Critter Corner: Can Dogs Get Dementia?

Dear Baxter,

My Shih Tzu, Morty, is getting up there in age. I recently saw him exhibiting some rather odd behaviors. For instance, he spins in circles, performs repetitive behaviors, and often appears completely lost or disoriented in our own house. Sometimes I wonder if he has dementia. So, I thought I’d ask you: can dogs get dementia? If so, what are the symptoms, and what should I do?

Thanks for your help,
Doug E. Stisoriented

Dear Doug,

Thanks for your question. Yes, dog dementia is a real thing. It is commonly referred to as “Canine Cognitive Dysfunction.” According to dogdementia.com, these are some of the symptoms:

◾Getting lost in familiar places
◾Staring into space or walls
◾Walking into corners or other tight spaces and staying there
◾Appearing lost or confused
◾Failing to get out of the way when someone opens a door
◾Failing to remember routines, or starting them and gets only partway through
◾Barking for no apparent reason and/or for long periods
And more.

Unfortunately, similar to dementia in humans, there is no cure for age-related dog dementia, but a number of treatments appear to help slow the process somewhat, and to varying degrees. These can include prescription drugs, over-the-counter supplements, and specially-formulated foods.

If you suspect your dog has canine cognitive dysfunction, be sure to check with your veterinarian for his or her recommendations. Supplements can have side effects and interact with other prescription or over-the-counter drugs your dog takes, and some antioxidants have toxic levels.

Best wishes to Morty and your family!

Baxter

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