Home Care Suggestions for a Senile Senior Dog With CCD Dementia
What Are the Signs of Senility in a Dog?
Recognizing dementia in your older dog is easiest if you can first identify and confirm the following clinical signs:
- Failure to respond to her name or simple commands that she used to know.
- Getting lost in corners of the house, the yard, and other once familiar regions of the environment that she lives in.
- Personality changes, both around other pets and with her human family.
- Soiling (urine or feces) in the house, even if she is housetrained.
- Whining excessively, barking excessively, and doing both for no reason.
Is My Dog Senile If She Exhibits Some of These Symptoms?
Some changes in dogs are normal as they age, so not all dogs are considered senile. If your dog is senile, however, it may be a type of senility known as age-related dementia or Canine Cognitive Dysfunction. According to some research done at the University of California, Davis, over half of geriatric dogs exhibit the symptoms of this condition. Nobody knows what causes it yet, but it may be related to an age-related decrease in a neurotransmitter called dopamine. So, what can you do to make her life better in her senior years?
Home Care for a Dog With Dementia
I realize not everyone reading this is able to take their dog to a vet. You also have the option of treating her naturally if drugs and veterinary care are not an option. Here's what you can do to help:
- Take your dog for short and frequent walks: That sounds too easy, doesn´t it? Walks can do a lot for a dog developing dementia, and if your dog is becoming senile, they do not need to be long walks. Just take her on a "sniffy walk" so that she can exercise her muscles, her nose, and her brain.
- Play new games and teach her new tricks to provide mental stimulation: No matter how well you have trained your dog, there are always new things for her to learn. There are plenty of books out there on training tricks, and when you find something she does not know, work on it. She will learn a little slower, so be patient.
- Provide a high-quality, balanced diet that includes a source of medium chain triglycerides: If your dog has been eating the same food over her lifetime, she may have developed a deficiency that is now severe enough to display clinical signs. Change her diet to a balanced raw or cooked homemade diet. Some research has shown that a diet that includes a MCT source (like coconut oil) also has some anti-inflammatory effects on the brain and may help a senile dog.
- Provide plenty of antioxidants in her diet: Some dietary changes are important in senile dogs and antioxidants work against free radicals so they may be effective in preventing or slowing the progression of senility. There is not a lot of evidence yet on what products may help, but it would be a good idea to try products like açai or blueberries (depending on where you live), acerola or other fresh sources of vitamin C, and a source of vitamin E.
- Make sure to supplement omega fatty acids: Omega fatty acids have anti-inflammatory effects and may decrease the symptoms of dementia. Your dog should be getting adequate omega-3 fatty acid supplements. Many companies sell fish oil produced from salmon, and that would be an excellent dietary supplement. There is also a type of jellyfish that may be effective but no one can guarantee it will work; you can find products like this or others that may or may not help at a local pet store.
- Do not move furniture or change her feeding routine: When your dog has been diagnosed with the condition, you should try to make things as easy for her as possible. Do not change her routine (like feeding time, walk time, etc.), and do not move the furniture around so that she will not become even more confused.
Conventional Treatment for Senile Changes in Your Dog
If exercise, mental stimulation, and dietary changes are not enough your dog might still have clinical signs of dementia. The next step is to take her to your regular vet and see what can be done.
There is a drug called Anipryl (selegiline) that may be effective in decreasing the symptoms in some dogs. It is not a cure and does not always work, but it has few known side effects (at least according to the manufacturer), so you may want to give it a try. If your dog has symptoms of senility and you both decide that she has CCD you will need to talk to find out more about this drug.
What Other Problems Can You Watch For?
Old dogs can have a lot of problems that may mimic dementia:
- Arthritis: If she has arthritis, she may be in a lot of pain and her reluctance to go to the door may be because of that pain.
- Kidney disease: Your dog may have "accidents" in the house even if she is house trained.
- Bladder disease: A weak sphincter may lead to a dog leaking urine in the house.
- Cataracts: If your dog is going blind because of cataracts or a retinal disease she may no longer be able to find her way outside, especially if you move the furniture.
If you notice changes that you think are related to dementia, it is a good idea to take your dog to see her veterinarian for a physical examination, urinalysis, and a complete blood profile checked. Rule out these other problems before deciding that your dog is senile.
Dog Dementia and Euthanasia
Dogs that are finally diagnosed with CCD can live up to two years, so there is no reason to put your dog to sleep just because she has become senile. The first thing you can do if you notice the changes associated with dementia is to start with the aforementioned steps at home. If these are not enough, be sure to put her on medication.
If your dog is constantly upset from being lost and cries excessively when she urinates in the house, she probably does not have a good quality of life. You have to consider what to do at that time. Do not take this step without a lot of thought.
There is a lot you can do at home, but eventually, you will want to see your vet. There is no specific test for senility so CCD can only be diagnosed by excluding other problems.
If you do decide that your dog has dementia, investigate all the alternative therapies. If your veterinarian is not willing to find an alternative therapy to help your senile dog and only wants to diagnose Anipryl, you need to find another vet.
Health Articles to Help Your Senior Dog . . .
- Dog Arthritis Symptoms
A dog may display symptoms of arthritis at any age. This article lists a few of the symptoms you need to watch for and discusses conventional and alternative therapies.
- How to Use Acupressure to Help Your Dog
Acupressure can be used in dogs to stimulate the muscles and treat some diseases. It can be done at home, unlike acupuncture, and this article will give you some directions on how to treat your dog.
Are you willing to try alternative therapies for your senile dog?
Landsberg, Gary. "Therapeutic Agents for the Treatment of Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome in Senior Dogs." Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry 29 (2005): 471-79. Animal Necessity.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
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© 2012 Dr Mark