How I Care For Red Who Has Dog Dementia

 

This post is all about how I care for Red, who suffers from dementia in dogs. 

Red has been living with dementia for about 2 1/2 years now, and I admit there have been some challenging times. It’s not something that affects only the dog, but rather has an impact on everyone in the household, especially the primary caregiver which is me!

I have written other articles about this condition, so if you’d like more information….

Read this ⇒ All About Dementia in Dogs

Read this ⇒ Diagnosing Dementia in Dogs

 

I didn’t know dogs get dementia? They do and so do cats. 

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. 

Treatment

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 soothing music for dog dementiaCD, 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. 

Related Post

Hindy Pearson
Helping people care for their senior dogs
I am a certified dog trainer and pet care consultant, specialising in working with rescue dogs and first time pet parents. I foster and adopt senior and special needs dogs, and advocate for shelter adoption of all animals, particularly older dogs and cats. I am currently working on a spay/neuter program in Spain.

9 Comments

  1. Lynne

    Hi Hindy
    Shame, that is horrible and it must be terribly hard on you. At least now you know what the problem is.
    I wonder if our Labrador we had last had dementia. It never occurred to me that might be what he had too.
    He definitely was blind and deaf and had arthritis… but he seemed a bit out of it at times but I put that confusion down to his failing senses.

    Reply
    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      Hi Lynne, It can be quite difficult to diagnose dementia, since many of the symptoms are similar to other issues. I had a blind and deaf dog as well, and sometimes she would just be standing in one place “staring” at the wall. I don’t think that was dementia, I think it was a result of her lack of senses. Shame what some of our pets have to go through, and it can be difficult knowing when enough is enough.

      Reply
  2. David

    Hello
    Thanks for this information. It was very interesting. I had never considered my dog may have dementia until recently. The signs you were discussing are almost identical to what is happening with my dog. It makes sense and it is funny how dementia in a dog is quite similar to that in a human! What is Selgian and where do I get it? Thanks in advance.
    David

    Reply
    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      Hi David, yes it is very similar. In order to be sure your dog has dementia, it’s best to take him to the vet to rule out other possibilities, unless you’ve already done that. Symptoms of dementia are very similar to other illnesses. Selgian is a medication they use here in the U.K. Anipryl in the States I believe and it’s by prescription. There are also many alternative treatments available if you were interested in exploring that avenue. I have an article publishing on the 18th about alternative options. Once I had a diagnosis confirmed I would find out what options my vet could offer (although I don’t believe there are other medications, at least none my vet mentioned), and I would be curious to know what treatment plan a holistic vet could offer. Let me know how you get on.

      Reply
  3. Christian

    Hi Hindy, I can totally relate to this. I was just visiting my brother over the weekend. He and his wife have three dogs and Bobo, their oldest, has began showing signs of dementia. He does not get anxious like Red does but he seems to get confused. He is such a lovable dog, though and still a joy to be around. I hope he has received as much joy from his people as we have received from him.

    Thanks for writing this. We were unaware that there might be a medication to help Bobo. I’m going to forward this to my brother so he can ask his vet about it.

    Reply
    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      Hi Christian, glad this article was so timely. Hopefully your brother has taken, or will be taking Bobo to the vet, just to rule out other possibilities. If he does have dementia, there is definitely medication available, but there are also a lot of alternative treatments if your brother was interested in exploring that route. I have a post about it publishing on the 18th. A holistic vet would be the one to consult with about possible courses of action to take. The earlier Bobo starts treatment, the better. Let me know how he gets on.

      Reply
  4. Emily

    hi Hindy
    what a touching post! Your care for your animals certainly comes across. I can just picture Red sitting next to you right now 🙂 As you know, my friend’s dog has dementia (the signs are all there). She was just telling me how her dog was just going in circles, whining, seemingly afraid of everything. she has tried a lot and has a good relationship with her vet but it has taken a toll on her.
    Her dog also has numerous health and physical issues. So after a lot of thought and heart ache she has decided to have him put down. Huge decision but I will try to be there for her.

    Reply
    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      Oh Emily, I remember you telling me. I’m so sorry to hear that, I know how gut wrenching that decision would have been. My friend recently lost both her dogs within a few weeks of each other. We used to volunteer together and we know each other’s dogs, and how we feel about them. There’s not much to say, except to listen. One thing I did for her, if you’re interested. Here is a link to a website http://www.in-memory-of-pets.com/ where you can light a candle for her dog. Go to candle light ceremony on the left hand side, then To Submit Your Own Candle Light. You just submit the name and day he died and they will send you the link to see the candle, which you can then send on to your friend. I did that for one of my dogs, and although I have never gotten over the loss of that particular one, it made me feel a little less helpless. I hope this helps. Let me know.

      Reply
  5. Monica Hamill

    This is exactly what we are experiencing with our 15 year old dog, Bandit. It came out of no where! I have been looking for natural treatments also. Thank you for writing this page!!!

    Reply
    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      Hi Monica, I’m so sorry to hear about Bandit. I’d be interested to know if you manage to find any natural treatments that are effective. What are you doing for him at the moment? I did take Red to a holistic vet who did not have anything natural to recommend. I mentioned a lot of the items from my post, but because he didn’t have experience using them he would never advise trying something he has not tested. I did try the coconut oil after asking my other vet, and although I gave her a much lower dose than suggested, she developed a touch of pancreatitis so I stopped it there and then. She’s doing fine on Selgian (Anipryl in the U.S.). Please keep me posted.

      Reply

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