Dementia In Older Dogs

As dogs age, some develop behavior problems.  I hear lots of stories about dogs who whine and pace at night.  Owner's also complain about their dog 'losing' their house breaking.  These may be signs of a geriatric disease called Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS).  I think of it as senility in dogs.  

Common signs of CDS are:

1) Anxiety- including separation anxiety.  It is not uncommon for separation anxiety to recur in dogs who suffered from it earlier in life.
2) Disorientation- Initially the periods of disorientation are short in duration.  As the dog ages, the periods increase in length and frequency.
3) Changes in sleep patterns.
4) Compulsive behaviors.  In my experience, pacing and licking are the two most common.  These behaviors increase in frequency and duration as the dog ages.
5) Increased vocalization.
6) House soiling- either urine and/or feces.  Many older females suffer from urinary incontinence caused by a lack of estrogen.  We can treat this with estrogen supplementation.  It is important to perform a thorough work-up to differentiate between CDS, urinary tract problems, estrogen related incontinence or other causes.
7) Phobias.
8) Aggressive behaviors- Older dogs may become aggressive for many reasons.  Some Dogs with arthritis snap at the grandkids because of pain.  The same thing happens in dogs with Lyme Disease. 

Unfortunately, there is no definitive test for CDS.  The diagnosis is made by excluding other medical problems and a thorough medical history.  I have people video their pet's abnormal behavior at home and keep a diary as well.  I usually recommend blood work including a CBC, Complete Chemistries, Tick Disease Profile, urinalysis, x-rays and a Valley Fever test if the pet has been to Arizona or Saudi Arabia.  If the client wishes to pursue further diagnostics, I refer them to a neurologist for a CT scan or MRI.  

CDS is an incurable disease at this point in time.  It will progress despite therapy.  The goal of treatment is to make the dog and their family as comfortable as possible by minimizing the signs.  I recommend the following:

1) Establish a predictable routine.  If the dog knows what to expect, it helps decrease anxiety.
2) Make the environment as safe as possible.  Some dogs are worse at night.  Night lights and exercise before bed seem to lessen the signs.
3) DAP diffusers or collars- Dog Appeasing Pheromes help some dogs relax.  I prefer the collar because it travels with the pet wherever they roam.
4) Increase antioxidants in the diet.  I have had some patients improve on Hill's b/d.
5) Try to enrich the dog's environment.  Dogs who suffer with this disease tend to progress more slowly if they live with another dog.  I have also seen improvement in dogs that have regular play times.  My own dog was much better after a game of fetch in the pool.  She loved to swim after her toy.  
6) I reserve drug therapy for moderate to severe cases.  Selegiline (Anipryl by Pfizer Animal Health) is the most common drug used for this disease.  In my experience, the drug works best for the treatment of anxiety and phobias.   

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  • 9/3/2009 8:19 PM Lissa wrote:
    I have a 16 yr old dog with this disorder. He was put on Tramadol for pain, Myristol to see if it would help with his arthritis and Xanax for his anxiety attacks. His anxiety attacks are so bad now, nothing works. He was put on Anipryl last year with no response to the drug. It did nothing for him. Is there anything else we can give him for his anxiety. I have been to two different vets and am not getting any new ideas for his anxiety attacks.
    Reply to this
    1. 9/4/2009 8:50 AM Dr Kris Nelson wrote:
      My own dog Susie suffered with anxiety so I can sympathize with what you are going through.  I would ask one of your veterinarians to post your dog's story on the Veterinary Information Network in the behavior folder.  VIN is an on-line veterinary community that allows general practitioners to consult with specialists.  Hopefully, one of the veterinary behaviorists will have some new ideas. 

      Susie's anxiety attacks worsened if her osteoarthritis was bothering her.  I found the combination of carprofen (a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory) and gabapentin ( a drug used for pain of neurologic origin) for the arthritis and amitriptyline (an antidepressant) for the anxiety worked the best for her.  Be sure to discuss the side affects of all medications and treatments with your veterinarian before trying them on your dog.  At his age, he might have other health factors that will limit what therapies you may try.


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    2. 7/20/2010 9:10 AM Judy Brooks wrote:
      My 17 years old bichon has this disorder and was keeping us awake all night with his barking. The most recent one I am now using is working great and it is a natural product called Bio-Calm (a liquid) which is given into the mouth in a syringe and not bad tasting. I can even increase the dosage if necessary. It is made in Guelph, Ont. Canada for Centaur VA animal health and can be purchased through your vet. Its a life saver for us. The product which also worked before this was called Calms Forte from the healthfood store but it was pill form and more difficult to give. Our dog also is starting with kidney disease so the vet felt the all natural would be the best way to go. I hope this helps.
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  • 10/19/2009 10:02 PM Dee wrote:
    Our 12.5 year old corgi just attack our 12.5 year old dachshund for the very first time. Our doxy usually gets snippy with our corgi. I have never seen him do this before. We left them with our daughter to watch for 2 weeks, she grew up with them. Not sure what to do next. We notice that is is slipping with his back end (right & left)and his front right or left. Any ideas?
    Reply to this
    1. 10/20/2009 7:33 AM Dr Kris Nelson wrote:
      I am worried that your dog has a cervical disc problem that is causing the problems with his front and back legs.  Disc problems are very painful.  Some dogs will snap and bite to prevent anyone from touching them and causing more pain.  Bring him to your veterinarian right away before his condition deteriorates any further.  Also, keep him off slippery floors, do not let him jump and use a harness instead of a collar to prevent further injury.
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      1. 10/20/2009 7:38 AM Dee wrote:
        Thank you, I missed giving some information, the corgi has been with us since he was a 7 weeks. He was sitting on a different couch, my daughter and the were sitting the other couch, the doxy jumped down and then the corgi pounced on him and started attacking. If he was just sitting why attack?
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        1. 10/21/2009 5:29 PM Dr Kris Nelson wrote:
          That does make a difference.  With the new history I would think about dominance.  Which dog is normally more dominant?  Ask your daughter what happened before the attack.  Did she push the corgi off the couch to make room for the doxie?  Did she give the doxie a special toy or treat?  Find out if she did anything that would show favoritism to the doxie.

