Your dog has passed the age of 8 and you noticed that he behaved more and more unusual? He may be suffering from cognitive dysfunction syndrome, also known as canine dementia or senility. Similar to Alzheimer’s disease for humans, this incurable and degenerative condition is under-diagnosed. And for good reason, its symptoms, sometimes subtle, are most often attributed to the old age of the animal. Yet there are some characteristic signs of this disease to spot.
Good to know : canine dementia does not affect the dog’s life expectancy, but only its quality of life. For this reason, the earlier it is diagnosed, the sooner arrangements can be made to facilitate the animal’s life.
- 1. He wakes up at night
- 2. It interacts less
- 3. He can not focus anymore
- 4. He is more anxious
- 5. He is disoriented
- 6. It becomes aggressive
- 7. It becomes messy
- 8. He has eating disorders
- 9. He depresses
1. He wakes up at night
One of the first symptoms that should alert you is a change in your dog’s sleep patterns . If he goes to sleep at night and wakes up at night to pound around the house, something is wrong.
Indeed, nocturnal wanderings (and diurnal if they occur), without purpose, in the home are one of the main symptoms of canine cognitive dysfunction.
A change in sleep patterns or a disruption in circadian rhythms is one of the more specific symptoms related to cognitive dysfunction. Dogs that used to sleep soundly may now pace all night. Many dogs reverse their normal schedules, so their daytime activities become their nighttime activities. This “up all night” routine can be frustrating and tiring to pet owners.
“If your dog is active at night and you want to get him to sleep, a nightlight or white noise may help him,”
If this doesn’t provide relief, consult your vet for medications that may ease your dog’s anxiety and reestablish normal sleep cycles.
2. It interacts less
In case of senility, a decrease in interactions with other dogs and with humans is to be observed. In the past, when you took your dog to the park, he was happy to meet his friends. Now, it’s as if it does not make him hot or cold any more. Worse, he even seems sometimes not to recognize his friends forever .
Similarly, games and walks do not seem to have the same flavor for him.
Dogs with cognitive dysfunction may show a decreased desire to explore and a decreased response to things, people, and sounds in their environments. They may not greet you or they may no longer respond on cue to fetch their favorite toy. They may also be less focused and show an altered response to stimuli. Some dogs have trouble eating or drinking or finding their food bowls.
“They may drop something when they’re eating and they can’t find it,” “If they don’t have sight or hearing issues, this can be a true indication that they are experiencing cognitive dysfunction.”
Although older dogs experience a normal decline in activity levels, they may also experience restless or repetitive locomotion.
“They may exhibit repetitive motion; things like head bobbing, leg shaking, or pacing in circles. This kind of action is more related to cognitive dysfunction or a degeneration of the brain. It’s less likely to be mistaken for anything else,”
Owners should also be aware if their typically quiet dog now barks excessively or if he barks at times when nothing is going on.
3. He can not focus anymore
Your dog has always been very well educated. But for some time now, it’s like he can not focus enough on your orders anymore.4. He is more anxious
Your dog has never been a big stressed person. And yet, everything seems to distress him now . For example, he starts crying when you go away , while he has always tolerated loneliness very well. Or he does not want to make new walks because the unknown is a source of fear. It’s simple, it can not stand any change .
The appearance of such irrational fears is a characteristic sign of senility.
5. He is disoriented
One of the most common things pet parents may notice is that their senior dog gets disoriented even when he’s in his normal or familiar environment.
“This often happens when the dog is out in the backyard and he goes to the wrong door or the wrong side of the door to get back in. The part of the brain that is involved with orientation has been affected.”
Your dog may also experience difficulty with spatial awareness. He may wander behind the couch and then realize he doesn’t know where he is or how to get out.
At bedtime you may find your dog in a different part of the house staring at the wall instead of curled up in his dog bed. Petryk says dogs have a good sense of timing, so this is a sign that something is wrong.
“The first thing you should do is to take your dog in for a check-up. It might not be a cognitive issue, so your vet may want to rule out some other possible medical causes which could involve a brain tumor or diabetes.”
Sometimes your dog may seem completely lost even though he is in a familiar place , like his garden or house. For example, he can not find his way out of the garden …
6. It becomes aggressive
No matter how hard you look, you do not understand what has happened so that your dog, with such a gentle temperament, may sometimes be aggressive towards you or your loved ones. And if it was because during his fits of confusion, he did not recognize you anymore?
7. It becomes messy
Since he was a puppy, your dog had never urinated or defecated inside the house . But now, it’s becoming commonplace. This is the sign that the disease is progressing and that it loses little by little all its elementary learning.
8. He has eating disorders
Whether it’s edible or inedible, your dog tends to swallow anything that goes under his leg like a puppy? Or perhaps he, on the contrary, lost his appetite ?
In all cases, changes in eating behavior are one of the symptoms of canine dementia.
9. He depresses
If your dog has no taste for anything , tries to isolate himself and seems apathetic , it’s not just because he’s getting old. Cognitive dysfunction may be the cause of such behavior.
Diet, Medication, and Environment
Watching your dog lose his cognitive abilities can be a difficult and disturbing process, but there are things you can do to help ease his discomfort.
“You can’t stop the process but it’s possible to slow it down so they don’t go from one problem to three problems,”
Certain dog foods are formulated to help slow down cognitive dysfunction and include anti-oxidants and omega-3 fatty acids to promote and strengthen cell health.
Combining an enhanced diet with efforts to enrich your dog’s environment provides the greatest chance for cognitive improvement.
“Introducing things like food puzzles encourages mental stimulation,” explains. “Any type of food dispenser toy where they have to roll it around to get the food out helps keep them mentally active.”
Regular scheduled play sessions can also stimulate your dog’s brain and improve his learning and memory abilities.
“If your dog doesn’t have physical restrictions, grab his leash and take him to the dog park where he can socialize with other dogs,” “It’s possible to slow deterioration by keeping him physically and mentally active, just like it is for us.”
Psychoactive drugs and dietary supplements can also help slow your dog’s decline, but Beaver recommends visiting your vet for specific recommendations that can be tailored to your dog’s health and medical history.
“If, for instance, your dog also has a heart problem, the medications he takes for that is going to factor into any medications prescribed for cognitive decline,” “Vets and owners need to work together to establish a plan.”
“As your dog gets older he should be having twice yearly check-ups. That way they can help differentiate between normal aging and what’s pathological or wrong,”
She suggests going into the vet with a list of questions and observations—things that you notice when you’re at home. If changes happen gradually, it’s easy to overlook them.
“People can be blind to the changes in their pets because they’ve happened slowly,” she says. “They may not notice things and it may be too late to fix them.”
Your devoted Kikie.