Your beloved four-legged friend will be a day older and sometimes behaves very strange. He reminds you suspiciously of your grandmother with Alzheimer’s. Can dogs become demented and how do you notice that?
And can you, as a boss, prevent him from recognizing you or walking past the house where he has been living for ten years? An article with tips about what you can do as owner and what the veterinarian can mean for the demented dog.
Just like people, dogs are getting older. Diseases are detected more quickly and are usually treated more adequately, the diet is better than previously tailored to the needs of the dog and people also financially more about their animals. But also with the dog old age comes with defects. Many dogs run a bit stiff in their old days and are less able to get up. The eyes also often deteriorate; sometimes organs like the kidneys and the heart function less well. All sorts of ailments that can be determined by the veterinarian and sometimes can be mitigated. Less well known is that the brain can also show age defects, resulting in dementia-like symptoms.
The symptoms of the dementing dog.
Much research is being done into brain aging in humans. In the aging Western population, diseases such as Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are becoming more frequent. Unfortunately, these diseases can only be established with certainty after death: microscopic examination of the brain shows all kinds of changes. For example, Alzheimer’s patients have an excess of so-called senile plaques in their brains, accumulations of the protein
Older dogs can also have these plaques and receive similar symptoms as demented people. Research has shown that 50 – 70% of dogs aged 8 years and older show one of the following behavioral changes: a reduced orientation capacity, a different sleeping pattern, uncleanness, changing social interactions and activities or separation anxiety.
What exactly do these changes mean ?
Reduced orientation: the dog does not know where he is anymore, often walks astray in his own home and suddenly no longer understands which way the door opens. It is possible that the dog passes the house where he has been living for years. He also sees them fly literally and figuratively: he snaps at insects that are not there at all.
Some dogs start to bark against the moon or want to catch shadows. Finally there are the serious cases where the dementing dog gets stuck in a corner of the room and can not get out of it: he keeps pushing his head in the corner. Other compulsive actions can also be caused by brain aging.
Change of the sleep pattern: a reversal of the daily and night rhythm is often seen: at night the dog is haunting (polar bears, groans, whines and / or barks), while sleeping much more during the day.
Uncleanliness: this has many medical causes, including dementia. In the latter case, the dog has, as it were, forgotten his potty training. The dog can suddenly go peeing or pooping in the house.
Altered social interactions and activities : the dementing dog behaves differently, both to people and to peers. A part of the dog will withdraw more and the owner and other dogs, for example, hardly ever greet. Some dogs do not recognize the owner either. Other dogs become much more affectionate, demanding much more attention than before. Often the dogs have much less interest in play and they can bite away a bit earlier if something does not please them. Other dogs, on the other hand, are hyperactive: they seem to be completely uninhibited. That way they can injure themselves: they sometimes bite or lick themselves to bleeding. Severely demented dogs seem disobedient: they have previously forgotten learned commands. Finally, many dogs are less interested in eating.
Depression anxiety: dogs that previously could only stay home for some time can no longer do this. They whine or bark (the neighbors complain at once), destroy things or are unclean during the absence of the owner. In the dementing dog, the brain has undergone such changes that anxiety and panic can arise more quickly. Depression anxiety is one of the manifestations.
For all the behavioral deviations described, they obviously do not have a serious presence from one day to the next: the behavior is gradually getting worse. We also see more behavioral changes with the passing of the years.
It is also important to know whether the behaviors have not been inadvertently taught by the environment. For example, people find the previously described flying bites and shadow hunts often very funny: the positive attention that the dog gets, makes that he will do it more often. As a result, it can eventually even occur compulsively. A recognized behavioral therapist for dogs (search at link under Alpha) can distinguish dementia from other behavioral abnormalities and further guide the owner with his dog.
Exclude other causes.
Many people do not go to their vet with these complaints. They think it’s part of it, when having an old dog. Yet that is a shame. After all, the vet is the appropriate person to trace any physical causes for the deviant behavior.
For example, the unclean dog, many dogs in the old age lose control of the sphincter muscles of their bladder with urine loss as a result. With medication this is usually easy to correct.
Even less well functioning eyes and ears could explain some of the behavior. A dog who becomes blind and / or deaf is often uncertain and can be disoriented and sometimes aggressive. Sick and aggressive behavior can also be caused by pain: this is much more than is thought. Good clinical research and analgesic medicines can often offer a solution. A heart defect can also make the dog less enthusiastic than it used to be. Finally, a blood test may be necessary to, for example, rule out a deviation of the thyroid, liver and kidneys as a cause for the complaints. If no other physical reason is found for the behavioral abnormalities, then brain changes due to age are most likely.
The dog then suffers from Cognitive Dysfunction. This means that the ability to remember and learn has diminished. The vet can also help now. With the help of medication and special food, the brain aging can be slowed down by the demented dog.