          We humans do not think like dogs.  Sometimes we pet, feed or acknowledge the submissive dog in the family before the dominant one.  The dominant dog blames the submissive dog for the infraction, not the people.  They attack to re-establish their superiority.    Couches and beds are considered valuable possessions to a dominant dog.  The height makes them feel even more superior.  If your corgy had no other health problems, I would hypothesize that the corgy was putting the doxie in his place.  But with the signs you describe I am worried that it might be more than that.  I think it is best to have the corgy examined by your veterinarian.  They will be able to perform a neurologic examination to make sure your dog's brain, cranial nerves and long tracts are functioning properly.             
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  • 10/20/2009 7:07 PM Pauline wrote:
    Our 17 year old sheltie/pomeranian cross Chester is showing signs of dementia. He is deaf and his eye sight is not wonderful,he is pacing and crying at night, getting into corners and behaving strangely almost always at night.He is urinating inside,sleeping almost all day. He is still very affectionate and loves attention.What can we do? He is a much loved family pet.
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    1. 10/21/2009 5:51 PM Dr Kris Nelson wrote:
      From your description, I am worried that your dog is developing dementia associated with aging.  Talk to your veterinarian right away.  There are several drugs that might help him feel better.  Also, get some night lights for him.  Animals like people, find it more difficult to see at night when they age.  Place one in his sleeping area and one by his water bowl.  Always turn on the yard lights on when your take him outside.  Some of my older patients refuse to go outside unless the lights are on.  Lastly, try to keep him awake more during the day so he will sleep through the night.  Stimulate him mentally with short walks (it is okay if you have to carry him), new toys or anything else he enjoys.  Exercise his brain as well as his body to keep him young at heart.    
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      1. 10/22/2009 5:14 AM Pauline wrote:
        Dear Dr Kris, we do leave the lights on for him. I will take him for more walks. I have not been taking him so often as he gets spooked by other dogs and pedestrians.He usually sleeps on our son's bed, but, has taken to coming to me at about 3.00am every morning and jumping onto our bed. If I get up and pat him back to sleep like a baby he is quite content !! This would be ok if I did not have to work full time. I will take him back to the vet. He is not in any pain, is eating and drinking and generally calm.
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        1. 10/22/2009 8:04 AM Dr Kris Nelson wrote:
          Good job on the lights and nurturing him back to sleep.  From the additional details, it sounds like an anxiety based problem which is common in early dementia.  My own dog suffered from that when she got older.  The good news is that there are drugs to help them feel better.  Your veterinarian will help you decide which one is best for your dog.  Just remember, it takes awhile to get the proper drug and dose for your dog.  Hope for, but don't expect miracles over night. 
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  • 12/3/2009 12:07 AM pj wrote:
    My 14 year old cocker paces around and around the house for hours in the evening. She'll plop down to rest for maybe a 30 seconds or a minute, then she's up and pacing again. She often (not always) just sits and pants. She is deaf (has been for several years), and seems to be losing her vision and possibly smell (sometimes can't find a treat that's on the floor right in front of her - she knows it's there and searches for it but has trouble finding it.)

    She also is pooping in the house - easily once or twice a day. She doesn't like to do it outside, especially if it's dark or rainy. We'll keep her out for quite awhile, but she just keeps sitting at the door to come in. Then a few minutes after she's back inside, she poops in the house.

    She does still greet people, follows her favorite person around the house, and likes to chase her ball a little bit (but can't always find it). She also is still trainable to some extent - when rewarded with a few treats she learns quickly to repeat the behavior. (But we don't know how to UNtrain the pacing, panting, and pooping.)

    She's been checked by the vet - Cushing's Disease has been mentioned, but at her age of 14 we really don't want to pursue testing or treatment.

    What possible treatments, medications, or training could we give her to help with the three Ps - pacing, panting, and pooping?
    Reply to this
    1. 12/3/2009 9:49 PM Dr Kris Nelson wrote:
      Your poor dog!  It sounds like she suffers from anxiety.  Fortunately, we have drugs and other techniques to help dogs with this condition.  Besides implementing the suggestions from my blog post, I would probably start her on drug therapy.  Since I do not know her complete medical history, I cannot recommend a specific drug.  Please contact your veterinarian right away.  They will be able to help you establish a treatment plan for her.

