Dementia in Dogs
In the past 20 years, I have had 8 pups. 3 of them died with a diagnosis of dementia.
I did not know until recently that this was a “thing” in the canine world. I simply thought my pups were getting old and behaving as crazy as their human master; i.e, me. I was very grateful my veterinarian informed me that dementia is an actual condition in the dog world, so when I knew better, my responses were different and more thoughtful.
My precious yellow Lab, Marco, is going on 13 years old now. He is in terrific physical shape overall, however, about a year ago I noticed a few specific behavioral changes that mirrored what my white German Shepherd, Chrissy, my black Lab, Farah, and my Golden Retriever, Sage, had before they all passed on. In the end, they all had dementia.
One of Marco’s symptoms now is active sleep/dreams. While in a deep sleep, a lot of kicking, bucking, “chasing rabbits,” whining and barking, takes place. I call out his name, and he will stop, but it picks right back up again in just a few minutes.
Marco is very anxious. He will pace and pace until I tell him, “Marco honey, go lay down,” and he will. Sometimes, he will isolate himself in another room and just bark, or he will sit in the middle of the room, bow his head and “zone out.” When I gently call his name to bring him back to the present, sometimes it will work, but sometimes it won’t. Marco also gets dizzy. He sometimes walks like John Wayne inebriated. When this happens, I go over and hold him until he once again is steady.
Recently, I bought him a memory-foam staircase so he can get up on the bed, something he has been unable to do on his own lately. He has no memory of how to use it even though I have tried to teach him numerous times. I clearly waited too long to introduce this apparatus because this old dog cannot learn new tricks.
He also isn’t staying on the bed all night like he used to. After about 10 minutes, he will search anxiously for a way to get down off the bed forgetting about his new stairs. He will then cautiously belly-slide to the floor. This was the behavior that told me something was terribly wrong. He loves being on the bed as much as he loves food. He will eat my cell phone if I am not careful. The Cal King bed I have is specific for canine slumber parties. Marco usually herds me into the northeast corner, while Frank Sinatra, Marco’s brother, shares my pillow leaving me with very little real estate. It is ridiculous I know, but I love it!
Marco’s dementia is in addition to the usual “old dog” stuff, i.e., poor eyesight, lost hearing, breath that parts my hair, a bladder that is tiny and weak, or he may accidentally just drop a turd while walking along. Fortunately, his farts are in check - it is his brother, Frank Sinatra, that remains undefeated in that department and holds the Olympic Gold. Marco’s joints need chondroitin and glucosamine, and he is on a low-dose thyroid medication. He is slow at times, wears booties on our walks because his pads are tender, and he needs a full lift into the car. He is all the things an old dog should be and I love him more every day because of them.
What Is True For Me
No matter how exhausted I am, I never lose my patience with Marco, or any dog I have had, because of dementia and/or old age. Similarly, I make a conscious effort never to lose my patience with my Mom who is also aging and has dementia.
In my old age, I hope others do unto me as I have done unto them. I hope if I drop turds as I walk, someone will quietly pick them up without my knowing. If I have bad breath, or get dizzy because I stand up too fast, I hope someone will offer their hand, or hold me until I am steadier. If I zone out, wherever I am, and whomever I am with, I hope they will be kind and gentle with me.
Love your dog. Be patient and compassionate. If they have dementia, they cannot help their behavior. Love them anyway. Take care of them anyway the best you can until the end. And if you cannot give them a loving home and the care they need, find someone who can.
The following article has been added to “Things To Know,” in the Forgive and Forget website.
Thanks for listening and reading,
Love, Marco and Frank Sinatra
**The following article has been added to “Things To Know,” in our Forgive and Forget website.
Click to Read: Dementia in Senior Dogs: 6 Ways to Deal With the Effects:
Just like humans with dementia, dogs may suffer from many
of the same symptoms our loved ones do:
*Sleep-wake cycle disturbances.
*Lower threshold for aggression.
*Decreased activity levels.
*Inappropriate vocalization (howling, barking or whining)
*Repetitive behaviors (pacing)
*Staring at walls.