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Dementia And Dogs, Is it a Real Thing?

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We all think our dogs will live forever and that they won’t get old. Sadly this isn’t true.  All pet owners unfortunately will come face to face with having an elderly dog.

The first time we see our dogs as puppies, they are cute and cuddly little babies. They rely on us for every single thing they need. We get to see them grow up to be adults and become wonderful dogs, that become a huge part of our family.

goldendoodle

Just like humans, dogs unfortunately get old. What’s strange about having an elderly pet, is we don’t hear much about what kind of things our pets will encounter getting old, until they get there.

I have talked before about our dog “BOO.” He is a 15-year-old Cockapoo who has Cushings Disease. We have been managing the Cushings as best we can. Then we started noticing other strange behavior and we weren’t sure what was the cause, so off we went to the vet.

The vet examined Boo and listened to the symptoms we described.  He looked up and said, “He’s Old.”

The reason why Boo was starting to exhibit some strange behavior, basically boiled down to a dog that now has Dementia.

Dementia and Dogs, how is this a real thing and why haven’t I heard of it before?

dog big ears

Strange behavior and what it really means.

The reason we took Boo to the vet in the first place, was he started doing strange things that he had never done before. He started licking, licking and licking the air.

Now yes, dogs licking isn’t that strange, but it was almost like a type of tick he developed just overnight. The strangest part of the licking is that he licks and whines like he is in pain. The first few times, we didn’t even hear for sure that he was the one making the sound.

Hearing your dog whining like that is something you only hear when they are in pain. As a parent, it is heartbreaking to hear, so of course we were concerned.

According to the vet, this type of changing behaviour is Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome.  It’s a condition related to your dogs aging brain.

We have all had someone in our family that was elderly and diagnosed with some type of dementia.  It is a difficult diagnosis to come to terms with.  One thing we do know, is that dementia starts out slowly and progresses overtime.

Symptoms of dementia.

The first indication of trouble for BOO, was the licking issue.  But once we got home, we started researching what dementia in dogs can really look like.

The list of symptoms is quite long and descriptive.  We realized while reading the list, that besides the licking, Boo has many of the other things on the list, we just didn’t know to attribute them to this syndrome.

To be honest, I never knew that dogs could even get dementia or Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome.  Here are some things to look for with your aging dog:

  • Disorientation/Confusion
  • Anxiety/Restlessness
  • Excessive Licking
  • Extreme Irritability
  • Changing Sleep Patterns (waking in the night)
  • Lack of Appetite (Anorexia)
  • Slow to learn new tasks
  • Hyper Aggression
  • Walking in circles

These are just some the more noticeable symptoms you may notice slowly happening to your dog.

BOO was always a guy with some anxiety, but lately it seemed to be worse than just a bit of anxiety.  He at times will bark for no reason and act a bit confused as to what was going on.
The only other thing we noticed with BOO was his changing sleep patterns.  He now gets up at 4 am.  Yeah fun times!

Sadly we just thought he was behaving badly by pushing us to the limit, rather than having the start of something like dementia.

relax dog

What’s the cause?

Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome is the closest thing to a human getting Alzheimer’s. The exact cause is a difficult one to completely understand. It really boils down to the protein beta-amyloid accumulating in the brain and leaving protein deposits on the brain, or a build up on the brain.

Your dog’s predisposition to genetic factors can also be a factor. Things that can’t be avoided.

The other thing I did find out, was that BOO having Cushings, could also be a contributing factor to him getting dementia. I guess it makes sense, seeing as Cushings also affects our dogs brain and the production of cortisol.

Altering the brain of our dog, happens over a period of time, that can vary from dog to dog. There is no hard and fast rule as to when it will start to get worse, or for how long it will stay the way the same. The vet like any human doctor, can only speculate, as to how your dog will progress over time.

Unfortunately it’s a bit of a wait and see with your dog. BOO right now, only has a few of the symptoms of dementia, so we are so far lucky. Realistically it’s a bit like a ticking time bomb of which symptom will show up next.

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How can we help our dogs?

Treating dementia in your dogs, is like treating Alzheimer’s in humans. There is no cure of course, all we can do it just to try to treat the symptoms.

For BOO, the vet prescribed a herbal medication called “Zylkene.” They are capsules that we give him once daily. The hope is that it will help calm him down. Zylkene is an Alpha-Casozepine, which ingredients are derived from milk protein, that is suppose to have calming properties.

For some dogs it can be effective in a few days, but for others it may take longer. Recommendations are that we give it to Boo for a minimum of 8 weeks.

The medication is a natural nutritional supplement, that is know to help dogs with stress and anxiety. Our hope is that, BOO will get some relief, from the current licking excessively situation he currently has.

There are many options if Zylkene is not the right choice for you:

Now what?

When your pet has any type of disease or condition, we are always looking for a pill that will cure them. We just want them to be the way they have always been. Realistically this just isn’t an option.

