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Can My Dog Get Dementia?

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    Have you ever wondered if your senior dog is susceptible to dementia? Just like humans, older dogs are capable of developing the same age-related illnesses such as dementia. The progression of cognitive decline in dogs works much like that in humans. Those dogs who suffer from canine dementia, tend to typically start displaying symptoms of cognitive decline around the age of 9 years old. However, there are a number of diseases and medical conditions that may cause disorientation that can be mistaken for canine dementia. These conditions include:
    • Diabetes 
    • Cushing’s Disease 
    • High Blood Pressure
    • Loss of hearing 
    • Loss of vision 
    • Urinary Tract Infection 
    • Kidney Disorder 
    • Arthritis 

    How is Dementia in Dogs Diagnosed?

    In order to properly diagnose your dog, a veterinarian will need to be consulted. The process of making a formal diagnosis for canine dementia includes analyzing DISHA, which stands for Disorientation, Interaction Changes, Sleep Disruptions, House Soiling/Memory/Learning, and Activity Changes. 

    Disorientation: Disorientation is one of the most common and recognizable signs of dementia in dogs. This may be presented as a dog who is wandering or confused about their surroundings. Some dogs may stare at the floor or wall or have a difficult time maneuvering around normal obstacles and objects. 

    Interaction Changes: More social dogs may show less interest in socializing with people and other dogs. Other dogs may become clingier to their owners and other people. Any behavioral and interactional changes should be noted and discussed with your veterinarian. 

    Sleep/Wake Cycle Disruptions: Canine dementia can cause uncomfortable sleep/wake cycle disruptions for your dog. Your dog may have trouble sleeping throughout the entire night, waking and pacing, or barking and whining. This may cause increased sleeping throughout the daytime. 

    House Soiling, Memory, and Learning: House soiling can be a large indicator of canine dementia or other canine cognitive declines. A housetrained dog may stop indicating they need to go outside to take care of their business. They may also stop responding properly to commands they’d otherwise listen to. In addition, it may become increasingly difficult to get your dog’s attention. 

    Activity Changes: Dogs who are affected by dementia will often show a decrease in activity level. Many will show less interest in their surroundings as well as decreased response to triggers such as other dogs, sounds, and people. Others may display a decrease in activity in the way of lack of appetite, increased restlessness, and separation anxiety.

    How Can I Help My Dog With Dementia?

    Unfortunately, there is no cure for canine dementia. However, there are ways you can help your dog to navigate the condition: 

    Medications: Some veterinarians may prescribe medications to support your dog. Common medications include Selegiline, Antidepressants, and Anipryl. 

    Supplements: Your vet may suggest supplementing your dog’s diet with nutritional supplements such as Omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, Denamarian, and melatonin. All of which have been suggested to improve cognitive function and quality of life in some dogs. 

    Activities: Encouraging your dog to exercise more, participate in interactive games and toys, and teaching new skills may help with their memory and learning. 

    Routine: Avoid any sudden schedule changes when it comes to a dog with dementia. Sticking to a routine can help relieve the anxiety that many dogs with dementia experience. Adjusting your pace to match your dog rather than forcing them to speed up will help ease their discomfort. In addition, avoid changing the layout of your home and reduce clutter to reduce the stress on your dog. 

    Patience: It’s important to be calm and patient when it comes to handling your dog with dementia. While it may be frustrating when your dog soils in the house or disrupts your sleep by barking in the middle of night, try your best to exercise patience and care. This will allow for them to feel less nervous and scared. 

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    Euthanasia: What Happens and Is It Painful?

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      It’s the day all of us dog parents dread. It’s the words we never want to say because our pets will live forever. And as our beloved companion reaches closer and closer to that day, we must accept the truth. That dreaded euthanasia appointment is near. Of course, we all wish that those last moments are stress-free and pain-free. We imagine our dogs’ tired and aching bodies healing and our dogs frolicking over the rainbow bridge. Yet, there are some infrequent circumstances where the euthanasia appointment turns out not to be as peaceful as expected. 

      Those who are around euthanasia more than the standard person still have trouble with it every day but it gets to be where there is an understanding that you are releasing the animal from their suffering and letting them pass into the next life.

