Does my Dog Have Dementia?
photo 2003 Mark | more info (via: Wylio)
I have a 16 year old Pomeranian. I think he may have the beginnings of dementia. But since he has been blind since puppyhood and basically deaf half of his life it is hard to know what signs of dementia to look for.
He has been having potty accidents in the house and has had a seizure which started with a loud, continuous howling and lead to aimless wandering for a short while as well as disorientation. I took him to our Animal ER and he was kept overnight and then taken to our regular vet who did blood test which were pretty normal.
He has been okay since then, but now he has started howling without cause (no wandering or disorentiation). Other behaviors are the same,i.e., eating and sleeping, etc. He has always been a "lazy" dog due to sight loss, hearing loss and was never a "play with toys" kind of dog. Based on this information, what is your opinion?
Green Bay, WI
Many years ago I greeted my elderly grandmother at the airport. She called me by the wrong name. I told her I was Eric, and she said, "Oh dear, you must think I'm completely senile. Really, the problem is that I'm blind and nearly deaf, so I had no idea who you were."
Tests of cognitive function are available for people, but cognitive decline is difficult to diagnose nonetheless. In dogs, no such tests exist, so a diagnosis of dementia must be a guess at best. And it is especially difficult to assess the cognitive ability of an elderly dog that also has experienced a significant decline in hearing and vision.
My guess is that your dog does have dementia. House soiling, increased vocalizing, and aimless wandering all are signs of cognitive decline. In my experience there is no effective treatment for cognitive decline (a medicine called Anipryl has been marketed for dementia in dogs, but my clients have not reported good results). Fortunately, the mental tasks a dog faces aren't as complex as most human tasks. Therefore, dogs with cognitive decline, unlike humans with Alzheimer's, generally continue to lead essentially normal lives.