Dog dementia is on the rise

dog dementia

Dog dementia, also known as canine cognitive dysfunction, is being diagnosed more frequently because dogs are living longer than ten years ago.  It’s important to be able to identify the signs and symptoms of dog dementia in order to slow the progression of the disease. [Tweet “Identify the signs and symptoms of dog dementia in order to slow the progression of the disease.”]

In one study, 28% of owners of 11- to 12-year-old dogs and 68% of owners of 15- to 16-year-old dogs reported that their dog exhibited at least one of the signs below.

Signs of dog dementia:

  • Sleep-wake cycle changes:  Dogs with canine cognitive dysfunction will show a change in their sleeping schedule.  They will sleep more during the day and be awake more at night-time
  • Disorientation:  Dogs with dementia may not recognize family members, may go to the wrong side of the door, become stuck in a corner or stare off into space.
  • House soiling:  Dogs with canine cognitive dysfunction may stop signaling that they need to go outside or start having accidents in the house.
  • Human interactions:  Dogs with dementia can exhibit a change in their normal interaction with humans.  Some dogs become clingy while others want to be left alone.
  • Anxiety:  Dogs with canine cognitive dysfunction may develop new fears or phobias, vocalize more than normal and become more dependent on their human family.
  • Activity level:  Initially, dogs with dementia will show a decrease in activity level and willingness to play.  However, as signs progress dogs become more agitated and have a difficult time settling down and may wander aimlessly.  Some dogs will also develop repetitive behaviors such as excessive licking.
  • Learning and memory:  Dogs with canine cognitive dysfunction will start to have a decline in learning and memory before many of these other symptoms arise.  Dogs with dementia cannot adapt as quickly to changes made in the home or their schedule.

Treatment for dog dementia:

  • Selegiline (Anyprl) is the only FDA approved drug for the treatment of canine cognitive dysfunction. 
  • Hill’s Prescription b/d has been clinically tested to support memory and learning ability in older dogs.  It also contains antioxidants to help protect brain cells and support a healthy immune system.
  • Many dietary supplements are available, but so far none have been proven inefficient.  Ask your veterinarian for a recommendation.

If your pet is exhibiting one or more of these symptoms talk with your veterinarian as soon as possible.  Just like in humans with Alzheimer’s, treatment initiated early will be more effective at slowing the signs of the disease.  There is currently no treatment available that will reverse the signs of dog dementia. 


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