      I know living with the three P's is no fun but hang in there.  I have seen drug therapy work wonders in these patients.   
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      1. 12/12/2009 5:02 PM pj wrote:
        Thank you. I will call the veterinarian.

        Last time we were there a month or so ago we got Composure. Giving her several of them in the evening does help with the panting/pacing, but doesn't help at all with the pooping. Outside she sniffs around and looks like she might go, but then she comes back to the door. We keep telling her to go back to the lawn, and she will, but finally we give up and she comes back in and poops a few minutes later.

        How could a drug help with this? It seems like a behavioral issue. ?????
        Reply to this
        1. 12/14/2009 8:08 AM Dr Kris Nelson wrote:

          From your description, it sounds like the Composure is controlling the anxiety portion of your dog's problem since the pacing and panting have stopped.  I am concerned that she has developed a substrate preference.  When she defecates inside, does she always go on the same surface, i.e rug, tile, wood floor?  If so, place a piece of her preferred substrate outside in the area where you want her to defecate.  A piece with her scent on it works the best.  When she uses it regularly, gradually make the piece smaller and smaller until she goes on the grass.

          I know how frustrating this problem can be.  Hang in there!  Please keep me informed of her progress. 


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          1. 12/18/2009 4:50 AM pj wrote:
            Yes, the pacing and panting are reduced - still there, but not like before.

            And no, she doesn't go on the same area. Sometimes rug, sometimes hardwood floor, sometimes right in front of us, sometimes not. (If we see her hunching over we pick her up and carry her outside immediately.)

            However, I think we're showing that you CAN teach an old dog new tricks :-) We've figured out that she defecates on a fairly regular schedule every 5-6 hours, and we're giving her a Milk Bone every time she defecates outside.

            We take her out at the right times, and stand there to watch until she goes. If she heads back for the door we point back outside emphatically; she gives us a rueful look, walks back out, and poops! No accidents inside for about 5-6 days, since we started rewarding outside pottying.
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            1. 12/18/2009 11:49 AM Dr Kris Nelson wrote:
              You are absolutely right.  Old dogs can learn new tricks!  Be sure to give the Milk Bone to her outside.  I have patients who go through the motions outdoors then run indoors for their treat without really taking care of business.  A few minutes later, their owner finds a mess in the house.  Rewarding them outside teaches them the treat is for urinating or defecating in the yard, not running back into the house.  

              I am glad the panting and pacing are reduced.  Some of these anti-anxiety drugs take weeks to establish blood levels.  Keep in touch with your veterinarian so they can help you adjust her dosage to keep her comfortable.  Happy holidays!   
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  • 1/20/2010 12:00 PM K Bell wrote:
    I have an eleven year old irish setter/golden mix. We adopted him when he was around 6 years old. He has always been a little 'different'. He is one funny dog. In the past few months he has been barking a lot at night, we turn on the light, he goes out and barks to come right back in. He has no idea why he wants to go out. He paces around the house. will lay down for a few moments, gets back up and around the house he goes. He pants and I know he is upset because he will exhaust himself and come smack the side of my bed by my face while he does this so I will pet him. I can pet him, but it doesn't stop his panting or wandering. He in the last week has started chewing on furniture and dog beds. He doesn't eat any of it. he just chews. He has been licking himself and no amount of redirecting him changes that. I have two other dogs that he has no problems with. He certainly tries to sleep more during the day. My daughters who are 8 and 5 keep asking me why Red is so sad. It is breaking my heart. I don't really know what to do to help him. I have always had dogs, and I have never had this happen. Please help us.
    Thank you
    Reply to this
    1. 1/21/2010 8:20 AM Dr Kris Nelson wrote:
      Poor Red!  Sounds like he is suffering from severe anxiety although he needs a physical exam and diagnostics to be sure.  Thankfully, there are treatments available to help him.  Contact your veterinarian right away to discuss.  I have had good luck combining behavior modification techniques with drug therapy in these cases.  Since most of these drugs are metabolized by the liver, I recommend blood work prior to therapy. 

      Most importantly, I want to encourage you to hang in there with Red.  My own dog suffered from anxiety the last four years of her life.  She paced all night long until she collapsed.  After eight weeks of therapy, the sadness lifted and she enjoyed life again.    

      Good luck with Red!  Please feel free to contact me if you have any other questions.                
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  • 1/21/2010 7:48 PM Meredith wrote:
    We have a rescued dachshund/poodle mix who is the light of my life. He is estimated to be anywhere between 13 and 20. When we got him, he was amazingly house trained, as in never ever made a mess in the house.

