Canine dementia: Symptoms of canine dementia include vocalisation, inappropriate urination, reduced interaction, attention seeking, and apparent forgetfulness.
Other signs of brain ageing include loss of sleep/wake cycle (which can cause dogs to be unsettled), withdrawal, loss of memory, and loss of house-training. However, similar symptoms can be seen in dogs with liver or kidney disease, or hormonal disorders.
You should also get the vet to check your dog's ears and make sure they aren't blocked with wax or infected, causing her loss of hearing. If the ears are clear then the hearing loss is likely to be age related and irreversible.
Spotting the signs of canine senility
- Confusion - staring into space for long periods and appearing anxious, even in familiar surroundings.
- Changes in sleeping patterns - wandering around in the night and barking for no apparent reason.
- Toilet training habits down the pan - soiling in the house and lack of attention to personal grooming.
- Disinterest in exercise and affection - rejecting offers to walk and play.
- Forgetfulness - at mealtimes and in behaviour around the house.
Any of these signs could indicate a problem. So don't delay, make an appointment with your vet.
We would recommend a thorough check-up at your vet's, including blood tests to check on liver and kidney function if you think that your dog is showing signs of canine dementia. If all of these are clear your vet could prescribe a drug called Vivitonin, which improves blood flow to the muscles, organs, and the brain and can really improve the mental functions of older dogs.
There are also foods designed to help with brain ageing and some herbal medicines can be useful too; see a holistic vet if you are interested in herbal options.
Tips for owners of dogs with dementia
If your dog has been diagnosed with senility, how can you help make life easier for him? Dogs Trust has the following tips:
- Make it clear to your dog where he eats - and don't make changes.
- Stick to routines when preparing food or going out, using verbal cues, so that it is clear to your dog what is going on.
- A dog suffering from senility needs a lot of social and physical contact, especially at night time - he may need stroking and comforting to calm his anxiety and to settle him to sleep.
- Your dog may forget where his water bowl is, so place more around the house. Lead your dog to his water after he has eaten and then to the garden to toilet.
- A comfy bed becomes even more important - choose one that is also easy to get in and out of.
- Keep dogs with vision and/or hearing difficulties on a lead while out on walks and under constant supervision when in the garden.
Having a dog who suffers from senility can be upsetting and frustrating. Remember that he can't help it, be forgiving, and do not punish him or tell him off for any unwanted behaviours.