      On the day of the euthanasia appointment, you will have so many emotions. Just know you can do this. You can do this because you love your dog. People often worry that when the time comes, they will fall to pieces. Let’s not be in denial; you probably will. But for most people, that happens after you are home, and it sinks in that your pup is no longer there. During the appointment, what is more, likely to happen is that you will find your inner strength. You will be strong and be there for your pet’s final journey. If you need to sit down, don’t be afraid to sit. Get as comfortable as you can. But if you can stay by your pet’s side, your presence will keep them comfortable. This is about making your pet’s last moments as calm and peaceful as possible, and you will be surprised that this is something you can do for them. Talk calmly and gently to your pet so they know all is well. If you can’t trust your voice, be near and calm. You are doing the right thing.

      Is Euthanasia Painful?

      Most people believe that euthanasia stops the heart, causing something similar to a heart attack. This is far from true. The fact that euthanasia is so commonly called “being put to sleep” is a testament to the procedure’s painlessness, simplicity, and speed.

      Sodium pentobarbital is one of the most common drugs used, and it works by triggering unconsciousness, which stops brain function. Because the brain controls the body, it tells the heart and lungs to work. But when the brain stops functioning, the respiratory center is depressed, breathing ceases, and the heart stops pumping.

      The pet is unconscious, so it’s more like dying under anesthesia and peacefully slipping away than dying from a heart attack on the surgery table. To better understand, here is the timetable of euthanasia according to the Humane Society of the United States Euthanasia Reference Manual

      • After 5 seconds, the pet is unconscious. 
      • Within 10 seconds, the pet is in deep anesthesia. 
      • Within 20 seconds, the pet stops breathing. 
      • Within 40 seconds, the heart has stopped circulating blood.
      • Finally, within 2 minutes, the pet is clinically dead, meaning that all voluntary/involuntary functions have ceased even though you may still stumble on the occasional muscle twitch.

      Was Your Pet In Pain Before The Euthanasia?

      If your dog was already in pain and suffering, they might have vocalized their pain during the euthanasia. For instance, if your dog has severe arthritis, they may cry out when their leg is moved for the catheter placement. Or a dog with painful cancer who can no longer walk just the slightest movement might make them cry. Laying on the floor or being picked up to lay on a table could cause discomfort. Luckily euthanasia is often quick, and they will soon be on their way to a pain-free world.

      Were Your Dog’s Veins Hard To Find, Or Did It Take Two Iv Catheters?

      In some cases, veins may be difficult to find. Like in humans, animals can become dehydrated or have very low blood pressure, making the veins almost impossible to find. Very old animals or sick animals can have constricted veins or collapse as soon as they are stuck with a needle. Repeated attempts to stick a vein only aggravate the situation, causing some dogs to resent being handled, vocalize, and put up a fight. These dogs will sometimes need to be forcibly held down and restrained, making the last moments less peaceful than expected. If this happens, trust that the individual who is performing the IV placement or euthanasia is there to help your pet at this time. If you get angry, your pet can sense your anger.  

      What About Pre-Op Sedation? 

      Many veterinary professionals will administer a sedative before performing the euthanasia. There are a couple of different names for this step, all depending on where you go. The most common is called the two-injection, pre-op, or pre-mix. These sedatives are typically given either in the muscle in the hind leg or a vein. Most vets will use a tiny needle for this. Most sedatives feel like a bee sting. I have worked with many vets over my years, and most don’t tell the owner this. I am really not sure why. But it is fast—just a tiny sting, and it’s over just like that. The purpose of this is to relax the pet or even cause unconsciousness before the euthanasia solution is injected. Several pre-euthanasia drugs might be used. The best ones are anesthetics that cause the pet to lose consciousness, like when you go under surgery. One of the most preferred is a “pre-mix,” a combination of xylazine and ketamine. These drugs may cause a stinging sensation when administered intravenously. Telazol (tiletamine and zolazepam) is also a preferred drug that stings much less. Telazol not only causes a loss of consciousness but also causes loss of pain. 

      Some vets choose sedatives instead of anesthetics. But the main disadvantage in this is a sedative does nothing for the pain. They also do not cause a loss of consciousness. For this reason, their use is less preferable. For more on these drugs, see The Humane Society of the United States Euthanasia Reference Manual.