    He's always been an obsessive licker- of himself and of us, but as of two weeks ago, he is restless for the first two hours we go to bed (paces, asked to get on the bed and then immediately jumps off, paces, more- wash rinse repeat- you get the picture. He eventually settles down, though he no longer wants to sleep with us. Then, the restless pacing cycle starts all over again at about 4:30 am, 2 hours before we normally get up. The big kicker was today, when we got up to take him out, we stopped two minutes to make coffee and I turned around and he was peeing in the dining room. He's never behaved like this before- but it sounds like dementia. I love my baby boy and want to do everything I can. I'm not sure if it is too late to help him?
    Reply to this
    1. 1/22/2010 8:00 PM Dr Kris Nelson wrote:
      I agree with you.  It sounds like this could be dementia.  The good news is that it is not too late to help him.  Talk to your veterinarian right away.  There are several medications you may try.  Please let me know how it goes and thanks for taking in an older stray! 
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  • 6/9/2010 3:20 AM Diana wrote:
    Our Dalmation, Bisbee, is 15 1/2 years old, is on tramadol and aspirin 2x/day for pain in back and rear legs. Legs occasionally splay out on her and back paws sometimes drag during a step. She is also on 1/4 Proin (?) 1x/day, for urination dripping (works like a charm). Of late, however, she has been waking up around 1 AM and will pace to go outside then back inside, over and over again for about 2 hours (it is currently 3AM as I write this)! She also often poops during this time, but it doesn't appear to lessen the pacing. Pooping also occasionally occurs in the house on her way to the door (doesn't have the same control). Heavy panting seems to increase during these middle of the night hours. I am so tired and frustrated but fear it is even harder on her.
    The last blood work showed elevated BUN, which would be expected for her age. She is happy, wags and smiles, even takes off for a limited trot, but this night time routine of pacing and panting is killing all of us. From other entries, there appears the possibility of reducing this with meds, yes? Are these signs of dementia, heart failure or something else perhaps?
    Reply to this
    1. 6/10/2010 9:20 PM Dr Kris Nelson wrote:
      First of all, congratulations on 15 1/2 years for Bisbee.  That's wonderful!  The symptoms you describe could indicate the early stages of dementia.  The dose of Proin being utilized is on the low end of dosing.  I suggest you inquire of your veterinarian regarding both of those items.  In people, I know urinary tract infections are sometimes implicated in cases of dementia.  My friend's mom actually suffered from this.  I have starting checking for this in animals.  I wish you great luck with Bisbee.  Old friends with whom we share many wonderful memories are precious indeed!
      Reply to this
  • 6/17/2010 11:38 PM Trena wrote:
    I have a 13/15 year old male dog, Chance, that I adopted 8 years ago from the pound. His breed is believed to be lapso apso/maltase. Recently, he has started pacing the floor at night, only resting for a couple of minutes at a time, he cries constantly especially at night, and he seems to forget that he is housebroken several times a week. He is losing his vision, his hearing , and smell. His crying is not consolable. We have spoken with the vet and he seems to think that we should treat for a UTI. He has been treated for a UTI 3 -4 times in the past 6-8 months. The vet has given him previcox for arthritis as well.

    Any suggestions on how to help him? His nighttime behavior has become so extreme that my husband and I take turns sitting up with him at night.
    Reply to this
    1. 6/18/2010 7:09 AM Dr Kris Nelson wrote:
      Poor Chance!  From your description, the clinical signs seem consistent with age related dementia.  In humans, a UTI may cause signs of dementia which is likely why your veterinarian wants to treat him for it.  Since he has been treated several times, I would recommend a urinalysis and culture to make sure he has an infection and then, identify the correct antibiotic to use. 

      If he does not have an infection, there are several different anti-anxiety drugs to try.  As you know from this post, my own dog suffered from anxiety as she aged.  I was able to control it reasonably well with medication.  Your veterinarian will be able to prescribe the best one for Chance based on his laboratory work and physical exam.  Just remember, not all dogs respond to each medicine.  If the first drug doesn't work, try another.  

      I want to sincerely thank you and your husband for sitting up with Chance during this difficult time.  Your presence does comfort him!  When he is anxious, try holding him close to your body.  Most owners tell me, this helps their dog calm down.  If you have read the book Animals in Translation by Temple Gradin, she talks about building a squeeze cage for herself to use when she became anxious.  The pressure on her body brought her a feeling of security and helped her calm down.

      I hope that helps.  Good luck with Mr. Chance.   

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  • 7/5/2010 8:13 PM Alexandra wrote:
    Dear Dr Kris Nelson: Our beloved dog Tate is fourteen. Last year he had a huge lump removed from his side, a soft tissue sarcoma.He did so well. Four months later it started to grow back. I think he was as disappointed and upset as we were. We were told it might grow back again and considering his age, I couldn't bear putting him through the operation again. In the last few months he has begun dragging the leg on the side the tumor is growing on and his back legs are weakening. He too has begun pooping in the house. He is eating well, his vision is great, eyes bright, his coat healthy, his sense of humor and wonderful personality present however he seems a lot like an old senile person of late. He is a husky cross, our little Wolf. We cherish him beyond belief and want the best for him. My real concerns are should I let him be or attain the drugs to help from what I've read sounds like a type of dog dementia, and also acquire something that will help his hips and back legs. What do you think about putting him through another operation for the growth on his shoulder? Thank you!
    Reply to this
    1. 7/7/2010 11:26 AM Dr Kris Nelson wrote:
      My heart goes out to you and Tate during this difficult time.  Dealing with cancer is never easy in animals or humans.  We don't want our pets to suffer yet at the same time, we don't want to make an end-of-life decision too quickly and rob them of the time they have remaining.  I just went through this with my dove, Job, so I know how difficult it is.

      Unfortunately, I cannot offer you specific counsel because I do not personally know Tate and the details of his condition.  You, your family and your veterinarian must decide what is best for Tate based on his clinical signs and attitude.  I would recommend  you sit down together and discuss all the options available.  If you decide to skip surgery, then ask your veterinarian about the different things (medications for inflammation as well as anxiety and pain, acupuncture, etc.,)  that can be tried.  

