Survival tactics for Alzheimer’s disease

He would jump up with joy and greet you with loving licks and tail-wags when you return home after a long tiring day at work. But these days you notice him lazily lying near the couch, oblivious of your arrival… he sleeps whole day and then struggles with insomnia in the night. He does not seem to be as friendly…he barks incessantly for no reason at all. Probably your dog is suffering from Dog Alzheimer’s disease.

If you have been noticing bizarre behavioural changes in your beloved pooch, stop shrugging them off as normal signs of aging and consider the matter seriously. Your dog could be suffering from a common medical condition termed as canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS), also known as Doggie Dementia or Dog Alzheimer’s disease. Doggie Dementia is a neurodegenerative disease affecting older dogs, causing symptoms like memory loss, behavioural changes, confusion and disorientation similar to those shown by human beings suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. In a study conducted by University of California, it was found that 62 percent of dogs in the age group 11-16, show one or more signs of CDS and the percentage rises as dogs get older.

The causes…

Though the exact cause of Doggie Dementia is not known, it is found that dementia results from the accumulation of a nerve damaging protein called beta amyloid. The build-up of this protein over time results in the formation of plaque that blocks the brain and inhibits the transmission of neural signals between brain cells and from the brain to the body cells. The disorder is common among aging dogs and the susceptibility to dementia varies depending upon the breed of the dog. Some breeds age faster than others and such breeds may be struck by dementia sooner in life.

The symptoms…

Keep your eyes open to any changes in your pet’s behaviour. A dog with dementia may display some of the following symptoms –

  • Unfriendly behaviour: A dog suffering from dementia becomes irritable and less friendly towards others. He prefers to be alone, no longer expresses his affection towards people and gets annoyed when you reach out to pet him.
  • Non-responsive: He becomes non-responsive to the world around him. He does not respond to his name being called out and does not obey your basic commands.
  • Bizarre sleeping pattern: Canine dementia affects the sleeping habits of dogs. The dog sleeps whole day or struggles with insomnia, wandering aimlessly around the house when he is supposed to be sleeping.
  • Lost or confused: You would often notice him staring blankly into space or at the wall. He is confused even in familiar surroundings and gets stuck in corners or under furniture.
  • Disoriented: He forgets housetraining and soils the carpet and his bed.

The diagnosis…

Dementia signs cannot be picked up by the vet during routine health check-ups. You need to be observant and note down all those signs that you feel are not normal for your dog. Share your observations with your vet. Dementia-like symptoms may be caused by some other illnesses too. So, it’s important that you get the diagnosis done by a good vet. Your vet might carry out series of tests like blood test, urine test and CT scan to rule out other illnesses and confirm the cause of these symptoms.

Ways to deter Doggie Dementia …

Dementia cannot be cured but progression of the disease can be slowed down by using different treatments. Contact your vet for proper treatment. But here’s how you can help your pooch deter dementia:

  • Keep him fit: By ensuring your dog is leading a healthy lifestyle, you can delay the occurrence of diseases like CDS. Apart from healthy diet, exercise plays a major role in keeping your dog physically and mentally fit. Take him out for walks regularly. You could take him out to a park where he gets to interact with other canine companions. He would then have a great time playing with other dogs and would start looking forward to his walking routine. If your pooch is a water baby, then you could also adopt swimming as a mode of daily exercise.
  • Mentally stimulate him: We tend to underestimate the value of mental exercise in dogs. Apart from physical exercise, dogs also need constant mental stimulation to stay mentally agile. You can boost your dog’s mental faculties in the following ways:Training: Train your dog and teach him simple tricks like sitting, rolling and playing dead. Training requires lot of effort from the dog and by constantly stretching his thinking muscles he would stay mentally fit.Toys: Get your pooch some interactive and colourful toys to play with. Chew toys and puzzle toys with stuffed treats can be a great option to ward off boredom and keep your dog occupied.
    Fun games: Playing games with your dog strengthens your relationship with your pet and boosts your pet’s intelligence at the same time. Playing Frisbee with your pet can be lot of fun. It can be a great physical and mental exercise for your pooch. You could also play hide and seek where you hide a particular toy and get your pooch to search for the toy. Reward him with his favourite biscuits or toys when he follows your commands diligently. Invent some other interesting activities that would interest you and your pet.
  • Be patient: An older dog needs more love and care. Be patient with your dog and make sure you spend quality time with him. A happy dog means a healthy dog, so do your level best to keep your pooch happy.