Your dog might be experiencing a number of issues, but the most likely explanation is that he or she has dementia, a condition which affects 68% of dogs by the age of 16. You can help your pet continue to have a good quality of life, but there are some things you can do to help. You can’t cure dementia, but you may need to consider when to euthanize a dog who has it someday.
When weighing whether to euthanize a grey-muzzled dog, you may be weighed down by the knowledge that your dog is approaching the end-stages of dementia. Veterinarian Dr. Julie Buzby has asked Dr. Dawnetta Woodruff to blog about this. Dr. Woodruff, an integrative vet, will provide you with some level of comfort and understanding as she discusses this difficult choice.
Senior dogs that appear disoriented, restless, and out of breath, or seem to regard their owners as strangers, may be suffering from cognitive decline. What might be the problem, and how do you address it?
A variety of issues may be to blame for your dog’s issues. At any time, approximately 68% of dogs have dementia. You can assist your dog maintain a nice quality of life, even if it cannot be cured. When the time arrives to euthanize a dog with dementia, you must consider whether to do so.
What are the symptoms of canine dementia?
Canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD) is a chronic condition that is both challenging to manage and has few therapeutic options. The brain of a dog with CCD appears similarly to the brain of an Alzheimer’s patient when examined under a microscope. Cognitive impairment is a common symptom of both Alzheimer’s and canine Alzheimer’s. Although there is no cure at present, many advances have been made in both Alzheimer’s and canine Alzheimer’s medicine.
The earlier the veterinarian and dog owner begin treatment, the better the dog will respond. However, in order to begin treatment early, a dog must be diagnosed early. There is no blood test or other laboratory work that can provide an official ‘yes or no.’ Your veterinarian will diagnose CCD based on your dog’s symptoms.
Symptoms of dementia are listed below.
Your veterinarian should be consulted if your dog appears to be showing any of the following signs of dementia:
The manner in which things interact is changed.
People having trouble sleeping.
Choosing where to poop.
Please read my article that discusses dog dementia signs in depth for a more comprehensive understanding.
You can use a canine cognitive dysfunction checklist to help guide a conversation with your dog’s veterinarian next time you visit.
What can you do to assist a dog with dementia?
Having a dog with dementia can be difficult. Your veterinarian may be able to slow the progression of the disease or reduce its symptoms if you maintain a regular feeding, sleep, and play schedule for your dog. You can keep things as routine as possible for your dog. A regular meal time, a regular sleep period, and a regular play time can be reliable anchors within your dog’s unpredictable day.
Rotating a dog’s toy box, adding puzzle toys, and going for longer walks or stroller rides (or any other type of mental stimulation) may help your dog feel more like himself or herself. According to a study conducted at the University of Washington, dogs who did not exercise were 6.47 times more likely to develop CCD than those who exercised regularly. It appears that regular exercise may improve canine cognitive function!
It can also be grounding for your dog to spend a few minutes each day reviewing familiar commands. Reinforcing well-known behaviours like sit and stay can boost healthy brain function. In addition, it may also help your dog remember other things! Training sessions may also help strengthen your bond with your dog, which is especially critical with cognitive decline.
More treatment options are available.
Your veterinarian may also recommend a variety of supplements, foods, or drugs to help boost canine brain health. Senilife® and other supplements without a prescription are offered. They may help reduce the signs of cognitive decline that are often seen in older dogs. Prescription diets for brain ageing care are available from Hill’s® Prescription Diet® b/d Canine. They include Purina® Neuro Care and Purina® Bright Minds, which are both available without a prescription as well as Purina® Neuro Care, which is available over the counter.
Prescription medications may be required as the disease progresses to help with some of the more difficult symptoms.
What is the pattern of CCD development?
Subtle changes are often the first signs of a dog’s quality of life (QOL) being significantly reduced. However, as the symptoms worsen, their QOL can be greatly diminished. For example:
Your dog’s quality of life worsens, and you are constantly worried and running on an empty tank. Your stress level is high. You don’t feel like you have the energy or patience to give your dog the love and care he needs, nor do you feel that you have the energy or patience to provide for him. As dementia progresses, the connection you share with your dog may deteriorate…and that is the last thing you want to happen.
How can you recognise when it is time to put down your dog who has dementia?
The most significant objective at the end of a dog’s life should be to preserve the human-animal bond. Dogs love their human family more than anything else in their lives! When dogs are no longer able to recognise their loved ones, or when the bond has been disrupted due to mutual stress, anxiety, and lack of sleep, it is time to release them from their sufferings. Whenever the strong connection between human and dog is broken, there is no more quality of life. At that point, putting down a dog might be the most compassionate choice.
It’s hard to consider euthanasia for your canine family member. At the same time, it’s equally as tough to witness him or her struggle through each day, confused, anxious, and exhausted. Caring for any dog at the end of his or her life is difficult. Perhaps caring for a dog with dementia is the most heart-wrenching.
Due to time and resource constraints, you want to be able to provide your dog with everything he or she requires, but your presence no longer provides the comfort it once did. Your dog no longer recognises you, and therefore no longer benefits from your presence as he or she once did.
It is very common for caregivers to feel isolated, lonely, and guilty in response to a very stressful situation. However, this often leads to giving up sleep, cleaning up after your dog numerous times per day, washing him or her often, and having your beloved senior dog lash out at you in frustration and fear. You may feel overwhelmed and exhausted as a result of having to deal with your dog often, sleeping little, and having him or her lash out at you in frustration and fear.
It can be challenging for the most loving and devoted person to provide an abundance of patience, love, and nursing care for your precious old dog.
It is a noble and selfless act to choose euthanasia.
It is often thought of as a self-centered choice when considering euthanasia. “I don’t want to euthanize her because she’s difficult to care for!” I hear that frequently from pet owners who are distressed. I always hear those words coming from a relative who dearly loves their dog and is making a heart-wrenching choice to end his suffering, which is the exact opposite of selfless.
Choosing euthanasia is not an easy choice, even if your dog has grown to be difficult to care for. Rather, you understand that your dog’s life has become so difficult that he or she no longer enjoys it. You don’t want your dog to suffer any more. So, you’re deciding to offer your dear friend an escape from his or her mental and physical anguish. You’re prioritising your dog’s quality of life above all else, and, while it’s hard, that is a kind and thoughtful decision.
There are resources for handling your dog’s death.
These articles may also help you come to terms with the heartbreaking choice of when to put down your ageing dog.
What made you aware that it was time to put down your dog with Alzheimer’s?
Please share your experiences in order to honour your dog’s legacy and assist other dog parents in dealing with this difficult choice.