      How do you know when it is time?  With most animals they will tell you.  I know that seems vague, but one day they look into your eyes and you just know.   Unfortunately, this is not the case with animals who suffer from dementia.  In my experience, these patients lose the ability to communicate, making the decision more difficult.  Since we know that heart rates increase with pain, I have people monitor their pet's heart rate at rest. 

      Again, I want to extend my sympathies to you and Tate.  He sounds like a wonderful dog and you sound like a very caring person. 
      Reply to this
  • 7/8/2010 7:54 AM Alexandra wrote:
    Dear Dr. Nelson:

    I can't tell you how much I appreciate your compassionate and knowledgeable response to my email! It means the world to Tate and I and his dad. We did visit the vet yesterday and like you, she was wonderful. She did not recommend putting him through another operation, we are trying anti-inflammatories with tummy pills to protect his stomach and his kidneys, and we are monitoring his personality and behavior. Keeping in mind and preparing ourselves for the next step. And I will look into acupuncture! Tate is our life, and he has fulfilled my life to no end, so to be lucky enough to have your thoughtful response and talking to the wonderful vet we saw yesterday is invaluable to us and helps us to cope with this difficult time in all our lives - thank you so much!!
    Reply to this
    1. 7/8/2010 12:05 PM Dr Kris Nelson wrote:
      It was my pleasure to help.  I wish you and Tate the best. 
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  • 7/20/2010 10:56 AM Alexandra wrote:
    Hi there:

    Thank you for this. Unfortunately our beautiful dog Tate passed away yesterday. He was ready to go, his body broke down and he was coming to his natural end. Our wonderful vet Barb came to our home to assist him out of this life onto the leg of his next journey. And Tate was so calm and ready. He closed his eyes and went to sleep even before his tranquilizer was administered. He died as peacefully and beautifully as he lived - our saint.
    Reply to this
    1. 7/22/2010 11:30 AM Dr Kris Nelson wrote:
      I am sorry to hear about Tate's passing but grateful that it was peaceful.  Losing a pet is never easy, especially a charmer like Tate.  Please know that my thoughts are with you as you navigate this difficult time. 
      Reply to this
      1. 7/22/2010 2:32 PM Alexandra wrote:
        Dear Dr. Nelson:

        Thank you so much for this and for your earlier advice. It certainly is heartbreaking but Tate is in me and all around. I can feel him. I need now to adjust to having his spirit's presence around opposed to his physical one and to the fact that my life has completely changed. A great dog is life's most precious gift and I feel so grateful for having Tate in mine.
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  • 7/23/2010 9:52 AM Yvonne wrote:
    Hi.articles give me hope.I have 20 yr old Tibetian terrier Winston,who is being treated for dementia.He walks around in circles all the time ,then falls down and we have to help him up.He can't see but has great appetite.It is 24 hr care for has put him on phenobarbitone and Valium but can't see any results yet.I really don't want to have to put him to sleep.If these pills don't work can yu recommend something else.Thanking you
    Reply to this
    1. 7/25/2010 8:29 PM Dr Kris Nelson wrote:
      Wow, 20 years old!  Winston must be an incredible dog.  I am sorry to hear about his circling.  If he does not respond to the pheno and valium, there are other drugs your veterinarian may prescribe to help Winston with his anxiety including Selegiline (Anipryl by Pifzer Animal Health) and amitriptyline.  I wish you and Winston all the best in the time he has remaining.
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  • 7/23/2010 10:12 PM Pauline wrote:
    I was so sorry to read about Tate, my thoughts are with you. Our animals are most certainly an integral part of our lives and their deaths must be mourned.our own beautiful dog Chester is almost 18.5 years and each day ia a blessing, I cannot imagine our lives without him.Thank you Dr Kris for your advice re dogs with dementia,as we live in Australia I find your site invaluable.
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  • 7/26/2010 6:51 AM Alexandra wrote:
    Hi Pauline:

    Thank you for your thoughts for Tate. I hope Chester is doing well! I feel like I want to keep talking about Tate everyday and to help me mourn his loss I wrote a tribute to him on my blog that I feel all loving dog owners will relate to - it can be read at the website above.

    I agree that Dr Nelson's advice is wonderful and so helpful for all of us -
    a very special vet! Dr Nelson and our vet here in Toronto,Dr Houghton, are admirable - Tate, my husband and I were so lucky to have happened upon them when we did.

    Take care.
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  • 7/28/2010 5:28 AM Pauline wrote:
    Dear Alexandra,
    I read your blog about your beautiful Tate, and judging from his photo, he was very intelligent.I am sure that his spirit will be with you and his Dad always.Chester is presently lying on my feet and having a chin rub, he is just gorgeous, the prince of our family.
    All the very best .
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  • 5/31/2011 4:41 PM sue wrote:
    Our 7 year old male maltese has begun strange behavior. He whines and cries and stares at corners all day when he isn't sleeping. He comes to bed but doesn't stay and cries to leave the room. His sister is fine and has none old these habits. He eats well and has the run of a large fenced in area to play in. He has begun to chew up books and the corner of my grandchildrens toy box, but only when we aren't home. Our vet has seen Spencer twice for this and seems as baffled as we and has put him on medication for anxiousness. Can you help?
    Reply to this
    1. 6/3/2011 8:06 PM Dr Kris Nelson wrote:
      It sounds like your veterinarian did a thorough work up including blood work, urinalysis, complete physical and neurologic examination and the results were all within normal limits.  I concur then that we need to be concerned about an anxiety disorder.  These can be difficult to diagnose and even more difficult to treat.  Therefore, I recommend you consult with a veterinary behaviorist who can work with you and your veterinarian.  This consultation should happen as soon as possible.  

