Skip to comments.Canine Dementia — Signs, Symptoms, Treatments
Posted on 07/20/2020 12:55:53 PM PDT by Red Badger
Our boy Mics symptoms were so subtle and their onset so gradual that we didnt initially see them. In fact, our other dogs noticed them first. Mic, a Pembroke Welsh Corgi then 12, had always embodied good dog manners. Hed never met a dog who didnt like him. Suddenly, he was enraging his pack-mates. We sympathized: his nighttime barking was fraying our nerves.
Though a number of vet visits and lab tests revealed nothing, Mic continued to decline. When his spatial perception deteriorated, we realized that he was acting like some elderly people we had known, and concluded, almost tongue-in-cheek, that he was senile with doggy dementia.
Can dogs have dementia? Turns out we were right. Though many veterinarians and dog owners are unaware of it, canine cognitive dysfunction, or CCD (also known as cognitive dysfunction syndrome), affects a significant portion of the senior dog population. The advances in veterinary medicine and improved owner care that have helped dogs live longer have also increased the incidence of CCD, but as many as 85 percent of cases may go undiagnosed.
Its a big issue, and theres not much awareness of it, even among vets, says Leticia Fanucchi, DVM, PhD, a veterinary behaviorist and director of Veterinary Medicine Behavioral Services at Washington State Universitys Veterinary Teaching Hospital. I get that questionDo dogs get dementia? even from colleagues. But canine dementia is nothing new.
I first started recognizing symptoms of what we now refer to as cognitive dysfunction in dogs over 30 years ago, says Dennis Thomas, DVM, a holistic practitioner in Spokane, Wash., and author of Whole-Pet Healing. We didnt have a catchy term for the disease so I called it pre-senility syndrome. What is Dog Dementia?
Dog Dementia or Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD), an umbrella term for four separate cognitive forms, is an age-related neurobehavioral syndrome in dogs leading to a decline in cognitive function that can be devastating to the human/canine relationship. The forms are as follows: Involutive depression.
Depression occurring in the dogs later years, similar to chronic depression in humans. Several factors may be involved, but untreated anxieties seem to play a key role. Because some of the symptoms of canine dementia circling, wandering and house soilingoften result in the dogs confinement, anxiety can increase, which, in turn, worsens the symptoms. Other symptoms of this form of CCD include lethargy, sleep disorders, decreased learning and vocalizing. Dysthymia.
This often involves loss of awareness of body length and size. Dogs with dysthymia often get stuck, explains Fanucchi. Behind furniture, in a corner. All they have to do is walk backwards, but they dont know that. Other symptoms include disrupted sleep-wake cycles; constant growling, whining or moaning; and aggressive behavior. If you interrupt a dog while hes in a dysthymic state, he can get mad and bite, cautions Fanucchi. Causes of this form are thought to include hyperadrenocorticism (such as Cushings disease) and long-term steroid therapy. Hyper-aggression.
In old dogs, hyper-aggression is associated with the dysfunction of structures related to the neurotransmitter serotonin. Cortical tumors may also be involved. Dogs with this form of CCD lose their ability to communicate with other animals, explains Fanucchi. They neither give appeasing signals to other pets in the house nor understand when others send them. They bite first and warn second. Confusional syndrome.
This involves a profound decline in cognitive ability. According to Fanucchi, it is the closest thing to Alzheimers in humans. They just dont seem to learn well in any form anymore. They forget familiar features of their lives, including other pets and people. When its more advanced, they forget who their owners are.
As with human dementia, the causes of dementia in dogs are not well known, but accumulations of sticky proteins called beta-amyloid plaques around neurons and the breakdown of neurons resulting in so-called neurofibrillary tangles are considered to be the leading culprits. As in humans, both phenomena affect the brain by interrupting nerve impulse transmission. Diagnosis: Signs Of Dementia In Dogs
When we recognized the possibility of dementia in Mic, we began researching and quickly discovered Eileen Anderson, whose book, Remember Me?, and website, dogdementia.com, are invaluable CCD resources.
Among Andersons many helpful tools is a Dog Dementia (CCD) symptom checklist, which comes with a warning. The most important thing to understand is that any apparent CCD symptom could also point to a serious, and perhaps treatable, medical condition, Anderson stresses. The first stop, she says, is the vet.
Pacing back and forth or in circles (often turning consistently in one direction) Getting lost in familiar places Staring into space or walls Walking into corners or other tight spaces and staying there Appearing lost or confused Waiting at the hinge side of the door to go out Failing to get out of the way when someone opens a door Failing to remember routines, or starting them and getting only partway through Sundowning Read more at dogdementia.com
When standard tests reveal no medical cause for dementia symptoms, its time to consider CCD. While dog owners may find that given the veterinary communitys limited awareness of the condition theyre initially on their own, some practitioners are better versed in its treatment. Veterinary behaviorists and holistic veterinarians are particularly good options.
