by SUZANNE CLOTHIER
A friend wrote: "Our dog is behaving strangely. We keep a diary on how his behaviour is different than before. He has always been a 'different dog' but we feel something is changing. And so does our other dog. Because of my medical background, If he was a human I would think it is the early stages of dementia. I know it can occour in dogs as well, so we're observing and asking him on regular bases how he's doing.
I am sure his hearing had gone down. But his motor skills are going downhill too. He trips. He bumps into things. But his vision is very good. He spots details most people wouldn't even see. He barks at garden ornaments that have been there for years. Seems to forget which side he enters the car. Walks over to our other dog's food bowl while she's still eating. Forgets where his bed is. Days differ. Some are good, and I think we've imagined it all, some are less good."
It can be so hard to watch our canine friends aging. Like people, some stay sharp as tacks right to the end, while others mentally decline, sometimes in alignment with physical decline and sometimes without significant accompanying physical changes.
What to do? The decline of cognitive/mental function is not well understood in humans or dogs. There are many contributing factors, and thus lumping all dysfunction into one big bucket is not helpful. The starting point is a thorough veterinary examination and laboratory workup aimed at having a close look at the many ills that can plague older dogs.
I do not have any one answer. I have directions that I can point concerned owners towards, so they can begin to read and decide for themselves. I've listed these links below.
For my own animals, we have found choline, SAM-e, fish body oils and trying to maintain a overall high nutrition plane to be important and helpful.
We also aim at relieving pain, knowing that our stoic old friends may not let us know how much they really are hurting, and at making sure that we are keeping anxiety at bay. Confusion can create anxiety - resolve it with your vet's help.
Our old friends have a right to a pain-free, anxiety-free old age.