      Unfortunately, most anti-anxiety medications take several weeks to reach effective levels.  In the meantime, I would try a DAP diffuser or collar.  Like you, I sure hope you are able to get to the root cause soon and hope for the best.  
      Reply to this
  • 8/11/2011 3:52 PM Mindy wrote:
    Dear Dr Nelson. I have a 15 year old shih tsu. He has been showing signs of dementia for the last year and I don't know what to do for him. The last month he has had trouble recognizing me. he doesnt look for me around the house. it seems like when im in the living room he is scared and will start to leave. He still goes out on his own and doesnt have accidents in the house. He still will eat. Not as much as he use to but still eats. My husband feels its not time to put him down yet. Im really torn about this. Im going to try to put him on xanax for the anxiety because he has always been a high anxiety dog but now its worse. the only time he seems happy to me is when he is sleeping. Please if you could give me some adivce. thanks in advance. Oh been to the vet and they dont seem to think he is in physical pain. But how do we truly no that? Mindy
    Reply to this
    1. 8/12/2011 8:48 AM Dr Kris Nelson wrote:
      Dear Mindy,

      It is common for dogs to become more anxious as they age.  Alprazolam (Xanax) is one of several anti-anxiety drugs used to treat this disorder.  In my experience, it may take several weeks of therapy before they respond.  If the anxiety does not improve, the dose or formulation might need to be adjusted or try a different drug. 

      As for knowing when an animal is in pain, I advise people to monitor their pet's respiratory rate at rest.  A couple times a day, count the number of chest movements in a minute while he is sleeping.  An increased rate may signify pain or other health issues such as heart disease that cause discomfort.  An increased rate coupled with a poor appetite is a bad sign.  I hope that helps Mindy.  My thoughts are with you and your dog during this difficult time.  

