Strategies to Help If Your Dog Has Dementia
Last week we looked at the symptoms of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, or dog dementia, and some things you can do once your veterinarian has diagnosed your Greyhound with the disease, which unfortunately has no cure. This week we are going to consider a few more strategies which may help you and your dog with quality of life improvements in spite of inevitable decline.
Some supplements which have anecdotal evidence of being beneficial or are used as a complementary therapy for dogs with CCD are: S -Adenosyl methionine (SAMe) - an amino acid that appears to have a range of beneficial effects. It’s available as a supplement under many brand names, including Denosyl. Studies of SAMe on senior dogs in 2007 and 2012 both showed beneficial results, including increased awareness and enhanced learning.
Phosphatidylserine is a part of a membrane that is found in a broad range of cell types in plants and animals. It has been used in human patients with Alzheimer’s, and is included in the supplements Senilife and Aktivait for dogs and cats.
Apoaequorin is a protein that can help stabilize the concentration of calcium in cells. It is sourced from jellyfish. It’s said to combat a certain neurotoxin that is associated with Parkinson’s disease and dementia in humans. It is a component of the dog supplement Neutricks .
Cannabidiol or CBD Oil – controversial use in treating symptoms of CCD. CBD is said to help depression, anxiety and also helps to protect the nervous system. Although studies show just how rich CBD is in antioxidants, current formulations sold are not regulated. This makes it hard to know what you are actually getting and suggested dosages vary widely. Studies are ongoing and show promise of usefulness for treating canine dementia.
Coconut Oil appears here again because, in addition to its antioxidant effect mentioned last week, it also has some other significant benefits: in studies, it appears to aid absorption of carotenoids, one type of antioxidant. Coconut oil also contains MCTs (medium chain triglycerides), a type of fatty acid that can fuel the brain in spite of brain plaques. These brain plaques interfere with uptake of glucose for brain activity, so you can see why an alternate energy source would be helpful.
Melatonin – many pet owners turn to melatonin to help their senior pet rest at night.
Because supplements are not regulated, it is important to check with your vet to be sure there would be no negative interactions with anything else your Greyhound is taking.
Enrichment and mental stimulation are an important part of helping your Greyhound enjoy life, whether or not they have CCD. Leash walks or any kind of exercise (as tolerated), training, and social engagement will slow their cognitive decline. Having a routine, even if they can’t remember it, is comforting to dogs. Scent work and trick training can be a good way to engage and keep your dog’s mind active. Although if the activity involves learning a new skill, it’s probably not practical for a dog with dementia.
Food-dispensing puzzles and toys are good too, as long as you start with easy ones so that they don’t get frustrated. One of the easiest food games is to scatter kibble around a room or through the house. If they care about food, the nose will lead them to the prize. If they find it too easily, you can try hiding it behind something.
Accommodations using a few strategies to make sure your home and yard are set up to be safe and comfortable for your senior Greyhound takes some thought, but is so worthwhile. Examples would be putting down rugs or carpet runners if your dog slips on hardwood or vinyl floors. Or consider traction socks similar to these: http://bit.ly/PowerPawsDogSocks Block off stairs to prevent falls. Put incontinence pads by the door in case they can’t make it outside in time. If they get stuck in or behind furniture, or tangled up in cords and wires, consider fencing off a part of a room with a gate or ex-pen so they have a safe zone and cannot get to the problem areas. You might also consider putting water dishes around the house in case they forget where to go, same with beds.
A word of caution if you have other pets as well: sometimes, the CCD dog will no longer be able to pick up or give correct behavior clues and this could lead to problems with pets who’ve gotten along for years. You should be on guard in case this happens. You might need to supervise or separate them.
It can relax an anxious Greyhound to listen to soothing music, such as Calming CDs especially for senior dogs, such as found here http://bit.ly/MusictoCalmYourDog
Some people have luck using aromatherapy with essential oils, like lavender, to provide a quieting effect and help dogs feel comfortable.
Studies of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction are ongoing and becoming more common recently. Your vet should be up to date on the latest findings about treatments and prevention.
For a down-to-earth reference on coping with Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, see the book REMEMBER ME? by Eileen Anderson. http://bit.ly/RememberMeBook In it, you will find more detail on the topics above, along with tips to help your dog in various situations, as well as how to take care of yourself, and how to decide when it’s time for euthanasia. She documents how she learned to take care of her dog, which lived a good life for two years after diagnosis.
Little adjustments can make a huge difference for your old dog, helping assure that they are comfortable and safe. Cherish each day you have with your heart dog.