Dementia is a syndrome that results in the deterioration or loss of cognitive function, i.e. the ability to process thought. It is commonly mistaken as senility and brushed off, even though it is not a normal part of aging. According to the WHO, around 50 million people have dementia all across the globe.
Well, if you’re a dog lover you’re probably concerned about your fur bud as well especially if your dog can no longer remember the path of your regular walk, or if they don’t enjoy the things they used to do, like greeting you at the door or chasing their favorite ball. So, should you be worried that they are suffering from dementia? Can Dogs even Have Dementia in the first place?
Yes, dogs can get dementia, although that’s not what it’s called in veterinary medicine. Dementia in dogs is known as Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD). It is a cognitive disorder in dogs similar to the condition of Alzheimer’s in humans, and it is related to the aging of your dog’s brain.CCD can lead to changes in behavior and mainly affects your dog’s memory, comprehension, and learning skills. As aging is a vital process in every living being and cannot be reversed, this disorder, once diagnosed, cannot be cured.
This article covers the causes and symptoms of Canine Cognitive Disorder as well as how owners can help dogs who are dealing with the condition.
Is Dog Dementia or CCD Common?
Dementia in dogs or CCD is more common than you’d think. Studies measured the prevalence of CCD to be from 14 to over 60 percent among dogs over the age of eight. What’s more, the chances of your dog getting dementia increase with their age. The study confirmed that 20% of dogs from 11-12 years old had exhibited at least one symptom while 68% of the dogs belonging to the 15-16 years age group showed more than one symptom.
Although CCD is so frequently observed in dogs, most dog owners neglect this canine mental condition. They wrongly assume that it’s just their pooch growing old, when, in fact, their dog is exhibiting symptoms of CCD. Because of this, many cases of CCD are never diagnosed.
How Is Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD) Similar to Human Alzheimer’s?
CCD is similar to Alzheimer’s seen in humans in many aspects. Dogs with CCD and humans with Alzheimer’s both get “beta-amyloid plaques.” These are tissues that block the communication between neurons in the brain. Both of the conditions share many similar symptoms.However, cognitive dysfunction in dogs does not progress as much as Alzheimer’s does in humans because dogs have shorter lifespans than humans.
Symptoms of CCD
There are many symptoms of CCD, ranging from mild to severe, and they worsen as the disease progresses. These symptoms typically start showing when your dog is around the age of 9. Early detection is imperative so keep an eye out for any signs of cognitive decline.
The most common signs of canine dementia can be classified under the acronym: DISHA. It stands for:
Disorientation is one of the most easily recognizable symptoms of CCD. A dog with dementia may appear lost or confused even in familiar surroundings. You may also notice them staring at the floor, walls, or into space for no reason.
You may notice that your dog has lost interest in socially engaging with you and other people and pets. On the other hand, some might become clingier and stick to your all the time.
- Sleep routine alteration
This is one of the most uncomfortable aspects of dog dementia, especially for owners. Your dog may have trouble sleeping at night and may start roaming around while barking or whining, waking you and your family up in the middle of the night. Therefore, they proceed to sleep a lot more during the day.
- House soiling
Your dog may start forgetting what you taught them during housetraining, and it can get to the point where they forget that defecating and urinating indoors is not allowed. Similarly, they may forget other tricks you taught them and might stop responding to commands.
- Activity level alterations
If your dog suddenly doesn’t want to play as much as they used to, it could be a sign of CCD. They may lose interest in playtime, exercise, and other activities that they used to enjoy.
Some other symptoms of dementia include:
- Learning new tricks at a slower pace than usual
- Lack of self-grooming
- Failing to remember daily routines
- Anxiety and restlessness
- Loss of appetite
How Can Dogs Get Dementia?
The exact cause of dog dementia is still unknown. The disease is often caused by physical and chemical changes along with aging in your dog’s brain. But cognitive decline associated with aging is not the only condition that causes dementia in dogs. An animal may also be predisposed to dementia by genetic factors or other causes such as brain trauma.
How Can You Diagnose Dog Dementia?
If your dog shows one or more symptoms that have been mentioned above, it not certain that your dog is specifically suffering from dog dementia. They may also be suffering from other possible illnesses. Seek a professional’s help for the diagnosis of dementia in your dog. Your vet can conduct an appropriate test to rule out any other illness and make treatment plans accordingly. Even if dementia cannot be rooted away from your dog, early diagnosis will help them lead a better life.
How Can You Prevent Dog Dementia?
Since the exact cause of dog dementia is unknown, it is almost impossible to prevent dementia in dogs. However, you can still somewhat prevent dog dementia by keeping your dog physically and mentally active. Some of the things you can do are:
- Teach your dog new tricks regularly
- Play games together
- Feed them a balanced and whole food diet
- Eliminate exposure to toxins like mercury, arsenic, lead, toluene, and lithium.
- Allow them to have new experiences and regular socialization.
How Can You Cure Dog Dementia?
Presently, there is no known cure for dog dementia. The condition leads to deterioration of the brain physically and there is no simple corrective measure that can regenerate the damaged tissues in the brain. However, treatments to minimize the effects of this disorder include:
- Aniprylor selegiline can be given to slow the progression of canine cognitive dysfunction. Nicergoline, propentofylline, and adrafinil are some prescription medicines commonly used in Europe for canine cognitive dysfunctions. Adrafinil has demonstrated the greatest results among them.
- You might as well pet-proof your house, just like you would for a new puppy or toddler.
- Add supplements to your dog’s diet, but only under the guidance of a veterinarian.
- Encourage your dog for social interaction.
- Expose your dog to sunlight to help regulate the sleep-wake cycle.
- Establish feeding, walking, playing routine according to your dog’s comfort.
- Keep your commands short, sweet, and compassionate.
- Give your dog plenty of love and affection.
In conclusion, yes, dogs can get dementia. Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD) is, in fact, pretty common and can lead to the decline of your dog’s ability to think and remember. Dog dementia can’t be cured yet but it can still be treated. You can follow the above mentioned steps to make sure your dog can lead a comfortable life. Try helping your furry friend with all your will!
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