      Reply to this
      1. 8/12/2011 9:49 AM Mindy wrote:
        Thank you Dr Nelson for getting back to me so fast. His breathing seems fine to me. He does have a bad heart murmer but has no coughing with it. He doesnt seem to pant or shake or whine so I'm assuming he is not in pain but again who knows when they can not talk. I started the Xanax yesterday and will give it a few weeks to kick in. Mindy
        Reply to this
  • 12/7/2011 5:39 PM Heather wrote:
    Dr.Nelson,I have a 12yr.old beagle named Bonnie.I am worried she may be showing signs of early dementia. A yr.ago she started eating books and magazines. She never did anything like this as a pup. This went on for a few months and then she quit. Then about two weeks ago she started again. She ate a X-mas card; there was nothing left. Then a small book was absolutly destroyed. She also likes to pull the placemats off the table. Also, in the last two weeks she had urinated and pooped on the floor. In one instance, she was lying on the floor and stood up in front of my husband and a little stool fell out. She turned to look at it as if something weird happened.She then began walking away and more stool fell out.Then yesterday my husband was in the shower and she urinated on the rug right in front of the shower. These behaviors are totally abnormal for her. She does sleep through the night; but is rising earlier to eat. She definatly has a good appetite. She also drinks alot of water. One thing I forgot to mention is that she licks her legs and feet constantly, but she as always done that. I have not taken her to the vet yet. I am planning on taking next week for her TNT and anal gland expression; I plan on discussing these behaviors with him. I was just curious if these could be symptoms of early dementia; I want to be prepared to discuss this with him.He is pretty old school and I have a feeling he might try to blow it off. I would like to treat her if it will help her; especially if it is an early stages. My husband and I don't have any children and our dogs Bonnie and Gracie are our children. I want to do what is best for her. Do you think she could have dementia or could something else be going on. I thank you in advance.
    Reply to this
    1. 12/10/2011 11:04 AM Dr Kris Nelson wrote:
      Wow, I am impressed that Bonnie never chewed up anything as a pup. That's an amazing accomplishment for a beagle. The behaviors you describe could be a sign of neurologic disease caused by several things including canine cognitive disorder as well as metabolic disturbances, cancer and other diseases.  When visiting your veterinarian, give him a thorough history and then request a complete physical exam including a neurologic assessment.  After that, I would recommend lab work including a CBC, superchem, T4 and urinalysis.  If the results of these diagnostics suggest canine cognitive disorder than start treatment as soon as possible.  Dogs with this medical problem are very anxious and most benefit greatly from treatment. Good luck with Bonnie. 
      Reply to this
      1. 12/10/2011 4:48 PM heather wrote:
        Dr.Nelson, Thank you for your reply. I have an appt. for Bonnie this coming Friday the 16th. We just came home this evening from renting a video and getting a pizza (gone about 45min) and she had chewed up the back of a picture frame. This is just totally abnormal for her. I will give the doctor her complete history for the last month and ask for the tests that you recommend. Thank you so much for your advice; I will keep you updated.
        Reply to this
        1. 12/17/2011 10:40 AM heather hudson wrote:
          Dr.Nelson, I took my Bonnie to the vet yesterday and I asked for the woman vet; as I stated the male doctor is the practice owner and tends to be a little old school. She was wonderful. She did a complete blood work up, including thyroid testing. She came back into the room with a big smile and said that she couldn't be happier with her results. Everything was perfect and her physical exam was great. She thinks that Bonnie may be eating paper to reduce acid in her gastic system. She asked if Bonnie burped often and she does. She has a dog that was doing the same thing; even ate a utility bill and she had to call to get the total to send in her payment. Ha She gave me Metronidazole to give twice daily for 2 weeks and told me to get Omeprazole at the drug store. I am to give 1/2 an Omeprozole in the morning. She also suggested giving a 2-3 mini rice cakes a day to help absorb the acid. She wants me to try this for two weeks and then call her with an update. I picked up anything that she could possibly eat paper of book wise and in about a week and half I will lay out a small sheet of paper to see what happens. She said if she doesn't appear any better in two weeks, we will start her on the some meds for cognitive disorders. She said, this didn't explain the eliminating in the house, of course. Hopefully, this is what the problem is and the meds will help her. I just would have never guessed dogs would eat paper to help relieve gastric upset. I will give you an update in a few weeks. Thanks for all your help and Happy Holidays to you!
          Reply to this
  • 1/22/2012 10:58 AM Susan Jordan wrote:
    Hi, Dr. Nelson,
    We have a 12 year old mixed breed dog, Tessie- very cute and very loveable. The Vet ahs diagnosed her with early stage dementia. We are going away and wanted to put her in the kennel for 5 days. Is that likely to cause a big progression in her dementia?
    Reply to this
    1. 1/22/2012 9:07 PM Dr Kris Nelson wrote:
      Probably not, but I would recommend boarding Tessie with your veterinarian.  If she has a problem, your veterinarian will be able to treat her. Good luck!
      Reply to this
  • 2/15/2012 3:30 PM david berk wrote:
    My Shih Tzu is driving us all crazy at night. He is 7 yrs old and has never had any of these current problems before. For the last couple of weeks lets say after 9pm he gets anxious, when we try to go to bed he has to have all the doors open or he will scratch on them, he paces,he cant seem to settle down. We have tried leaving the living room light on, we have tried anxiety drops for dogs and so far no real improvement, even if you stay up with him and sleep on the couch he still walks around pacing, always looking to the ceiling. He has in the past been afraid of thunder storms and fire crackers but never this pacing all night long. During the day he is fine, he sleeps alot anyways but of course he is exhausted by the time daylight comes because he has been up all night. We are thinking of purchasing the Thundershirt but dont want to waste any more money. Should I be taking him to a vet? Is there some underlying problem that I am over looking. Any help would be much apprecitive.