      Why Did the Solution Go Outside the Vein?

      If the euthanasia solution is accidentally given outside the vein, it could cause a burning sensation. If the dog moves (but not necessarily has to) and soon there’s a hole in the vein or the catheter comes out of the vein, the Solution can leak outside the vein into the tissue. This being my cause, the dog to cry out. The other possibility is the dog simply feels it. Just like people “feel” the liquid going in their veins when they are getting an injection. This is another reason that sedation is so important.

      Did Your Dog Have Normal Reflexes?

      That’s its… Euthanasia is over. It’s done, right? Not necessarily. Be prepared for the end. But first, know what you are going to read is entirely normal for animals and humans. 

      The Solution has gone in, and death occurs; it is normal for some reflexes to happen. Most veterinary professionals will warn you about this. But know reflexes are not a sign of pain. Your dog may twitch, they may take another breath, they may pass gas, their lip might twitch, and or their tongue might move. They may also urinate and or defecate. These are normal reflexes that take place as well in natural death in dying dogs,

      Reflex is NOT a sign of pain. The untrained eyes of a grieving owner may prove that the pet is in pain and suffering. Or that they are “fighting for their life,” but in reality, these are unconscious, voluntary responses to the body shutting down. 

      Twitches can be scary. But they are just like hiccups. They are your dog’s body’s way of getting rid of negative, painful energy and starting fresh in their new journey. 

       Heavy breathing, this is hard to see, but this is “where they hit the Rainbow Bridge running,” 

       Lip twitches or tongue curls are the pup’s smiling once they get there. They are met at the bridge by their human and or animal friends that have passed before them. Can you imagine how happy they are…

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      A Veterinarian Shares Her Tips for Raising a ‘Forever Dog’

      Dog lovers know there’s nothing quite like the joy a four-legged companion brings to your life, especially during times of stress. Our pets may be our best friends — but do we know how to make sure their lives are as long, healthy and happy as can be?

      Not always, says Karen Shaw Becker, a veterinarian in Scottsdale, Arizona. “Dogs are dying prematurely of more chronic disease than ever before,” she writes in her new book The Forever Dog: Surprising New Science to Help Your Canine Companion Live Younger, Healthier and Longer, coauthored with animal activist Rodney Habib. Becker, who also coauthored a popular cookbook, Dr. Becker’s Real Food for Healthy Dogs & Cats, is a proponent of a proactive approach to veterinary care — helping people create the kind of healthy lifestyles for their animals that can prevent disease, rather than simply treating problems as they arise.

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      Measuring Quality Of Life In Dogs

      When dogs become older or suffer from a debilitating disease or chronic pain, their quality of life (QoL) comes into question. When determining QoL, you are determining how much a dog may be suffering and if it’s possible to make them more comfortable through further treatment or changes in lifestyle. The QoL assessment is crucial for good palliative and hospice care and is the linchpin of the euthanasia decision.

      When you consider the term “quality of life,” remember that it affects both the quality of life of your pets and your own. Assessing one’s own life does not diminish the love and care that one gives to one’s pet, but emphasizes the priorities and needs that one must cultivate for it. It can be difficult to make difficult decisions due to financial and other constraints, but it is important to take care of yourself and remember that you are doing what is best for both you and your pet. At the same time, you want your dog to maintain its quality of life. If he is in pain, unhappy or has difficulty doing everyday things, you do not want him to continue to suffer.

      senior chocolate lab with white face

      Trying to determine your pet’s quality of life is a daunting task and we are often left in denial. Dr. Alice Villalobos, DVM, has developed a scale to determine whether euthanizing your pet is the right choice for your situation. This is called the “HHHHHMM Test,” which covers five main areas of life:  Hurt, Hunger, Hydration, Hygiene, Happiness, Mobility and More good days than bad days. You can view the HHHHHMM scale here. 

      You can also use a Quality of Life calculator such as this one available by Journey’s Pets. While you shouldn’t use an online calculator or test to fully determine the qualify of life, it can be a good indicator of what steps to take next and which concerns to bring up with your vet. As useful as they may be, QoL questionnaires are at an early stage of development and should not be used by veterinarians or pet owners to make final decisions.

