Throughout their lives, we expect our dogs to remember a lot of things. They learn the location and layout of our homes, we teach them commands and tricks, and they remember their favorite toys, places, humans and even words! However, because dogs can’t speak, it’s not as easy to know what’s going on in their heads, or if they’re starting to have trouble remembering things.
As humans age, it’s normal to experience a decline in memory due to brain deterioration. Some people ultimately develop memory diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, which affects your ability to learn and remember things. Sadly, this condition is not unique to humans—dogs can experience it, too.
The main reason dogs experience memory loss is because of dementia, which is most common in older dogs. Dog dementia, also known as canine cognitive dysfunction, is quite similar to Alzheimer’s disease in humans. It is caused by chemical changes and deterioration of parts of the brain as your dog ages.
In addition to memory loss, cognitive dysfunction disorder can affect your dog’s ability to learn and comprehend things. This can make communicating with your dog or getting them to listen to your commands quite challenging. Over time, dementia in dogs may worsen, and the symptoms can become more obvious and distressing for both your pet and you.
Spotting the signs of canine dementia
If you have an older dog who appears to defy your commands, it might not be because they don’t want to listen—it might be because they can’t. Look out for some warning signs of dementia, including:
- Confusion or disorientation
- Failure to remember or adhere to routines and rules
- Aimless staring
- Wandering throughout the home
- Inability to pick up on new tricks or commands
- Not responding to name or commands
- Wakefulness or whining at night and sleeping during the day
When it comes to memory, you might notice your pup starting to act strangely around the home or during routine activities. They might appear to forget your everyday walking route, looking confused at an intersection or taking a wrong turn. In the home, they might go to the wrong door when it’s time to be let out or run to the wrong room for mealtime.
If you try to command your pup to do a trick or remember a house rule, they might look dazed or confused and not comply. And, as the dementia progresses, they might even forget their own name or some very basic house rules, like not peeing or pooping on the floor.
Diagnosing and treating memory loss
In addition to aging, trauma to the brain can cause memory loss and other symptoms of dementia. Brain tumors can also cause similar symptoms.
If you notice any signs of dementia in your pup, a visit to the vet is in order to run tests and rule out a number of health problems. In some cases, dogs might actually be going deaf or blind, which is causing their confusion. In other instances, the problem might be an illness. Your vet will check for these problems and ultimately give you a diagnosis.
Sadly, there is no cure for canine dementia. Once its effects have begun to take root, there is no way to reverse the deterioration of the brain. Some diets, medications and supplements may be able to help your dog manage their condition more easily.
If your dog has begun to experience memory loss and dementia, try to keep things the same for your pup over time. This means maintaining the same routines, following the same walking route and keeping your home’s layout the same. This will make it much easier for your dog to navigate and keep track of things with less stress.
The best way to combat memory loss and dementia in dogs is prevention. Both physical and mental exercise throughout your dog’s life may help them stave off the effects of aging on the brain. Make sure to keep your dog mentally stimulated by taking daily walks, teaching them new tricks and commands, socializing them often and playing games. A balanced, nutrient-rich diet may also help keep your dog’s brain in great shape well into their senior years.
Help your old friend live a happy life
Memory loss can take a toll on our four-legged friends, but they can still go on to live a happy life. All they need is a little extra patience, love and care from you.