Dogs, like people are living much longer nowadays thanks to advanced healthcare but, as our faithful companions age, they may experience similar cognitive (brain) changes seen in people.
A common condition that alters the cognition in senior dogs is called Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CCDS), a condition similar to dementia in people. Dogs with dementia may show signs of disorientation such as walking into objects and not being able to manoeuvre their way around. They may also show changes in their interaction with people or animals. For example, they may show signs of aggression towards people or animals that they were once friends with, or vice versa.
CCDS can easily be misinterpreted as part of the normal aging process. Behaviour such as waking up in the middle of the night after having slept throughout the day, changes in the dog's activity level and increased anxiety associated with separation from owners and loud noises are common signs.
It is often distressing to witness a cognitive decline, be it in people or pets. If you suspect that your senior dog has dementia, don't hesitate to contact us for a consult. It is important to recognise that this condition cannot be reversed or cured. However, we can work towards the goal of providing good quality of life for our companions by managing the signs such as treating anxiety and slowing down the process of decline with supplements, diets and medicines.
Written by Yvonne Goh - Final Year Veterinary Student, The University of Sydney.