While we tend to associate dementia with elderly people, dogs can also get dementia in their later years. Sadly, just like people, it can be distressing to watch and often deteriorates over time. However, proactive management of the condition can help slow the progression, and we can help you provide support and care for your dog in the final stages of his life.

What age do dogs get dementia?

Dementia is a disease of old age; however, dogs’ life spans vary according to size and breed. A small dog can easily live into its late teens, so you wouldn’t expect to see symptoms until around 15. With its shorter life cycle, a giant breed could start to show signs as early as 5 to 6 years old.

How do dogs get dementia?

Dogs get dementia in the same way that humans get Alzheimer’s. In medical terms, this means that accumulations of sticky proteins called beta-amyloid plaques around neurons and the breakdown of neurons resulting in so-called neurofibrillary tangles lead to confusion, forgetfulness, and disorientation. Why certain people and dogs get dementia is not fully known, though there does seem to be some genetic predisposition towards the disease. In humans, we know that keeping the body and brain fit and active can help to reduce the likelihood of it developing, and in dogs, the same is seen to have an effect.

Why do dogs get dementia?

As our understanding of dementia in humans increases, we will learn more about why people and dogs get dementia. It is not something we do that causes it; however, keeping your dog fit and healthy will always benefit its general health and well-being.

What causes dog dementia?

It is caused by changes in the brain, which affect the areas responsible for learning, memory, and coordination. It can be distressing for both the dog and its owners. However, your vet can help you with a proactive treatment plan, which will help you manage your dog’s environment, making it easier for him and you.

What are the signs of dementia in a dog?

As dementia is a gradual onset condition, you may not notice the first few signs. Forgetfulness is one of the critical points. Your dog may need to remember to eat, forget that he is house-trained, or forget a well-established piece of training. He may become disoriented and wander around looking confused. Dogs with dementia can suffer from dysthymia, which is when they lose understanding of the size and shape of their body. So you may find your dog stuck behind furniture. Your dog’s social interactions may change, as they cannot read other dog’s social cues. Their personality might alter. Similar to humans, dogs can suffer from “sundowner” syndrome, which is when symptoms are exacerbated in the early evening. You know your dog; you will see changes if they occur, especially once there are a few changes, or they become more frequent.

How is canine dementia diagnosed?

As there is no specific test for dementia, it is diagnosed by ruling out alternatives. The initial presentation can be similar to other degenerative diseases. Your veterinarian may also recommend advanced imaging like an MRI or CT scan. They will take a detailed history and clinical examination before diagnosing.

Can dementia be treated?

There is no magic cure for dementia. However, a proactive treatment plan can reduce the speed of deterioration. Your vet will help create a plan for you and your dog to help maintain a good quality of life, reduce distress, and help you manage the symptoms. Much of this is managing the environment and your dog’s schedule. Predictability is your friend, as this will help your dog. Frequent toilet opportunities, daily exercise, and sunlight outings are beneficial.

Can dog dementia be prevented?

We can’t entirely prevent dog dementia from occurring, but we can give our dogs a healthy and engaged lifestyle that can reduce the likelihood of dementia developing. This includes teaching your dog new tricks or playing games with him and regular walks. Feeding him good quality food and reducing exposure to toxins and stress benefit a healthy lifestyle.

Are there certain breeds that are more prone to dementia?

No specific breeds are more prone to dementia; however, smaller dogs are more likely to develop the disease. This may be because smaller dogs live longer, giving the disease a better chance to grow.

How long do dogs live with dementia?

While some dogs can live for many years with dementia, in general, dogs will live for around 2 years after the onset of dementia. Often, owners take the difficult decision to euthanise their dog, as advanced dementia can be highly distressing to the dog and their family. Managing the canine dementia proactively can help to slow the progression of the disease, which can extend the dog’s life. As with people, dogs are all very different, and the disease may progress at different speeds. All you can do is manage the symptoms and provide your dog with a loving, stable, and secure environment.

Northwest Referrals Can Provide Care for Your Older Dog

At Northwest Referrals, we hold animals at the heart of everything we do. We understand that receiving a dementia diagnosis for your much-loved pet can be devastating, but we are here to help you manage the symptoms. We can provide support and advice for you with a canine dementia treatment management plan to help you and your dog cope with the symptoms of dementia. Our team at NW Referrals are experienced, knowledgeable and compassionate, and they are here to help you throughout your dog’s lifetime. If you are concerned about your dog, we are here. Simply call our team today on 01942 242001

Read the related article: Common Symptoms of Brain Tumours in Dogs