Though ongoing research offers hope for a cure, Dog Dementia is not currently considered reversible. However, certain forms of CCD may be preventable, and for others, the symptoms can be minimized. As with humans, lifelong holistic care is key. At some point in every dogs life, routine preventive care must be fine-tuned with the specific aim of offsetting a dogs potential for developing CCD. This involves the addition of anti-aging factors through diet and supplements. Fanucchi says that timing varies depending upon size, as larger dogs tend to live shorter lives. Begin giant breeds at age five, small breeds at 10, others in between. Treatment for Canine Cognitive Dysfunction
According to Fanucchi, Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD) treatment involves management of behavior and environment, enhanced diet, and medication. Its dual goals are slowing the diseases progress and improving quality of life for dogs and their people.
Behavior can be effectively managed by providing daytime activities and opportunities for play, and structured social interaction for physical and mental stimulation, says Fanucchi. Exposure to sunlight will help regulate the sleep-wake cycle. [See more on Canine Sundowning] If they cant walk anymore, use a wagon or a stroller. Managing the environment is also very important. Make it more predictable. Pet-proof the house just as youd toddler-proof it. Providing adequate toileting opportunities is essential as well, as old dogs cant hold it as they did when they were younger; diapers, pads, and waterproof bed and furniture covers may be helpful.
Nutrition options fall into two categories, commercial and natural, or home-prepared whole foods. Commercial foods focus on the addition of antioxidants for cellular-level health and to reduce oxidative stress on the brain, and medium-chain triglycerides for cognitive improvement. Only a few commercial pet food manufacturers offer prescription senior dog food.
Holistic veterinarian Thomas acknowledges commercial foods benefits but advises a different course. I dont recommend heatprocessed food for dogs. I recommend feeding a balanced, wholesome, natural diet with the same beneficial supplements added.
The pharmacological approach to CCD treatment also focuses on control of oxidation and enhancement of brain function. The antioxidant supplement SAMe has proven effective in both staving off CCD and moderating its symptoms. Antioxidant nutritional supplements such as Denamarin, silybin, vitamin E, Cholodin and omega-3 fatty acids can be added to any diet, as can Solliquin, which contains an amino acid that can reduce CCD-related anxiety. Consult with a veterinarian before adding supplements to your dogs diet.
The drug primarily used to treat CCD by improving brain function is selegiline (Anipryl). A monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI), it is thought to improve brain chemistry by reducing the breakdown of dopamine and other neurotransmitters.
Alternative therapies offer a complement to conventional CCD treatments. For example, Traditional Chinese Medicine is thought to operate consistent with quantum physics, on the molecular and atomic levels, by addressing energy imbalances. I encourage looking for alternative forms of treatment as well as the conventional, says Thomas. I prefer to treat this disease with acupuncture and Chinese herbs, supplements, diet modification and energy medicine. Endpoint
If nothing else gets a CCD-affected dog first, the dementia will eventually force a very tough decision. When dogs bodily functions become so impaired that they lose quality of life, thats when the hard call is made, says Fanucchi.
Its just a matter of time until they deteriorate to the point that other systems fail. You dont want to see your pet in this stateits very hard.
Thomas agrees. That is the toughest thing a dog caretaker has to address. It usually comes down to what the caretaker defines as quality of life. Veterinarians can often help because they are not emotionally involved and can explain how the situation is affecting everyone.
Making this decision can be especially hard when the animal is otherwise healthy. It can be extremely difficult to consider euthanasia for a dog that is at a healthy weight, not necessarily in pain and occasionally coherent, says Eileen Anderson. She points to a tool that can help: the Villalobos Quality of Life Scale. Designed by veterinarian Alice Villalobos, it offers an objective means of inventorying quality-of-life details. Even those hesitant to do the numbers will benefit from the Villalobos scale, considering its unbiased presentation of the facts. Research Offers Hope
Alzheimers has never been reversed in human beings, but it may have been in two Australian dogs. Recently, a team of veterinary and human medical researchers at the University of Sydney Brain and Mind Centre appear to have restored cognition in these CCD-suffering dogs using the animals own stem cells.
The procedure involved growing neural cells from skin cells and inserting them into the dogs brains. The dogs have been rated as CCD-free based on independent application of the University of Sydneydeveloped CCD Rating Scale, and their owners report a significant return of the animals original personalities.
While at a very early stage and with a minuscule sample, the process appears to offer hope for humans as well as dogs. Although human and canine brains are different, their similarities are striking, with dementia symptoms and their practical impact and response to treatment being almost identical in both.
The procedure is not to be undertaken lightly since it involves anesthetizing the dog twice and, well, brain surgery, Anderson points out. The good news is that two dogs with dementia have successfully undergone the procedure. This fascinating research offers some hope.
