Six Practical Hints for Living With a Dog With Dementia
Here are a few of the things I learned from life with Cricket:
Make a safe room. Just as you may have puppy proofed your house when your dog was young, now you need to make your house safe for your old dog. Make sure there are no spaces your dog might get trapped in. Remove things they may stumble over, slots they can’t back out of, and places where they might put their head through. (View the first section of the video to see what I mean.) Be sure you don’t have tangles of cables they can get trapped in. Your dog may forget how to back up. I think this may be why they get stuck in corners so much.
Use the corners. Speaking of corners, take advantage of that corner thing! Put their food bowls and water bowls in corners so they don’t walk through them and tip them over. I bought a water dispenser for Cricket with a little tank on it that was too big for her to tip over and stuck it at the end of a hall that she tended to pace up and down. I watched Cricket like a hawk to make sure she drank enough. She had a really hard time telling what the level of the water was, and would hover with her mouth about in inch above the water as I held my breath, hoping she can drink. Try to get bowls at the optimal level, and avoid really shiny drinking bowls if they appear to confuse your dog about the water level.
Toileting. Your dog may forget her house training or forget how to tell you she needs to go. You still may be able to tell, and you can work out ways to deal with messes. For instance, Cricket sometimes sat bolt upright in the middle of the bed in the middle of the night. I knew that if she did that she needed to go, and I lifted her right down to a pee pad that I kept by the bed. Try to learn your dog’s new signals.
Door Problems. Be careful around doors. Your dog will often be standing in just the wrong place when you try to go through a door. I have a pair of French doors in my house that Cricket often stood in front of and looked through. Even though she could see me trying to open the door, she just stood there. Sometimes I opened the door just enough to put my hand through and threw a treat for her to follow if I could get her attention.
Other Dogs. Be ready to keep her separate from other dogs. She may not give out the right social signals, and other dogs may be rough with her or even aggressive. For instance, I allowed Cricket to be loose in the same space with only one of my dogs, gentle Zani who was only a big bigger than Cricket. But even so I had to keep an eye on things. Sometimes Cricket would head for the same bed that Zani was in and start to walk over her, and Zani would (understandably) yell at her. I always separated Cricket from all the dogs when I wasn’t home.
Enrichment. Clinical studies say that keeping dogs active in mind and body can help prevent or slow the progress of dementia. Do whatever you can to keep those problem-solving brain cells going. Take her on Sniffaris. See if she can play with food toys. Try a Snuffle Mat. Don’t assume you can fight back the rising tide, but you can probably help her keep what she’s got for a bit longer.
Tips from Other Owners of Dog with Dementia
Be sure and check out the comments sections on all the pages. There are some great suggestions from other readers who have dogs with canine cognitive dysfunction. And if you have a tip, please submit it as a comment.
Articles about Dogs with Dementia
Canine Cognitive Dysfunction–Cricket’s story, and how I viewed her quality of life
Poop in My Pocket: Life with an Old, Old Dog–When the dementia was just beginning to show
General Resources for Senior Dogs
The Gift of a Gray Muzzle: Active Care for Senior Dogs–Kathy Sdao and Lori Stevens This recorded seminar covers the many issues of having an aging dog: health issues, exercise, diet, keeping them eating, enrichment, and many more. The presenters are tops in their fields and a joy to watch.
Dog Food Logic: Making Smart Decisions for Your Dog in an Age of Too Many Choices–Linda Case This book covers nutrition for all ages of dogs and has some of the best information about feeding dogs you will find anywhere.
Dogs with an AARF Card, Growing Old Gracefully: Old Dogs Should Learn New Tricks–Interview with Dr. Gary Landsberg.
My Dog is Aging–Now What? More Training, of Course–Lori Stevens
How to Care for an Older Dog–Whole Dog Journal
See resources on end of life and euthanasia decisions on the “When to Say Goodbye” page.
Copyright 2014 Eileen Anderson