How to care for a dog suffering from dementia
Dogs don’t only age physically. In fact, many of the biggest ailments they face in their advancing years are all mental. Doggy dementia can cause a host of behavioral changes including separation anxiety and disorientation.
From about the age of 11 onwards, the likelihood of your dog suffering from dementia shoots up, and experts estimate that more than half of dogs aged 15 or older are suffering from some form of cognitive decline.
The question is, what you can you do about it to make your dog’s life as easy and pleasant as possible?
The first thing is to know what to look out for. Dogs who are suffering from deteriorating mental faculties might display some of the following symptoms:
- Staring into space, or at walls
- Getting lost, or being disorientated
- Sleeping badly
- Displaying an inability to get off the couch, or awaken
- Walking around in circles
- Losing their way in the house
- General anxiety
What causes disorientation?
Disorientation is often down to the fact that your dog’s ears and eyes are getting worse. Take them to an eye and ear doctor to establish how bad it is in their case. If your dog isn’t able to hear you, or see you properly, they’re going to feel off kilter and perhaps even a little panicked. Consider enlisting the services of a trainer who specializes in hand gestures and signals, as this will allow you to communicate even if your dog is going deaf.
My dog is getting old and anxious
Anxiety is often a result of a dog waking up in a place they think is familiar, but feel is off, and this is directly caused by the dementia. Describe your dogs’ symptoms to a healthcare professional and enquire after drugs that might be useful. Medication can often alleviate symptoms.
Exercise is a good idea too. A long walk can do wonders and is a particularly effective stress-reliever.
My dog wants to sleep all the time
It’s tempting to leave an old dog alone, but that’s actually doing more harm than good. The more you can amp up their life and keep their brain engaged, the better. Introduce new games and toys into their life so that their brain is asked to fire, and so that those synapses are forced to make new connections. Keep exercising them, slowing the pace but keeping the walking distances intact.
Investigate their diet
There are amazing stories of simple changes in diet paving the way for a happier, more contented dogs, even in old age.
Give your dog foods with plenty of vitamins and very importantly, make omega 3 fatty acids a priority. Fish is always a good source of this, but to settle on the perfect meal, speak to your veterinary professional.
Give your dog a routine
This applies to dogs of any age, but especially the elderly. Establish a routine of A) when meal times are, B) when exercise takes place and C) when you and the family rise and go to bed. This will help your dog feel at ease even if their surroundings are chopping and changing on account of their dementia.
In the end, mental decline is a reality dogs of a certain age inevitably face. If they’re barking at nothing, walking in circles and acting oddly, there’s a pretty good chance they need expert attention. The good news is that vets are well trained to deal with these sorts of problems, and by applying the tips we’ve specified above, you can minimize the disruption it causes both you, your family and doggy in question.