Dog Dementia – Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

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If you have a senior dog that’s acting a little unusual, you might just put it down to old age.  However, dog dementia, also known as Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, is more common than you might realise and becomes more prevalent as dogs age.

Dog dementia can be hard to diagnose as it is slow to develop and often subtle in the early stages.

Signs of dementia in dogs
  • Initially dogs may be caught staring into space or waking more at night. This will then progress to disorientation, which might include getting stuck in corners, behind or under furniture, or seemingly forgetting how to find their way in and out of the house.
  • Anxiety might start or worsen, they may bark at nothing or their social interactions may change. Many owners will also report that their older dog has started following them incessantly around the house.
  • Their sleep patterns can change and cause restlessness at night, some won’t sleep at all, or sleep all day then be up all night wanting attention.
  • They may also start soiling in the house because they’ve forgotten toilet training and may not respond to commands or perform tasks that they used to.
  • Aimless wandering and obsessive-compulsive behaviours like licking floors are also common, plus many other behavioural changes.
Treatment of dog dementia

Taking care of your dog’s cognitive function is vitally important at all ages with a complete and balanced diet, omega-3 supplements, exercise and mental stimulation.

While it is a progressive, degenerative disease, if you act early, there’s plenty you can do to help slow down the symptoms, so talk to your vet as soon as you notice any changes in your dog’s behaviour, no matter how subtle.

Treatment of dog dementia / canine cognitive dysfunction requires a holistic approach and the research is still ongoing. There are medications which can be prescribed, supplements, dietary changes as well as increased outdoor activity and plenty of mental stimulation in the form of training and puzzles.

It’s easy to allow your older dog to remain sedentary but it just creates a vicious cycle. Just as is the case with older humans, keeping active and healthy is vitally important in maintaining a youthful mind.  Joint pain due to osteoarthritis should therefore be treated as should any other health issues which might be holding your senior pooch back and causing them pain and discomfort.

Diet recommendations for dog dementia

To help delay the onset of dog dementia, you should feed a healthy, complete, whole food diet. The Big Dog Pet Foods Wellbeing patties are great for older dogs that are able to digest a raw food diet and are not immuno-compromised.

Remember to transition your dog across slowly to any new dietary changes, read more about that HERE.

Natural Supplements For Dog Dementia by Dr Edward Bassingthwaight, The Healing Vet
  • High-quality omegas-3s such as a sustainable fish oil or calamari oil.
  • Give plenty of vital antioxidants such as blueberries or a blueberry supplement.
  • A quality pet-prescribed CBD oil has shown some great results for dogs with cognitive decline. To discuss your needs and find a suitable one at a local vet contact: https://cbdvetsaustralia.com.au/
  • PEA (Palmitoylethanolamide) is another non-toxic, natural and highly effective medicine. You can buy it at health stores and use it alone or alongside CBD oil.

Many dogs also suffer silent pain, which can cause them to become lethargic, grumpy, anxious or other behaviours that may be confused or part of dementia.  Use gentle massage and natural medicines such as turmeric (golden paste) and green-lipped mussels to help with their pain, which can have a knock-on effect to reduce symptoms associated with dementia.

Other supplements that can help include:

  • SAMe (S-Adenosylmethionine)
  • Ginkgo biloba
  • Melatonin
  • Vitamins C, and E
  • B Vitamins
  • Gotu kola
  • Resveratrol
  • Valerian root

Read Dr Edward’s full article on the topic HERE:


Dr Melissa Meehan is a highly experienced and respected veterinary surgeon with over 14 years experience. Dr Melissa obtained her Members in Small Animal Medicine through examination in 2008 and now runs her own veterinary ophthalmology service.

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