Five subtle signs that can let you know that your older dog is suffering from dementia
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Five subtle signs that can let you know that your older dog is suffering from dementia

Dogs
Health & Safety

Dementia is a complex illness that is usually very distressing for the people suffering from it and the friends and family that love them, and it can be confusing, upsetting and very challenging to live with. However, knowing that a loved one has a diagnosis of dementia and understanding what this means for their life and how they manage it enables us to better understand what is going on, deal with problems, and make life easier for the person in question.

Whilst dementia doesn’t affect everyone in old age, it is a common effect of aging, and the chances of a person developing dementia increase exponentially as they age. Dogs can and do develop dementia in old age just as people can as well – and this can be even harder to identify than it can be in people, unless you know what you are looking for.

As your dog reaches maturity and old age, it is really important to ensure that they see the vet regularly to check that they’re healthy and well. You might want to schedule health checks every six months rather than every year (or even more often) and it is important to talk to your vet about any changes in your dog’s physical appearance, mood or behaviour – even if these changes seem subtle and minor to you.

Dementia in dogs naturally presents very differently to the ways it manifests in humans, but there are many commonalities too – and in this article we will share five of the most subtle signs of dementia in dogs that often appear before any others, and which can give you a head start on getting a diagnosis from your vet and determining the best way to support your dog as they age.

In this article we will share five subtle signs that can let you know that your older dog may be suffering from dementia. Read on to learn more.

Forgetting things that they know well

Dogs that are developing dementia will often forget things that they know and are very familiar with – such as the meaning of common commands that your dog has responded to all of their life, the sound of their name, or the meaning of common cues such as “walk” or “dinner.”

If your dog has always been responsive and obedient and seems to take longer to respond, seems confused, or executes the wrong command when you give them a cue, they might not be being wilfully disobedient – in older dogs, this can be a sign of dementia.

Another manifestation of dementia in dogs might be if your dog seems to forget the usual hiding place where they stash their toys, or where to find common things like their food bowls or lead.

Failing to recognise things they know

The idea that your dog might look at you one day and have no idea of who you are seems alien and of course, upsetting, but this can occur in dogs with dementia.

Dementia can cause dogs to forget or un-learn things from within their frame of reference, such as the people that they know and love, their friends in the dog park, or the route of their favourite walks. To further compound matters, this forgetfulness is not always consistent – and fugues of confusion may be interspersed with periods of full lucidity.

Inappropriate toileting

Once a dog is house trained they are highly unlikely to toilet in the house assuming that they’re given ample opportunities to go outside, so if your older dog suddenly seems to forget that they were ever house trained and starts toileting in odd places and at odd times, don’t be too quick to tell them off.

Inappropriate toileting in the older dog is always worth getting checked out by your vet – if could be canine dementia, but there may be a physical change causing the issue too, and you need to get to the bottom of things.

Spending more time asleep

As dogs get older, they will naturally become less active and spend more time asleep, and the older your dog gets, the keener they are apt to be on taking naps!

However, dogs with dementia tend to spend more time asleep and snoozing than other dogs of an equivalent age, so if your older dog seems keener to spend the afternoon on the sofa than to head out on their usual walk, dementia might be the cause.

Wandering off or walking around aimlessly

We’re all familiar with the concept of walking into a room to get something and forgetting what we went in there for as soon as we arrive, and this happens to all of us from time to time, regardless of age!

However, incidents like this happen much more commonly in dementia sufferers, and in dogs with dementia too.

If your dog seems to wander around the house aimlessly acting as if they have lost something or have forgotten something, or if they take to wandering off when they haven’t previously done so, this might indicate the onset of canine dementia.

Dogs with dementia might also get up in the night and wander or pace around in the wee hours too, which is something else to keep a look out for.

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