By Dr. Erica Kirsch
In our previous blog post, we discussed the signs and symptoms of canine dementia (CD) and how exercise can be beneficial in preventing and slowing this disease process. There are other strategies that owners can try to help their dog who may be showing signs of canine dementia.
Maintaining your dog on a regular sleep-wake cycle can be crucial to managing canine dementia. During the day, your dog should be exposed to light as much as possible. If kept in the dark during the day, a dog is much more likely to have abnormal sleep-wake cycles. Keep the blinds open or let your dog spend some time outside if possible. Create activities for your dog to do throughout the day to keep them active and ready for bed at night.
Brain games can also be a fun strategy to help keep your dog’s mind sharp. Think luminosity for pets! You can play hide and seek with your pet, hide treats for them to find, use treat dispensers that require the dog to figure out how to get the treat out, or teach your dog a new trick. All these activities require your dog to think and learn. This can be a great way to spend some time with your dog and help their mind at the same time.
Studies have also found that exposing mice to enriched environments can reduce the onset of Alzheimer’s. An enriched environment is anything that provides sensory stimulation. This could include giving your dog a new toy, walking them in a new area with lots of smells, massaging their muscles, moving their joints, tapping their limbs, and social interactions with humans and dogs. You don’t want to overload your pet, but daily stimulation and activities for your dog to do are healthy and important.
Finally, antioxidants have been shown to delay age-related cognitive decline in humans, and one study has found that this decline can be partially reduced in dogs who are given antioxidant supplements. I would recommend talking with your vet before starting your dog on any new supplements and find out what they would recommend.
Canine dementia can be difficult and confusing to handle as an owner. When I was younger, we had a dog named Wilma, who in her old age of 14, began to show signs of canine dementia. She would get “stuck” on the rug in the kitchen and have to be shown the way out. She would bark at the walls and stare off in to space. I wish someone then had shared with us this information to help her be more comfortable in her last years. I hope this information can help you enrich the life of your senior dog.