eileenanddogs

Category: Dementia

Webinar: Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

Webinar: Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

Has your dog been diagnosed with canine cognitive dysfunction?  Do you want tips about living with and caring for a frail or cognitively declining dog?

Join me in my webinar on canine cognitive dysfunction and dog dementia through the Pet Professional Guild on Monday, December 14, at 1:00 PM U.S. Eastern Standard Time.

Cricket-dementia-under-chair
My rat terrier Cricket standing with her head under a chair

I’ll be covering the definition and prevalence of the disease (much more prevalent than most of us knew!), common symptoms (including on video), the treatments that show promise, and questions to ask your vet. I’ll also discuss the commonalities with human Alzheimer’s, and most important, how to keep a dog with dementia safe and enriched. I’ll include the subjects of euthanasia and quality of life. Euthanasia seems to be an even more difficult decision for owners of dogs with dementia than with a dog with most other infirmities.

Even though the behavioral symptoms that arise with cognitive dysfunction mostly can’t be modified with training, I’ll talk about how trainers can help their clients with dogs afflicted with this condition.

There will be resources galore for further information including product descriptions, information about communities, and assessment and decision-making tools. Plus, the webinar will be recorded, and all participants will receive the URL for access. This is a great option if you can’t come at the scheduled time.

Cricket-and-Eileen-outside-keep
Cricket with advanced cognitive dysfunction late in her life

Hope to see you there!

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction: What Dog Trainers and Owners Need to Know

This webinar covers general information from dog owner and trainer’s point of view. It should not take the place of a vet visit. If your older dog is exhibiting symptoms, please make a vet appointment now.

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

Cricket standing with her head in a corner

This is a hard post to write, but perhaps not for the reason you would think. My old dog Cricket has Canine Cognitive Dysfunction. This condition is like Alzheimer’s or dementia for dogs. It’s hard to write about not because I am permeated with sadness about it. It’s hard to write because I’m not. I live with Cricket and attend to her, and I don’t see that she suffers much from CCD. Of course I regret the loss of her capabilities, and the decline can be hard to witness, but for her day to day comfort, I am more concerned about possible pain from arthritis and weakness in her rear legs.

It’s mostly hard to write about this because I’m concerned about being judged. There are a handful of videos on the Internet showing dogs purported to have dementia, and the videos to me are very sad. My visceral reaction is sometimes that the people are not doing the dog a kindness by letting its existence continue. Or perhaps that they are callous to suffering on their dogs’ part. So I wonder whether you’ll have that reaction to my pictures and video of Cricket.

I hope not. I remind myself when I see the other videos, and I hope you all will keep in mind as well, that we are seeing but a small part of the dog’s life. Not only that, but in my observation of Cricket, her own condition is not distressing to her. It can, however, be distressing to witness. It also requires careful management of her environment and a watchful eye on my part to keep her safe. I have written some about Cricket’s care in a previous post: Poop in my Pocket.

Am I being selfish keeping her with me on this earth? I truly don’t think so.

As long as she has enjoyment in life, minimal stress and pain, and still knows me (she has always been very attached to me and I am her anchor), I think her quality of life is just fine. Her appetite is good. She continues to go to work with me several half days a week, and she looks forward to those outings. At the office she is free of bother from other dogs, and has a completely carpeted surface to walk on. She toddles around after me or sometimes sleeps close by. She still sleeps pretty well at night (knock on wood). When she wanders or stands with her head in a corner, she does not display stress that I can see. In fact I see fewer signs of stress or anxiety from her now than I did before she got dementia.

My main purpose in posting these photos is so that others might see what doggie dementia can look like. Cricket started exhibiting symptoms in early 2011, but it was 2012 before I realized what might be going on. The first thing I noticed was a loss of comfort with people she used to be very close to. I don’t have pictures of that, obviously, but it was very disconcerting. Why would she suddenly give the cold shoulder to someone she had formerly known and loved?

By now she has close to a classic set of symptoms. But it took quite a bit of time to tease them out of problems she had because of sensory impairments and body stiffness.  She was diagnosed by a vet early this year. There is medication for this condition, and it has helped Cricket.

Among her symptoms are:

  • standing in corners or with her face next to the wall
  • getting stuck behind furniture
  • confusion about doors (trying to go out the hinge side)
  • forgetting what she is doing
  • circling
  • staring into space
  • occasional tremors
  • pacing or wandering
  • lack of interest in people (other than me)

Another thing I notice that is not on the standard lists is that she can’t get onto mats or pillows in a way that all of her body is on there. I’m pretty sure this is not a physical problem, in the sense of limited mobility or range of motion. She can’t figure out how to arrange herself. She will circle and lie down carefully but end up with her body sliding off the pillow or only a small part of her back on the mat. This is notable in view of her lifelong avoidance of bare floors.

She has lost the general ability to back up, and again, I suspect it is a cognitive problem. She can physically do it. She just can’t figure out that that is what she needs to do.

Here is a the abstract of a scholarly article that links dementia behaviors in dogs with specific brain changes detected by necropsy. In other words, it establishes that the behavior changes are linked to detectable brain changes.

Cognitive disturbances in old dogs suffering from the canine counterpart of Alzheimer’s disease.

Here is an article that lists many of the symptom behaviors of CCD.

Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome in Dogs.

So here are what some of the behaviors look like.

Cricket standing with her head very close to the wall
Cricket standing with her head under an office chair
Cricket with most of her body on the linoleum instead of the mat
Cricket still missing the mat, and now with her back braced against a chair base
Cricket sitting on the edge of a crate facing into the dark, with her butt hanging out
Cricket sitting on the base of a rolling office chair

Here also, is a video of several of her dementia related behaviors. They are: getting “stuck” behind an office typewriter table; forgetting what she is doing; losing the door;  and circling.

