When To Put Down A Dog With Dementia

Just like in humans, our dog’s health can begin to decline as they age. Not only can they develop complications in their overall health, but they can begin to experience cognitive decline as well.

Canine dementia is fairly common in our older canine friends, leaving many pet parents with questions on when it may be time to say goodbye.

So when should you put down a dog with dementia? It all comes down to quality of life and what you believe is in the best interest of your dog.

In this article we will discuss the details of canine cognitive dysfunction, and help you better recognize when your pup may be struggling in their condition.

When To Put Down A Dog With Dementia

Can Old Dogs Have Dementia?

Our senior canine friends can develop a cognitive condition similar to dementia in humans. Canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CCD), or dog dementia, is a decline in mental function leading to altered behavior, confusion, change in personality, and other forms of mental decline.

Due to the familiar symptoms present with CCD, this condition is commonly compared to Alzheimer’s or dementia in humans.

Dementia in old dogs may also be called sundowner syndrome, though this mainly refers to a dog experiencing disorientation and confusion at night.

Is Dog Dementia The Same As Alzheimer’s?

Though dog dementia is an entirely different condition than Alzheimer’s in humans, it makes perfect sense as to why the two are compared so often.

Dog dementia involves the aging of the canine brain, and all the cognitive decline that comes along with that reality.

CCD in dogs affects a dog’s memory and comprehension once the condition sets in, often worsening as time goes on.

Dog dementia and Alzheimer’s have many traits in common, so comparing the two can often help owners understand the cognitive decline their dog is undergoing.

One of the main differences between dog dementia and Alzheimer’s is the fact that CCD is expected to be seen in 60-70% of dogs (source) as they reach their senior years, while Alzheimer’s is seen in about 11% of the elderly population.

This may mean that dog dementia is often just a result of the normal aging process in a dog’s brain, and may not have as much to do with lifestyle factors or predispositions.

It’s important to note that while canine cognitive dysfunction is thought to be due to standard aging, other factors can put a dog more at risk.

Brain conditions like tumors or previous head trauma can eventually lead to dementia in dogs, as well as some genetic factors.

Signs Of Dementia In Dogs

If you have a senior dog in your life, it’s important to be aware of the signs of cognitive dysfunction in our canine friends.

Keeping an eye out for the potential symptoms can allow you to offer your pup help when it’s needed, as well as be aware of when it may be time to say goodbye.

Some of the most common signs of dog dementia include:

  • Not wanting to play as often
  • Forgetting normal routines
  • Disorientation or confusion
  • Forgetting tricks or commands they once knew
  • Wandering aimlessly
  • Decreased interest in social interaction and activities
  • Zoning out or appearing to be blankly staring
  • Changes in their sleep cycles
  • Changes in appetite
  • Increased anxiety or anxious behavior
  • Anxiety at night, such as panting and pacing at night
  • Challenges learning new tricks
  • Abnormal vocalizations
  • Accidents around your home, or inappropriate urination/defecation in general

If your senior dog is experiencing any of the above behaviors, it may be time to speak with your veterinarian about the potential for dog dementia.

Can You Treat Dementia In Dogs?

There is no set treatment option for dementia in dogs, but there are a few management options that may offer a dog longevity in their condition.

Ranging from nutritional supplements to changes in their daily routine, there are a few ways to potentially improve a dog’s life with CCD.

Give Additional Supplements

Some experts believe that certain nutritional supplements can delay changes within the brain, as well as improve cognitive function in some dogs with CCD.

Supplements including omega fatty acids, beneficial antioxidants, and medium chain triglycerides may be discussed when a dog is beginning to show signs of dementia.

Mental Exercises

Many believe that keeping a dog mentally fit can help them maintain as much awareness as possible as they develop canine cognitive dysfunction.

This can mean keeping up with tricks and commands they still remember, giving them mentally stimulating toys, socializing them as much as possible, and introducing them to new experiences.

Prescribed Medications

There is currently only one medication that has been approved for managing CCD in dogs. Anipryl for dogs is used to control the symptoms of CCD in dogs, as well as potentially slow the progression of the condition. This can only be obtained through a prescription from your veterinarian.

When To Put Down A Dog With Dementia

If your dog is beginning to struggle with the effects of dog dementia, you may be wondering how to know when it’s time to say goodbye.

Every situation will vary, but there are a few common signs of a dog suffering in their mental decline.

It may be time to discuss quality of life with your veterinarian if your dog with dementia is experiencing any of the following symptoms:

  • Confusion or disorientation that impacts their lives daily
  • Often appearing lost in their normal environment
  • Significant decrease in appetite
  • Changes in behavior such as aggression, severe depression, and any other abrupt changes
  • Frequent abnormal vocalizations
  • Signs of distress such as circling, staring at walls, appearing restless, pacing, etc.

If your dog with dementia is experiencing any of the above behaviors, or any other changes that are deeply concerning, it may be time to discuss the possibility of saying goodbye to your furry friend.

Dementia in dogs is a troubling condition that can disrupt a dog’s life. Only you will know when it’s time to put your dog down based on their pain or suffering.

There are 2 comments:

  • Leslie Carney at 3:34 pm

    Our Lucy is a 16 year old Dachshund. She has had old dog disease in the past with pacing, head tilting and going around in circles which was difficult. Over the last several years she has had more periods of disorientation, confusion, vocalization, pacing, anxiety, wanting to eat all the time which seems to be dementia. I can’t hardly go anywhere because she is attached to me and has anxiety separation. She will sometimes not sleep at night and wants to pace around the house and sometimes has potty accidents. She has really been bad this week since I left her alone on Saturday for most of the day. It has been very stressful seeing her suffer so much. I have been wanting to put her to sleep and I really feel guilty about it. My husband and son want to wait and don’t feel it is time but I am the main caregiver and I am at the end of my rope. I have been to the After Hours Clinic in North Little Rock, Ar and they are great. I mainly just wanted to verbalize my feelings and ask whether taking her to the After Hours Clinic would be better than her regular vet if I decide to put her down.

    • Amber at 6:54 am

      Leslie, thank you for sharing your story as it can help others who may be struggling with the same issues with their dog’s dementia. Putting our pets down can and will often be the hardest thing we can do. Of the hundreds of messages we receive, the number one thing people always mention is the struggle of when to euthanize. If your 16 year old Dachshund isn’t in pain and still has ‘quality of life’ then you can always wait. Only you will be able to make that decision since you are the main care giver. Regarding After Hours Clinics vs your regular vet, if it was me I would go to my regular vet as they will have a history with my canine friend. There are also options of euthanizing at home. Your regular vet might offer that service, where they can come to your home to provide that service.

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