Dog dementia | prevention and treatment

Author picture Jessica

Do dogs get dementia?

Just like us humans, older dogs can suffer from age-related diseases such as dog dementia. Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD), or dog dementia, was only recognised in dogs relatively recently and has since been widely researched.  

senior golden retriever

Although the condition is not reversible, we now have a better understanding of how to prevent, diagnose and treat the symptoms of CCD in dogs. As such, it’s important for dog owners to learn about this disease and seek advice if they spot any early signs of dementia. A diagnosis of CCD does not mean it’s the end of your dog’s life! A dog with CCD can live a longer, happier and more relaxed life with some environmental, dietary and lifestyle changes. The key is to work closely with your vet as early as possible and prioritise your dog’s quality of life in all decisions. Here’s everything you need to know about CCD. 

Why do dogs get dementia?

Dogs, much like humans, are living longer than ever before. Amazing advances in technology and veterinary medicine have had a big impact on the lifespan of pets. Consequently, dogs that live longer than 14 or so could be at increased risk of CCD, though this can vary between breeds.

senior dog on leash

What are the signs to look out for?

The signs of dog dementia are not unlike many of the symptoms you may expect in an older human. The Dog Dementia website has an excellent guide to diagnosing CCD. Importantly, the site encourages dog owners to go straight to the vet if a dog displays any unusual symptoms. This is because there may be something else going on that can be treated with medical intervention. 

Signs include:

  • Physical confusion - such as getting stuck behind furniture or expecting the wrong side of a door to open
  • Barking excessively or unprovoked aggression
  • Changes in appetite
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Pacing, circling or general confusion
  • Going to the toilet inside

senior dog in the sun

How to treat dog dementia

Although there is no cure, there are some incredible gains being made in research for CCD. Stem cell research may lead to a breakthrough for both dog AND human dementia, which is something to be hopeful about!

In the meantime, your vet will be able to help you make changes to help your dog. These may include supplements, medications, diet or environmental changes to make your home safer and more predictable for your dog. Likewise, gentle exercise in the sunlight can help to calm your dog and regulate its sleep rhythm.

Some vets may have more experience than others with dog dementia or may refer you to a holistic vet for extra advice. It’s important to have an honest conversation with your vet, especially moving forward and making decisions for your dog’s quality of life.

How to prevent dog dementia

There are plenty of actions you can take over your dog’s lifespan to prevent the early onset of doggy dementia. For example, research has shown that mental and physical stimulation through games, training and daily walks helps keep your dog’s brain healthy throughout the lifespan. As always, keeping your dog’s weight in check and feeding them a well-balanced diet will always pay off in long-term health. And lastly, be sure to take your dog for regular check-ups at the vet in their senior years.