Canine Dementia in Your Aging Dog, or Canine Cognitive Dysfunction
Canine dementia in your aging dog and successful adoptions for older dogs are both rapidly trending in the United States. We have seen an increase in information about the elderly dogs in general and those with canine cognitive dysfunction. When we started WayCoolDogs in 2009, one of our first articles was on Cognitive Dysfunction of the Old Dog. At that time, the older dogs were not adopted like they are today.
A lot of people shudder when they think of losing their elderly canine pet or needing to medicate them in their later years due to declining health and canine dementia. But as time has passed, we have learned that dementia in elderly dogs is part of their natural aging process. And we have learned that older dogs still have lots of love left to give, demonstrated through high adoption numbers for the elderly dog.
An elderly dog’s abnormal behavior is referred to as “canine cognitive dysfunction” or more simply put—”canine dementia”, “old dog syndrome”, “dog senility” or “dementia in elderly dogs.” Canine dementia is becoming more prevalent. Our animals are living longer due to better nutrition, improved veterinarian care and advancements in the studies of veterinary health and medicine.
Signs & symptoms of canine dementia
The age of elderly dogs and cats is around seven when canine dementia and cat dementia sets in. However, the larger dogs tend to enter it around six, depending on its health. Extensive research on the old dog and problems it is facing are new compared to what it was ten years ago.
One example is contradictory changes — an elderly dog with canine dementia may have hearing loss, yet appear to be sensitive to sounds it does not recognize.
- Differences in the elderly dog’s sleep cycles
- Confusion and agitation
- Reduced interaction with their owner and family
- Slower response to usual commands
- Inability to self-hygiene and groom/coat looks rough and unkept
- Complete disorientation within indoor and outdoor settings
- Lack of control in soiling; inability to hold bowels and kidneys very long
- A growing aggressive and protective behavior
- Increase in anxiety and stress
- Abnormal reaction to unfamiliar sounds
- Increase in vocalization
- Growing irritability
- Intensification in wandering
- Repetitive activity
- Getting lost in familiar places
Age-related mental decline in dogs
If you happen to see the appearance of dementia in your aging dog who is around six-years-of-age, it could still be related to a mental decline even though your dog is not seven-years-of-age.
A dog’s aging brain has three primary things that causes the aging process in canine dementia, and it does not follow a calendar:
- Oxidation stress from free radical damage
- Lesion formation on the brain
- Alterations in oxygen and energy availability
Like an apple turns brown when exposed to air, our cells can “rust” when we breathe due to oxidative stress, a process caused by free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that damage or “oxidize” cells throughout the body in a process called oxidative stress.
Oxidation stress damages the dog’s brain and causes a decrease in (1) cognition and (2) degenerative nerve disease. This is similar to human Alzheimer’s disease.
Additionally, the aging process or canine dementia in elderly dogs involves an accumulation of “beta amyloid deposits” on the brain. The deposits form a plaque made from nerve-damaging protein. This plaque is called “senile plaque” that interferes with the brain’s transmission of signals.
Before diseases are formed by oxidation stress, many things need to occur. When free radicals are overproduced, they can cause oxidative damage to biomolecules — lipids, proteins and DNA.
Biomolecules are made of simple element monomers, small molecules combined chemically with other misnomers to form a larger molecule. Their most abundant elements are carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen.
What diseases are caused by oxidation stress?
- Alzheimer’s disease (AD)
- Amyolotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Chronic inflammation
- Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
- Myocardial infarction
- Parkinson’s disease (PD)
- Post-ischemic perfusion injury
- Rheumatoid arthritis
“Good old dog, with your old gray face …
You sure do know how to brighten up this place.
Your pace is slow, time is wearing thin,
You won’t be here for long … old dog, I’ll miss your grin.
But before you go, there is this to say,
Old dog, I love you and I’ll miss you the rest of my days.
It’s been an honor to walk across this land,
With your faithful head right beside my hand.”
~ from SeniorTail Waggers.com
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