Dementia is a disease common in older humans, but did you know that dogs can have some of the same problems as they age? Canine cognitive dysfunction can be one of the hardest issues for a pet parent to adjust to as it often affects a dogs life in a negative way changing their overall behavior.  Here is a list of symptoms to look out for in your aging dog that could be representative of cognitive dysfunction:

•    Gradual loss of house training
•    Confusion
•    Vocalizing/wandering/pacing behavior
•    Decreased desire to play
•    Lack of self-grooming
•    Changes in sleep cycle
•    Inability to follow familiar routes

A veterinarian can properly diagnose your dog with cognitive dysfunction; it is important to have this condition diagnosed properly because the symptoms described above can also be signs of other medical problems such as cancer, infection, organ failure or drug side effects. If the above symptoms are being caused by one of these conditions, you won't want a false diagnosis of cognitive dysfunction.

The aging canine brain undergoes several changes that may contribute to cognitive problems.  The disease cannot always be prevented because aging is simply part of life, however, it is known that the chances of cognitive dysfunction developing are decreased when a dog’s life is stimulating.  This means you will want to keep your dog healthy, active and happy which could significantly decrease his chances for developing brain problems.  There is definite hope for dogs that have already been diagnosed with canine cognitive dysfunctoin as well.  You can lessen the progression of the disease by keeping his brain as stimulated as much as possible, and his body healthy.

There are several things you can do to help accommodate a dog that is experiencing cognitive dysfunction such as:

•    Develop a daily routine and stick to it.
•    Avoid making big changes to the living environment such as moving furniture and food dishes etc.
•    Provide time for exercise, but know his limits.
•    Spend lots of time strengthening the bond between you and your dog, face time is best.
•    Go slowly no matter what it is you and he are doing. If it becomes obvious to you that he is getting frustrated or confused, stop right away and rest.

Canine cognitive dysfunction cannot be cured, but there are medications available for dogs that have been found to dramatically improve symptoms and quality of life.  This is why it is important to seek veterinary attention for behavior changes in elderly dogs so the proper treatment can be administered. It has also been found that vitamins and supplements, such as omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants have been found to improve cognitive function in dogs. As your dog ages you will also want to begin using a dietary supplement specifically designed for aging pets such as Aging Support for Senior Dogs.

Keep in mind that aging is part of life, something all living creatures will experience. Canine cognitive dysfunction is not easy to deal with and can be very saddening, however accepting and understanding the disease will definitely benefit you and your dog.


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