Judging by Mic, the approaches described here can work. A natural diet augmented with SAMe and other supplements improved his cognition. Thanks largely to acupuncture and Chinese herbs, his formerly debilitating physical deficits were controlled. Treatment eliminated his nighttime barking and, under supervision, his packmates tolerated him. He lived nearly two mostly happy and relaxed years after the onset of CCD. Had Mics symptoms not improved, we would simply have followed Eileen Andersons golden rule.
All that matters, she says to anyone who will listen, is to love the dog in front of you.
Pacing back and forth or in circles (often turning consistently in one direction)
Getting lost in familiar places
Staring into space or walls
Walking into corners or other tight spaces and staying there
Appearing lost or confused
Waiting at the hinge side of the door to go out
Failing to get out of the way when someone opens a door
Failing to remember routines, or starting them and getting only partway through
Read more at dogdementia.com
’That is the toughest thing a dog caretaker has to address. It usually comes down to what the caretaker defines as quality of life.”
I love dogs to the Moon and back. We raise Treeing Walker Coon Hounds and Plott Hounds for hunting, fun and no profit. ;)
My DARLING Basset Hound, Rufus, was with me for 15 years and there never was a day when he didn’t make me laugh, sooth my soul, or be The Best Dog Ever.
He was healthy and happy up until his last day on earth. Massive stroke right after we got up that morning, and that was all she wrote - I had him put down that afternoon.
I’ve had other dogs, but Rufus was my Dog Soul Mate. I miss that guy. :)
We had an Irish Terrier that turned vicious and senile. It would let anyone in the house but try to bite anyone leaving. After 6-7 chomps dad had to have it put to sleep.
We have a female Chihuahua who is at least 18 years old and has all the symptoms as listed.
We should have her put to sleep, but my wife will not hear of it.................
Is this a Joe Biden thread?
Our dog hasn’t gotten that bad yet, but I am keeping a sharp eye on her for when she starts being aggressive..................
Affects cats as well. Had a 14 year old that started crapping randomly around the house and other issues. Like he had forgotten how to be a house cat.
My beloved black Lab went completely spaced out one day and did nothing but pace. She didn’t seem to recognize us. We took her to the vet who said she thought Belle had a stroke and we had her euthanized that day. It broke my heart. I have heard since then of a condition in older dogs that can cause this, but it resolves in several days. Guess we will never know for sure.
As for the “holistic” vet and the nonsense about commercial food, that is a bunch of hooey. People need to stop falling for these completely unscientific fads.
We lost our Ruby to DM (Degenerative Myelopathy) last fall - nursed her along until she couldn’t stand anymore. DM is the canine equivalent of Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
Dogs get old too.
I love my pets and are considered family, but, when the time comes, the humane thing to do is have them, the pets put down. Pets don’t go to sleep at night thinking about what they are going to do the next day, they live for the moment.When they no longer enjoy life as they know it, it is time to cross over that rainbow bridge.
My extremely old guy is starting to stand and look lost, like he cant remember how to move forward, it breaks my heart to watch him, then suddenly hes OK. He has already outlived most dogs of his breed.
My BIL did that to their elderly little Scottie Dog. It’s just too cruel to let them suffer when it’s not necessary.
In 2017 I took on two Senior Basset Hounds, Sisters. One died a year later from Lymphoma (put her down) the other a month ago from a deteriorated disc in her back that paralyzed her. We also had her put down. They were 14 and 12, which is OLD for Bassets.
I’m glad I could give them a good end-of-life out here on the farm. They were City Dogs and were never off-leash and always slept in their kennels. They had acres to roam on out here, bunnies to chase and plenty of fresh air and sunshine. Their original owner was in her 70’s and died unexpectedly; a friend that is a Vet Tech BEGGED me to take Pearl and Belle.
Wish I had the heart to help some more senior dogs, but it’s so bloody hard...and I’m really tired of cleaning carpets, LOL!
Meh. Who am I kidding? Another dog in need will show up soon enough. ;)
I can relate to that statement. My Teddy (black labradoodle) was mine. Never be another like him. Been a little over two years since I had to say goodbye to him. Miss him terribly. I baby sit for friends dogs when the friends go on vacation now. that's how I get my "fix" and honor my Teddy. I spoil my friends dogs rotten and the dogs go happy-crazy when they see me now. :-)
We have a 14 year old Lab. Other than a failing hip, her mind seems in pretty good shape. The only real annoying behavior: she barks constantly when she is asleep . . . right outside our bedroom.
I’ve only had that one dog become mean in their old age; my GSDs and my Rottie just got sort of confused towards the end.
I’m so glad you had a good dog in your life, too. :)
My sister does cat and dog sitting gigs and she really enjoys it, too.
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