How To Care For A Dog With Dementia
Estimated Read Time: 5 minutes
Summary: In this blog, we learn how to care for a dog with dementia. Living with a dog with dementia comes with its challenges, but there are things you can do to make the experience more manageable. We’ll learn the tips and tricks of how to care for a dog with doggy dementia, and ask the difficult question of when it may be appropriate to euthanize a pet with dementia…
Some dogs, as they grow older, can start to show signs of diminished cognitive functioning and ability. And, it’s more common than you may think. Around 23% of dogs between the ages of 12-14, and up to 41% of dogs of 14 years +, experience a decline in their cognitive capability as they move into the later chapters of their life.
The condition is called Canine Cognitive Dysfunction or CCD. Some people also refer to the condition as “doggy dementia”, although it is completely different from what happens in humans…
Does My Dog Have Dementia?
If your pooch has suddenly stopped greeting you at the door when you get home, bringing you their toys to play with, or asking to be petted, then these may be the first signs of CCD or dog dementia. Other symptoms of “dog dementia” include:
- Disturbed sleeping patterns (perhaps they’re more tired during the day than at night)
- Vocalizing during the night
- Disorientation or confusion (e.g. getting stuck in corners or wandering aimlessly)
- Not responding to their name
- Not responding to commands
- Loss of toilet training
- Becoming withdrawn or lethargic
- Appetite changes
If you notice any of the symptoms of CCD in your dog, make sure to have them assessed by their veterinarian as soon as possible. Dog dementia can’t be cured, but there are medications that can be prescribed to help reduce some of the symptoms that typically present with CCD. Your vet may also suggest a special diet and/or brain-supporting supplements.
But remember, there is no need for complete alarm – dog dementia can be manageable with the proper support and love from a caring pet parent…
How To Care For A Dog With Dementia
Always be understanding, patient and kind; a dog with dementia may start to wake up at strange and inconvenient times, be more active at these times, have the odd accident in the house, bark more often, and seem to ignore commands. This is not bad behavior and your dog should not be punished. They will have forgotten to ask to go to the toilet outside, have no idea what time of day it is, and bark for no apparent reason simply because their brain isn’t functioning like it used to. Do not punish your dog with dementia; if you do you’ll just scare them and cause them anxiety.
Keep each room as familiar as possible; try not to move furniture around as this will confuse your dog with cognitive dysfunction. In particular, don’t move their bed, food, and water bowls. Otherwise, your doggy with dementia may struggle to find them.
Keep to routine; good, upheld, and regular routine best serves dogs living with dementia. A lack of routine can lead to confusion, stress, anxiety, and more undesirable behavior. Set a bedtime, food times, toilet times, and play times - these can all help comfort your dog.
Communicate their condition to house guests; we know it’s exciting to greet a dog, but this can be very overwhelming for dogs with canine dementia. Ask any visiting guests to not become over-excited when greeting your pooch, but to stay calm and quiet and let your pet lead the “hello”. This will allow your pet to slowly process who’s visiting and allow their brain time to remember them.
Walk at their pace; when you take your dog out allow them to sniff things and take their time as they get used to the route otherwise they may experience anxiety and become unsettled. It’s important to keep walking a dog despite their CCD, but expect to go slower and don’t pull at their leash or hurry them along. If they are hunched, licking their lips, or shaking off these are all signs that your dog is stressed out.
Keep up mental stimulation; keeping their brain active with things like nose work, puzzle toys, or feeders that require some thinking and some physical activity can be a great way to keep the blood flowing up to their brain. Be mindful that they don’t become frustrated with the toy though. If they seem stressed or anxious at any time during play, remove the toy from them and comfort them.
Make sure your dog is microchipped and tagged; your dog with dementia is more likely to wander away from the home. Make sure all gates and doors to your property and yard are secure. But, prepare for the event that someone accidentally leaves one open, and make sure your dog is easily identifiable at all times with a microchip and tag that has up-to-date details. Try not to leave your doggy with dementia unattended to avoid this happening.
When To Put A Dog With Dementia Down
Dogs can exist with dementia for a significant amount of time, but the question you need to ask yourself is whether they’re still living their life happily. Keep the dialogue up with your vet who can let you know how they’re responding to any treatment plans and allow them to be honest with you about the quality of life they think your pet has. Be honest, kind, and present with your dog with dementia too - this will help you to keep putting their best interests at heart.
If you’re asking yourself “when to put a dog down due to dementia?”, some pet owners have described how at first the confusion didn’t seem to bother their doggy too much, but once the confusion began to frighten them, this was when they started to think about what was best for their pet and their true quality of life.
Author Cross, Richard "8 Tips For Caring For A Dog With Canine Dementia" Pet Sitters https://petsitters.org/page/8TipsforCaringforaDogwithCanineDementia
Author Clark, Mike "8 Ways To Help A Dog With Dementia" Dog Time https://dogtime.com/dog-health/62825-help-dog-dementia#7
"Dementia In Pets" PDSA https://www.pdsa.org.uk/taking-care-of-your-pet/looking-after-your-pet/all-pets/dementia-in-pets
"7 Tips For Caring For A Dog With Canine Dementia" Grey Matters, Grey Muzzle https://www.greymuzzle.org/grey-matters/health-and-well-being-wellness-common-health-issues/7-tips-caring-dog-canine-dementia