Diagnosis and Treatment of Dementia in Dogs

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At the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants conference in April I attended a seminar on Canine Cognitive Dysfunction presented by Dr. Rachel Malamed. Dr. Rachel Malamed is a Veterinary Behaviorist with the passion and understanding to improve the lives of pets and their human companions. After obtaining her veterinary degree (DVM), Dr. Rachel completed a three-year clinical behavioral medicine residency at the University of California, Davis and became board certified by the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists. Dr. Rachel is one of a limited group of Veterinary Behaviorists; there are fewer than 60 board certified practitioners in the country.

Diagnosis:

Dogs can show signs of dementia as early as 8 years old. In order to diagnosis your dog Dr. Malamed recommends that every dog over the age of 8 have a wellness exam twice a year. Also, she suggests that owners watch closely for the following changes and take your dog to your veterinarian if you notice any of these changes in your older dog:

  • Disorientation
  • Social Interaction changes – suddenly aggressive with a life long cat friend, etc.
  • Sleep/Wake cycle is reversed or changed dramatically
  • House soling in a potty trained dog or in your dog’s bed
  • Activity – either a decrease or an increase that is very noticeable
  • Anxiety – pacing, barking, paw chewing
  • Sudden aggression towards people or other animals
Treatment:

According to Dr. Malamed treatment and early intervention is the best way to slow the process. Dementia is progressive so you can’t stop it but you can slow the process. Studies do show that humans get a much more advanced dementia than dogs. Further studies into canine dementia may give humans with dementia hope in the future.

There are quite a few options available for actual treatment of dementia. Check with your veterinarian for options that are right for you dog.

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