Old Dog Behavior Changes
Senior Dogs Get Alzheimers too!
Owners of geriatric dogs often call their veterinarian office concerned about their old dog's recent odd behavior changes. They may report that their dog may wake up in the middle of the night and start howling. Others may report their very well house-trained dog gets up and has accidents around the house or wakes up to drink and then shortly after urinates on the carpet. I know about these instances as I have personally often taken these phone calls when working for the veterinary hospital.
I recall particularly, an owner one day calling concerned about her dog because he started wandering around the home at night bumping into furniture and hardly recognizing her. He would then sleep for most of the day undisturbed. The owner was unable to sleep properly and was very concerned by this recent worrisome behavior. Afterward, the dog also changed behavior, from an outgoing dog he became quite passive and hardly listened to her commands.
While all the above instances required a careful evaluation by the vet via a thorough physical and geriatric blood-work sent to a lab, most instances turned out to be simply signs of good old aging.Just as it may happen in humans, dogs tend to approach their golden years by losing parts of their cognitive function. Some may lose some, some may lose more. Many refer to these cases affectionately as "doggy Alzheimer's" while medically, this condition is abbreviated as CDS standing for Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome.
Ramp to Help Old Dogs
Symptoms Suggesting Senior Dog Behavior Changes
CDS has become pretty common as we hear more and more about it. If we think about it, after all, dogs are living always longer lives and therefore, they are more prone to all the diseases and conditions that seniority seems to bring along. There are some typical key CDS symptoms that may help dog owners understand better the condition and prompt them to have the vet perform a thorough check up. Below are some symptoms that may suggest, but not yet confirm CDS:
Old Dogs Learn New Tricks, But Forget Commands
Senior dogs may forget some simple commands they have known all their lives. If your geriatric dog refuses to sit when asked to, do not scold him or think he is just acting out. Just as a person affected by Alzheimer's may forget a family member's name, a dog may forget a command and perceive it as something completely new you are requesting. However, it's also a good idea to check his joints checked out, as reluctance or refusal to sit or lie down may be also associated with degenerative joint disease.
A Blank Stare of Seeing Imaginary Things
Dogs affected by CDS may stare for no apparent reason a wall or any other object. Some may even chase imaginary objects or bark while nothing is there. A routine check up is recommended as there are some neurological disorders and seizures that may cause this type of symptomatology.
Familiar Rooms Turn into a Big Maze
Some dogs will get up in the middle of the night and wander around bumping into furniture as they look for their way out. Some may get easily distressed and panic as they try to find the way back to bed. Some dogs will howl or get stuck in a corner without finding their way out.
From Normal Sleeper to Night Owl
Some times the dog may have difficulty recognizing the difference between night and day and forget all about the routines. These are the dogs that will wake up at night and start having accidents around the house or start drinking or eating in the middle of the night. Afterward, they will sleep during the day and have no more accidents.
Debating on Being Indoor or Outdoor
Some dogs may even forget why they are sent outside. While before they would go out and do their business right away, now they will sniff around and ask back in wondering why they were out in the first place. Just as some dogs forget about going outside some dogs forget as well their name or that they already ate.
Memory Loss and Difficulty Recognizing You
Some dogs may even forget who their owner is and may growl or act unusually timid. At other times they may have moments of seeming to remember. This may be very heartbreaking for the owner even because the pet may appear not interested anymore in playing or being pet.
Just as Alzheimer's disease does not have a cure, CDS care is mostly supportive. If your dog has just been diagnosed with CDS, consider that there are some drugs that may help preserve some cognitive functioning a little bit longer. Perhaps, ask your vet about the human drug Anipryl. There are also some things you can do at home to help your dog lead a better life and cope better with old dog behavior changes.
- Take your dog out more often
- Pet your dog and show affection more often
- Do not move furniture around to prevent confusion
- Keep up with a daily routine and stick with it
- Have your dog wear doggie diapers during the night
- Place baby gates to seclude dangerous areas such as stairs
- Supervise your pet when outdoors
Often some dogs that appear to have typical CDS symptoms such as bumping into objects or wandering around may have become suddenly blind or dogs not responding to their name or commands may have become suddenly deaf. Some cases of inappropriate urination have been linked to urinary tract infections or diabetes. So if your pet has sudden behavior changes, have him/her carefully evaluated by the vet since CDS is mostly a condition that is diagnosed by excluding other possible physical issues.
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