This post is all about how I care for Red, who has dog dementia.
I originally published this on November 9, 2015, and thought it was about time I updated this post, with my experiences until now – October 23, 2016.
At the time of my original writing, Red had been endlessly pacing and restless for several weeks.
As I’ve mentioned in a previous post “Diagnosing Dementia in Dogs” many of the signs of dementia can also be seen in other illnesses, which Red did/does have.
I had never entertained the possibility she may have dementia, never even thought about it in regards to any of my seniors. I can’t say for sure why not, maybe because I adopt senior dogs and I never have them long enough!
What I saw going on with Red
There was a period of a few weeks when she would pace endlessly, she just couldn’t settle. She would go in her bed for a few minutes, then get up and wander. One night she paced for 4 hours, and when I could no longer cope (and nothing I tried to do for her helped), I closed the door and went to bed. Thankfully she eventually settled.
Red would always sit with me on my lap, or at least next to me on the couch. During that period, she couldn’t even sit still.
How I coped
I hate to admit it, but I didn’t always cope as well as I would have liked. It was unbearable seeing my precious Red like that. She’s the love of my life, and I was helpless. She’s blind, so I have to be extra aware of what she’s doing and separate what is because of the blindness, and what is not “normal” behaviour for her.
Because I work from home (running this website), I’m with her all the time, and don’t get much of a break. At times I found myself close to breaking point, helpless and stressed. I left my husband in charge a few times when I had to get out of the house. One day I went shopping, one evening I went for a brisk walk along the beach, sometimes I listened to guided meditations.
Of course I went to the vet!
You may be reading this, yelling at me wondering why I hadn’t been to the vet! Don’t worry – I keep a close eye on Red, and anything that doesn’t seem right, we’re there.
Like I said, dementia had never crossed my mind so I was worried she was having some discomfort because of her kidney disease. My wonderful vet did all kinds of tests, and everything came back fine.
This is a perfect example of the importance of knowing your pets. My vet couldn’t find anything wrong with her, but I knew there was. A couple of days later something made me think of doggie dementia. I went to see him and he agreed, based on the normal test results and my observations that it was very likely.
At no visit did my vet ever witness signs of dementia, nor did Red display any.
Because of my experiences, I recommend you use this checklist, take a video of the behaviours you’re concerned about and bring both to your vet.
We started her on Selgian (which I believe is similar to Anipryl), and by the third day I noticed she had calmed down significantly. She is also on a more natural product called Nutri Calm, and I give her fish oil as well.
I have been doing my own research into alternatives, since the practice we go to does not offer holistic treatments. My vet is open to suggestions, and I always run everything by him first. At the moment I’m looking into coconut oil and a supplement called Gotu Kola. I will keep you posted about them.
The other thing I did a lot was play a CD called Through a Dog’s Ear. It is classical music to help calm dogs and it has worked miracles. When she would start to pace endlessly I would play the CD, and often in a minute she would be resting. The music is so beautiful and calming, it would help me relax as well.
Take care of yourself
Things can get pretty stressful, and one of the best ways to help your dog is to take care of yourself. You’ve taken her to the vet, you’ve started her on treatments, you’re playing the calming CD, and you’re loving her. That’s all you can do.
Go to a yoga class, meditate, go shopping, have dinner with friends… Whatever you like to do to unwind or escape, do it. It will help you stay calm and patient, while helping her cope.
How Red is doing
Her other health issues are under control, and she’s doing really well for a 15ish year old dog!! I believe her dementia has gotten a bit worse, so I’ve increased her Nutri Calm, under the guidance of my vet.
My only concerns, ever, are quality of life when it comes to my animals. It is never about me, only them. At the moment Red’s okay, but I’m always aware one day it might become an issue, and I will have to face it.
She feels best when sitting next to me on the couch, so most of the day I have my laptop on my lap. If it makes her feel safe and comfortable, then that’s what I will keep on doing.
How I care for Red who has dog dementia – conclusion
It can be stressful for everyone in this situation, but I sincerely hope that this post on how I care for Red who has dog dementia will help.
Please comment if you are experiencing something similar, or even just suspect your dog may have dementia. I will do what I can to help.