Does Your Dog Have Dementia?

Understanding Canine DementiaDementia in dogs is common. Recently, my husband was testing the carbon monoxide detector in our home and the device emitted a jarring alarm. What happened next was quite surprising.Lyger came running toward the sound and climbed into my husband’s lap, trembling, visibly upset. See, this would be a normal reaction for most dogs, to be startled by a loud, strange sound. But Lyger has never been afraid of any noise.He regularly sits by my side and watches thunderstorms from the porch, or relaxes happily as we watch neighborhood fireworks. Our normally unfazed dog looked as though he’d just escaped a war zone. Both of us noted this as “not like him.” The look in his eyes stuck with me, and I realize now that it was the first sign of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD), otherwise known as dementia.Dogs, like people, can be expected to slow down as they age. (Most dogs are considered to be seniors over the age of 10, though that varies by breed and size.) But a number of senior dogs will develop amyloid protein deposits in their brains, just as Alzheimer’s sufferers do. The transition from “just slowing down” into dementia can be gradual, but pet parents should look for the following signs or symptoms of CCD.

Signs of Dementia in Dogs

Since the alarm incident, Lyger’s been urinating in the living room, regardless of how often he’s let out. I’d chalked it up to our closing the dog door with the colder weather, but I see now that he’s relieving himself even an hour after going outside. But I wasn’t certain about his mental state until last week, during a visit to some friends. My friend offered Lyger his favorite treat peanut butter, and he turned away, looking quite uneasy. That summed it up. He no longer felt comfortable in a place that had once been like a second home.

Helping Dogs with Dementia

When your dog is starting to slow down, take this as a reminder to slow down with him, even just a few minutes every day. Look for those moments when your dog is alert and attentive, and cherish the opportunity to give him an extra-long belly rub or scratch behind the ears. After all, this old soul is still the soul of the troublemaking puppy you once knew and shared many good years with.

When you take a little extra time to rub his face and stroke his fur, you’ll know this familiar kindness means even more to him now than it did before.