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Dr. Deb
Dr. Deb, Dog Veterinarian
Category: Dog Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 10043
Experience:  I have been a practicing veterinarian for over 30 years.
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Do dogs get dementia? I have a 9 yr old Cavalier that has

Customer Question

Do dogs get dementia? I have a 9 yr old Cavalier that has start getting up 2-3 times a night and barks.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Dog Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Deb replied 1 year ago.

Hello, I'm Dr. Deb and will do my best to help you today.

I'm sorry for this concern for Joey; sleep deprivation isn't a good thing for anyone is it??

The short answer to your question is that, yes, dogs (and cats for that matter) can develop Cognitive Dysfunction (CD) similar to Alzheimer's in a human.

And, they can also develop Sundown Syndrome where their behavior is worse at night or in the evenings than during the day.

Symptoms of this condition can be quite variable between patients and the rate at which it progresses is different as well. Signs which might be seen include loss of house-breaking (these dogs basically “forget” that they are housebroken), staring off into space, acting confused (which may be why he's barking), wandering aimlessly, panting, appetites can sometimes be affected but not always. Most dogs don't appear to be in any pain which is at least a good thing.

Since we often do not know which neurotransmitters or neuro-pathways are most affected by CD in each patient, a better response may be seen in our pets if a combination of several supplements and drugs are given as opposed to only one or two. This sort of combination can help to improve the level of neurotransmitters in the Central Nervous System (CNS) and reduce oxidative damage to brain tissue.

There are other modifications which can be made to lifestyle which may be beneficial which I’ve included below as well.

1. Cognitive supplements such as Neutricks, or Senilife

2. Combination of antioxidants such as Golden Years (Sogeval) , Antiox 5000 Ultra (Sovegal), Cell Advance 440 for small and medium sized dogs (Vetriscience)

3. Anti-inflammatory agents such as high dose fish oils (DHA> 300mg… not the total mg on the capsule but the DHA content).

4. Over the counter, human Melatonin which can be especially helpful if sleep issues are present but it also has antioxidant properties. 1-3 mg before bedtime.

5. CNS stimulants such as Selegiline 5-10mg/day which is a drug licensed for use in CD but would have to be prescribed by your vet.

6. Consider a prescription diet such as Hills' B/D diet or Purina senior diet with MCT oil. There’s some evidence that calorie restriction can help some dogs with CD so reduce calorie intake.

7. Evidence exists that daily and sustained exercise has positive effects in reducing progression of CD. Exercise daily: 1/2-1 hour walk twice daily

8. Sensory stimulation such as touching, brushing, and massage therapy may also reduce progression of CD.

There are always other supplements which can be added; however, patient compliance may become an issue at some point. But, others to consider would be:

  1. medium chain triglycerides i.e., unprocessed coconut oil. 1-2 tsp/day
  2. SAMe manufactured by Virbac aka Novifit

Drugs to avoid, if possible, when CD is present:

1. Benzodiazepines such as Xanax or Valium

2. Steroids

3. Anticholinergics such as Benadryl

Factors which might increase CD progression:

1.High carbohydrate diets.

2. Excessive caloric intake

3. Hyperglycemia

4. Obesity

5. High saturated fat diets

Other conditions which might cause a dog to act odd or in an unusual way would be Hypertension (high blood pressure) which is usually secondary to either Diabetes, kidney disease or Cushing's Disease. If Joey hasn't had blood work done recently, this may be something to consider.

Dogs with brain masses can also behave abnormally but would take an MRI to diagnose, unfortunately...and I would expect other signs to be present, not just barking at night.

I hope this helps and provides options for you to consider. Deb

Expert:  Dr. Deb replied 1 year ago.
I'm just following up on our conversation about Joey. How is everything going?
Dr. Deb