Coming to the realization that our dogs are old, is not an easy thing.

Our boy BOO is currently doing pretty good. Many times he acts just like his old self, happy and trotting around like he is a puppy. No matter what happens moving forward, we will continue to try to make sure that his quality of life is good.

Boo Kitchen

OUR BOY BOO!

They always say that your dog will tell you when they no longer are able to continue on. Apparently it’s a look that they give that is undeniable. I hope for us that we don’t have to see that look for a while.

We just aren’t ready to let him go yet. I am guessing that we never will be.

Dogs pull at our heart strings like the children we never had. Dementia and dogs, is a real thing and unfortunately for many of us, it’s something we may encounter with our dogs.

So far what I have learned is that changing behavior in our dogs, is not just something they do to annoy us, or misbehave. We need to watch for dramatic changes and don’t just write them off.

Being vigilant with our pets care and finding out what options are available to us can help us ensure that our furry friends live their best life as long as they can.

In telling my story today, my hope is that I have been a bit of help to anyone that is going through the same difficult time that we are with our aging pets.

 

I look forward to your comments and if you like please share your story below.

10 Comments

  1. Hi Coralie, It seems the longevity of our pets has risen. So with that is the risk of dementia? I’ve never had or seen a dog with dementia. Are you able to leave Boo home alone still? Do you have to contain him? I’ve heard coconut oil is good for human dementia. Can you give it to dogs? The fat content might be too high. I like that your vet prescribed a herbal medication. Good luck with your fur kid!

    Best,

    Judy

    • Hi Judy,

      Thanks your for getting involved in the conversation. Yes Boo can stay home alone, as I said he only has the first few symptoms. He is still roaming free in the house with our other dog Finn. We don’t generally leave him for more than a few hours.

      I am not sure about coconut oil and dogs. That’s something that would need some researching. 

      Thanks Judy.

  2. Wow! I’ve heard of dogs being struck with some pretty bad afflictions, but I never even thought about them getting dementia. The little dog I grew up with lived to be about 12. I’m trying to remember if he had any strange habits, but the only ones I can think of involved eating dirt and chewing on the wood from his dog house. But he was doing those long before he got old, so I suspect they might have been due to something else. This is really good to know, though. I plan on adopting one soon and I’d like to keep up with the latest and stay informed. Thanks for sharing this!

    • Thanks Mark,

      Your reaction to finding out that dog’s can get dementia was pretty much the same as me. Surprising. I guess it makes sense though, why couldn’t they get it.

      I personally had met dogs later in their life, that may have had some of the symptoms, but my guess is the owners never put 2 and 2 together.

      Poor guy eating wood from his dog house, that certainly seems like it may have been something alright.

      Glad to hear that you are thinking of adopting a dog. You won’t regret it. Best of luck and if I can ever help let me know, I would love to hear your new dog stories.

      Thank you

      Coralie 

  3. I know that our lovely pets do get old but somehow I never thought that they can have Dementia. I guess if we can have it they can also have it as well. You are right, not that many people educate us on how to handle when your family gets old. They all focus on how to train them as puppies. Thank you for bringing the awareness. My Shiro, husky, is getting there as well he is currently 14 and I can see that he has trouble holding his bladder and I also see that he has some trouble going upstairs and downstairs. I will sure look out on the signs. It is great that you do not give up on BOO. Boo is lucky to have you. Hopefully BOO feels better soon.

    • Hi again Nuttanee, how are you doing. Hope Shiro is doing well. 14 years old for a husky seems like you must be doing all the right things. Good job.

      It is so hard to watch our dogs slow down a bit, right before our eyes. We have to accept the little changes they have and the little extra care they need from us.

      Shiro has a good mom as well, so thank you for sharing your stories about Shiro, I really enjoy them.

      take care you two.

      Coralie

  4. Hello, 

    Thank you so much for addressing this concerning topic and raising awareness about it. I had no idea about Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome and I think there are also many like me that don’t know about it. I hope many people who have dogs at home will read this and educate themselves about dementia. The article explained very clearly the symptoms, the cause and ways to treat dogs suffering this.  

    I wish you the best for you, your website and BOO too. 

    Mariana

    • Hi Mariana

      Thank you so much for you great comments. My hope is that people will read this article and we can start the conversation. As a dog owner I was so surprised to have never heard of this. 

      Knowing what our older pets may encounter as they age is important for us to watch for signs of what to look for.

      Thanks again Mariana

  5. Hi. This article is very informative. I never realize that dogs just like a human may also be suffering from this kind of Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome. Maybe because I didn’t experience to have an aging dog, so I am not aware that this is going to happen to our pets as they age. Thank you for sharing this article.

    • Hi Raquel,
      Thank you so much for the comments on my post. Unfortunately, you are right about having an aging dog, we don’t hear about it til our pet is already there.

      It is certainly a journey.
      Thank you
      Coralie

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