DISCLAIMER: I am not a vet and have no medical training for animals or humans. The information on Canine Cognitive Dysfunction included in this post comes from my vet, from articles, and my own observations of Cricket as her behavior has changed. If you are concerned that your dog might have CCD, please contact your vet.

I hope this was helpful to you, and not too saddening to view. Cricket has a good life, and seems to be unaware of her limitations.

Thanks for reading.

Note: Cricket passed away on May 31, 2013 at the age of almost 17. She lived a good life to her very last day. I miss her greatly.

Resources

Remember Me 3dMy book on Canine Cognitive Dysfunction: Remember Me? Loving and Caring for a Dog with Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

Web:

Eileenanddogs on YouTube

Poop in my Pocket: Life with an Old, Old Dog

Poop in my Pocket: Life with an Old, Old Dog

The very first thing I do every morning when I wake up is turn over and take a careful look at my very old dog Cricket. She has a special place on the bed surrounded by pillows on three sides and me on the fourth. Here is what I often see.

Cricket, a small terrier dog, mostly black and white, is asleep between some pillows. Her tongue hangs out a little. She is so relaxed that it is unclear whether she is alive. (She is.)
Cricket sacked out in her fortress on the bed

First, frankly, is she breathing? Then, what is her alertness level? Is she still sacked out or is she looking at me?  Big “oh-oh” if she is sitting up or trying to get off the bed. I have to make an important decision right away. Who gets to go to the bathroom first? Me, Cricket, or Clara the puppy?

Cricket, a small black and white terrier dog with very large ears, is sitting up on a bed. She looks uncomfortable and poised to move.
Cricket needs to go

These days it’s usually Cricket, although once in a while she sleeps in enough that I can get a head start. The other dogs virtually always have to wait since it is not safe for me to leave her out of my sight on the bed.

Cricket has neurological weakness in her back legs and a bit of arthritis. She needs some help in the morning.  And as soon as she stirs, I don’t have very long to get her outside. She is 16 years old, and when she needs to go, it’s right now. In that case I put on my glasses, throw on a robe, step into some shoes, and grab my phone. I lift her up a little and stand her on her four feet on the bed so she can get her bearings and practice standing. Then I pick her all the way up. I usually have a treat in my pocket and I offer it to her (I have taught her to associate being picked up with good things). Amazingly, even bleary-eyed and dry-mouthed, she usually wants the treat. Her teeth are in good shape.

I tuck her under my arm and she chews on the treat as I carry her down the hall. I unlock the door, go down the steps and take her into the front yard. Without fail, as soon as I step out the door she takes a deep sniff, then snorts a little. Then I make the daily search for a moderately level place on which to set her. Every degree of slope counts against us in the morning.

After I choose the place, I put her down very gently but don’t let go. I keep my hands under her abdomen and help her stand up. I try to get her pointing downhill (there is nowhere completely flat). If she needs to pee first, I let her go and she manages. If she needs to poop, she often needs a little more help. I keep ahold of her, switching my grip to keep her from falling over backwards.

Cricket, a small black and white terrier with large ears, is standing by a door, looking up at the camera. She looks a little anxious.
Cricket waiting to go to work with me

Things improve after that first trip outside. Like a lot of human people, Cricket is stiff in the morning and a little slow to get going mentally. But even though she has dementia, she definitely perks up as the day progresses.

By the time I leave for work, she is generally crowding me at the door to make sure that I don’t forget to take her along.

And later in the day, she is downright frisky.

Here she is getting her supper:

But back to the title of the post. The other day I went through our morning routine. I took a look at her and the answer to the daily question was clearly: Cricket needs to go. As I was carrying her down the hall, I offered her a treat but she seemed distracted. This happens sometimes. I took her outside and she peed, but that was all. Now that is very unusual. We stayed out for quite a while, but no go. I got bored and reached into my robe pocket for my phone.

Not yet.

I pulled out my iPhone.

Now.

Perched on the top edge of my phone case was a small, neat piece of brand new poop. I stared at it for quite a while in disbelief, willing it to be something else. It remained poop. I transferred the phone to my other hand and very carefully peeked into the suddenly very interesting pocket. Nothing else. I very carefully removed the phone poop with a leaf curled in my fingers and stuck it under a rock or something. I actually don’t remember that part, even though an embarrassing amount of my brain power is normally spent keeping track of the location of poop. Amazingly it had not smeared around on my phone case or in my pocket. It had just perched there politely. But even a moderate poop cleanup is not something you can do later.  But neither could I run frantically into the house to clean things up because I still had a 16 year old dog toddling around in my front yard. Also, there was a very important question: where was the rest of the poop?

So holding the phone a bit outstretched (wouldn’t you?) in my left hand, I picked up Cricket with my right and tucked her above my hip in her usual place, noting the positioning of her butt and my robe pocket for future reference. Watching my step, I trekked back to the house for cleanup and a change of clothes.

Once inside, I saw the rest of the poop in the hallway where she had dropped it while I was carrying her down the hall. I have never been so glad before to see poop on the floor!

Thanks for reading!

Those of you with old doggies, do you have stories to tell?

Cricket, a small black and white terrier dog, is lying on a chaise lounge facing into the sun. Her large ears are back, her eyes are squinted shut and she is panting but she looks relaxed and happy.
Cricket in the sun

 

Resources

My book on canine cognitive dysfunction:

Remember Me 3d

 

Eileenanddogs on YouTube

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