      It’s important to note that wagging tails doesn’t automatically equal high quality of life as many dogs display happiness through their suffering. As your dog ages and his health decreases, it can be difficult to decide when is the right time to euthanize. The concept of QoL can be applied to any animal, but they are complex and difficult to measure.

      woman looking at her dog at the vet

      Understanding and measuring the quality of life of older dogs can go a long way to ensure that our pets live the best lives we can give them and can help us know when it is time to let them go. The purpose of measuring the so-called Quality of Life Scale is to help owners measure the quality of life of a pet at a time when emotions are still raw. Saying goodbye is always heartbreaking, but when it does, we can seek solace in knowing what a wonderful journey we have made together. 

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      Keep Senior Dogs Feeling Young

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        It’s no fun watching our dogs become seniors as they start to slow down, they get that grey around their face and start to have difficulty getting around.  Keeping senior dogs active and healthy can help them feel young again and prevent things like joint issues.

        senior chocolate lab with white face

        What Are The Signs Of Aging In Dogs?

        The term “senior” can be used to characterize an elderly dog, as per the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), although the length of time a pet is deemed “senior” varies. Dogs become seniors at different ages depending on their breed and size. Large dogs also typically age faster than small dogs. For example, a Great Dane would be considered a senior at 7 years old but a chihuahua might be 14. On average, the age a dog is considered senior is between 5 and 10 years old.

        It’s also important to note the concept of senior and geriatric dogs differ. A senior dog is usually still healthy and has just started aging while geriatric dogs are on the older end of the spectrum and have more age-related health issues and are in more pain. Signs of dogs aging include going gray around their muzzle and the rest of their body, and they might start slowing down a bit and need assistance jumping or getting down from high spots. The signs of aging in dogs are very similar to those in humans and can be readily identified. Common health problems in seniors include vision loss, oral problems, weight gain or loss, joint pain, and senility

        How Can You Help Your Senior Dog Age Gracefully?

        Increase Comfort

        With age, dogs usually develop joint pain which makes everyday things difficult or painful. In general, make changes that will put less stress on your dog’s body. Other ways you can do this are ramps/stairs in the house or to the car, anti-slip socks on hardwood floors, and a quality orthopedic dog bed that can make the biggest difference. View our curation of senior dogs products!

        Keep Up With Oral Care

        Dental care in dogs is always important but as they age, keeping up with it is even more important. The plaque buildup can harm a dog’s organs and get into their bloodstream. Older dogs are also at risk for rotting teeth so consistent brushing can be detrimental to their health. Check out our curated oral care products.

        westie getting teeth brushed

        Watch the Weight

        A dog’s weight can often go up or down with age and maintaining that weight is crucial. An obese dog can have much worse joint pain and general health. But being underweight is also extremely unhealthy as their body isn’t holding onto nutrition. Try opting for low-calorie and high digestible foods and treats with less high-protein foods. 

        Dabble With Supplements

        There are many supplements that can aid in your dog’s aging process. The most popular are glucosamine to aid in joint health. Fish oil is also very popular as it’s a natural anti-inflammatory while also aiding in managing certain heart and joint problems while keeping their coat and skin healthy. View our collection of curated supplements!

        Exercise, Exercise, Exercise!

        It’s important to keep senior dogs moving to avoid losing muscle mass and increasing stiffness. Keep the exercise light such as one walk a day so as to not have them over-exert themselves.  Even daily play time can keep them feeling spry.

        Try Enrichment Games

        One of the conditions that can often come with canine aging is Canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CCDS). CCDS is a compilation of changes that many dogs go through as they get older, including loss of housetraining, loss of interest in usual activities or people, aimless wandering or pacing (especially at night), loss of normal daily rhythms, and general confusion. Enrichment games can keep your dog’s mind stimulated and keep them from displaying symptoms of CCDS.

        Meet With A Physical Therapist

        A physical therapist can set up a regimen for your senior dog to keep up their muscle mass, prevent stiffening and help with any arthritis they may be experiencing. This could often include practices such as hydrotherapy, cold laser therapy, and acupuncture. Find a physical therapist near you

        dog playing with outward hound puzzle
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