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5 Signs Of Dementia In Dogs & How You Can Help

As with humans, the condition — which impairs memory, communication, focus, and more — can also develop in our canine companions as they get older.

The best thing for an aging pup parent to do is to pay close attention to changes in behavior, routine, physical appearance, or appetite, no matter how minor it seems. A call to the vet regarding your dog’s health is never a bad idea.
Look out for the following behavioral shifts as they may be subtle signs of canine dementia.

1. Disorientation

If your pup can’t seem to “find” his way around the house or to the location of certain things — like his food and water bowls, which are always in the same spot — owners should definitely take notice.

They may also start to lose their concept of spatial awareness, finding themselves “stuck” in a corner or behind a piece of furniture without knowing how to get back out. Sometimes, dogs with dementia will stare blankly at a wall or into thin air.

2. Changes in Sleep-Wake Cycle

The brain of a dog with dementia may mix up her sleep-wake cycles. This means that a pup who used to sleep peacefully through the night is suddenly antsy, active, and unsettled.

3. Interactions

If your dog's interactions with people or reactions to certain things drastically change, you should definitely take notice. Oftentimes, pups with dementia seem to "forget" the relationships they once had with their favorite people, and pooches who once loved children, other dogs, or mingling with strangers suddenly turn fearful, irritable, or even aggressive.

They also may become disinterested in certain things that used to excite them, like the promise of a walk, the doorbell ringing, or your entrance through the door.

4. Accidents in the House

This is another tricky symptom because it could be caused by a number of things, but when a house trained pet suddenly starts having accidents, it should always be checked out.

It is important to never scold a trained pet who potties in the house, because there's a good chance that something is wrong.

This could be a sign of dementia as pups whose cognition is affected may lose the ability to control their bodily functions. Or, they may no longer think to "tell" their humans when they need to "go."

5. Lower Energy

This is yet another behavioral change that can have multiple causes such as arthritis or pain. It's normal for a dog's activity levels to decrease with age, but a more sudden lack of energy, especially accompanied by a lack of interest, could indicate cognitive issues.

Once-curious dogs may no longer care to sniff the grass outside, and they may prefer a nap over the play sessions that used to make their tails wag. Or, maybe they seem to completely lose focus or get disoriented, say, in the middle of a game of fetch.

How Can You Help a Dog with Dementia?

Unfortunately, dementia can't be "cured," but its effects can be slowed and its symptoms managed.

Believe it or not, changes in diet can help support your dog's cognitive function. Of course, dietary changes should be approved by your vet, but foods and supplements with omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants can help keep cells healthy.

Another thing that pet parents can do is introduce "brain games" for mental stimulation. Puzzle toys are a great way to keep your dog's mind active while rewarding him with treats.

Your vet may also be able to diagnose your pup and prescribe medications.

When we bring a dog home, it's a commitment for life, and it only seems natural to want to do everything in our power to make that pup healthy and happy at all times. With a little symptom management and a lot of love, you can help a dog with dementia feel comfortable and happy.
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