs of CDS in dogs. If your pet stands in a corner facing a wall, or at the wrong side of a door appearing to wait for it to open he is getting forgetful. He may stand and look helpless, unable to decide on his next step.
Symptom #2: Anxiously pacing around
Another symptom that your dog could have dementia is his apparent loss of purpose. Check to see if he paces around the room and wanders about the house, possibly anxious with no objective. Of course, this could also be due to other reasons such as a weak bladder or an overactive bowel.
Symptom #3: Doesn’t appear to respond to his owner’s voice
If it seems like your dog has suddenly gone deaf, first of all, rule out a loss of hearing which is more common in an older dog. In the case of canine dementia, the dog will fail to process your command and do what you ask of him. If you call his name, he may be quite confused as his memory fails.
Symptom #4: Having no appetite is a sign your dog has dementia
An older dog suffering from dementia might just lose all interest in food in general. Of course, senior dogs may decrease their appetite as they get older. It’s advisable to keep a check on their portions and what they do actually consume.
Symptom #5: Not going outside to do toilet duties
Senior dogs with dementia might not recall that they go outside to urinate. Certainly rule out any urinary tract infections or bowel problems first. However, this is probably a result of dog dementia symptoms. Your pet might not be aware that he is leaking urine or forgets that he isn’t supposed to poop in the house.
Symptom #6: A dog with dementia may forget family members
A pet suffering from dog dementia will not purposely search for human interaction. He may just walk away while being spoken to or when being stroked. Likewise, he probably won’t give you an enthusiastic greeting when you return home.
Symptom #7: Barking at nothing in particular
Certainly, this could be caused by your dog failing to recognise the humans he normally interacts with. Perhaps your dog cannot find you and thinks you are lost, barking for attention. Your pet will probably bark during the night too, as he is generally confused.
Symptom #8: Irregular sleep patterns are a common sign of dementia in dogs
A dog with this disease might reverse his sleeping pattern. He will sleep more during the day yet remain wide awake and often confused during the night. Similarly, he may sleep for longer periods of time.
CDS or cognitive dysfunction syndrome is rather difficult to diagnose in dogs. The symptoms of dementia in dogs display with symptoms that could also relate to another illness. Hearing loss, vision problems, kidney disease, incontinence, diabetes, cancer and arthritis can also be signs that your dog has dementia. Keep a diary of any strange behaviours you notice, noting any repetitions and the time-frames. If you suspect any signs of dog dementia symptoms, it’s important to take your pet for a full medical assessment, to rule out any other problems.
Dog dementia is rather a complex illness, with no definite resolution. However, with care, compassion and lots of patience, your senior dog can live out the rest of his days with a decent quality of life.