    Reply to this
    1. 2/16/2012 10:17 PM Dr Kris Nelson wrote:
      I would definitely take him to a veterinarian as soon as possible.  It sounds like he is suffering from severe anxiety and might need anti-anxiety medication.  In my experience, dogs with severe anxiety need a combination of several therapies to successfully control them.  I have had several clients try the thunder coat with a wide range of responses.  It worked great in some dogs, but not all.     
      Reply to this
  • 2/29/2012 5:16 PM Mary wrote:
    Our dog,Max,is a fourteen year old Husky-Terrier mix. He was always a little high strung, but he has become much more anxious. He began peeing in the house, something he had never done. He also whined and paced. Then the Vet discovered he had Lyme Disease last summer, so he thought that might be causing the anxiety. But after he finished his Lyme treatment, he was no better in terms of anxiety. After my son left for college in the Fall, Max became much worse, whining and barking whenever I left him, even to go upstairs. He began peeing on the floors even more at night, and also was losing his hearing and vision.The vet diagnosed Dementia, and prescribed Acepromazine for when he had to be left alone. But that made him much worse, so we stopped it and he has been on Clomicalm for a few weeks now and that has helped "take the edge off" his anxiety. But he is now peeing in the house in the middle of the night every night now, and seems unable to control it. Sometimes he seems to pee while he is sleeping. He barks non-stop when I leave him to run to the store. I have tried to stay home with him all winter, but even if I go out for half hour he becomes very upset and digs in the yard, and seems to root around in the dirt and maybe eat it. When I come home, his white fur is covered with mud. He also has developed a few scabs on his head that he constantly scratches. The vet said these are not infected. The vet gave a prescription for him for Xanax to be used on top of the Clomicalm,a couple of weeks ago and it made his pacing and whining much worse. So, the vet says there is no other medication that he can combine with the Clomicalm other than the Xanax. So, of course I can't give him the Xanax. I did buy doggie diapers and have been using them at night, but he pees so much it leaks through,even with an extra pad inside it. He spends most of the days now pacing around the house, and stares into space. I assume he has had Dementia for almost a year now, but my question is, what is the time frame for this, how long will he go on? My vet says he is otherwise healthy and that he can't give me a prognosis. I am just wondering if this can go on for weeks,months,or years? I am concerned about his quality of life but, I am not sure, as, despite all this, he still likes to take his daily walks, and seems to know me, and enjoys being petted. I just want to know how long to let him go on like this and what is best for him.
    Reply to this
    1. 3/3/2012 8:23 AM Dr Kris Nelson wrote:
      I'm sure sorry to hear about Max's condition.  Since he is suffering we need to keep working toward a solution.  One drug I definitely want you to ask your veterinarian about is Amitriptyline.  I used this with my own Golden Retriever and the results were remarkable.  You may also wish to seek out a veterinary neurologist.  There are many drugs available and each seem to work better in some animals than others.  So it's a bit of a guessing game but I'm hoping to extend a good quality of life for Max by finding the right one.  I'm sorry this note is short but I have to go to the clinic.  Nevertheless, I wanted to try and get you a quick answer this morning.  Good luck!
      Reply to this
  • 3/3/2012 8:53 AM Mary wrote:
    Dr. Nelson, Thank you so much for your suggestion! I will speak with my vet about this med. And thanks so much for responding so quickly to my post! Thanks!
    Reply to this
  • 3/4/2012 6:33 AM Rosemary Lumb wrote:
    Benson is a 13 year old Golden Retriever, in general good health for his age, although completely deaf. He eats very well, enjoys two 30 minute walks a day and is on Metacalm for arthritis. BUT he barks a lot during the night and does not seem to know what he wants. I will settle him and 5 minutes later he starts again. It seems to be a high pitched demented barking. I leave a light on so he can see where he is. I am getting exhausted with disturbed nights. Any suggestions what to do or give him?
    PS He does not bark at all in the daytime and sleeps like a baby
    Reply to this
    1. 3/4/2012 9:16 AM Dr Kris Nelson wrote:
      Unfortunately, it sounds like Benson is suffering from cognitive dysfunction associated anxiety.  It is common for patients with this problem to reverse their schedules, sleep during the day and active at night.  Successful treatment will require addressing Benson's anxiety as well as re-establishing his daily routine.  Video tape Benson at night and then schedule an appointment with your veterinarian.  After examining Benson and observing his behavior, they will be able to set up a treatment plan to get Benson back on your schedule.  In my experience, dogs with this level of anxiety often require medication to make them comfortable.  If the first drug prescribed by your veterinarian does not work, try another until you find one that works.  Hang in there, help is on the way!
      Reply to this
      1. 3/5/2012 11:59 AM Rosemary Lumb wrote:
        Thank you for your promp reply.
        I have taken Benson to the vet and described his problem. The vet diagnosed cognitive disfunction and has prescribed some medication to try for 4 weeks. (I do not have the tablets yet and cannot remember the name of them)If these do not work he has some new ones to try (again, I did not write the name down)
        I will let you know how I get on as hopefully all information will help other people too.
        Apart from this problem, Benson is doing remarkably well for his age.
        Reply to this
        1. 3/16/2012 2:41 PM Rosemary Lumb wrote:
          Success!! After nearly two weeks, Benson is showing a rematkable improvement.
          I have tackled the problem in two ways
          1) keep him awake and active throughout the day. No more sleeping all day. He has two 30 minute walks a day.
          2) Vivitonon tablets twice a day to eade his anxiety. This is NOT a sedative.
          he last couple of nights he has slept right through until I wake him at 8 oclock in the morning
          I had not really expected such great results so soon
          Many thanks
          Reply to this
  • 3/13/2012 11:40 PM gina wrote:
    My 16 1/2 yr old brittany mix has started to decline it seems tonight. He has a courageous heart and has battled many health problems ranging from lyme disease, laryngeal paralysis and subsequent lateralization surgery. Most recently in 9/2011 he had tracheobronchitis that I treated with IV fluids and antibiotics (vet provided - I'm an icu nurse). Tonight he began panting and pacing with his neck hyperextended as if he was pointing. He's very arthritic and even so paces and paces, occasionally stopping at his water bowl to lap gently very little bits. He has much difficulty walking yet goes round and round. He would not eat tonight. He's not barking or crying. He just now lay down on his belly neck outstretched straight and panting. Is this dementia? I don't want him to suffer but he has fought back so many crisises I thought I would write. Thanks
    Reply to this
    1. 3/15/2012 9:02 AM Dr Kris Nelson wrote:
      I'm sorry for the slow response.  Clinics have kept me too busy.  Based on your description, I am not sure what is wrong with your dog.  Anxiety and panting are two common signs of cognitive dysfunction, especially at night.  What concerns me is the hyperextension of the neck.  I am concerned that he is experiencing pain that might be radiating from the esophagus or tracheal.  I would take him in for further diagnostics to see what is going on in his neck/throat.  Good luck with him!
      Reply to this
      1. 3/15/2012 11:41 AM gina wrote:
        Thank you for responding. I'm happy to report that with no intervention except observation he has come through those symptoms and seems back to normal. He's eating and drinking, no longer pacing or panting and he is holding his head and neck normally. I wonder if he was experiencing some GI upset because later that night around 3am I heard air in his stomach gurgling and he passed a lot of gas (I stayed up with him most of the night) then he went to his dog bed and went to sleep! Today he is being himself which at 16 1/2 yrs old includes long naps and an occasional journey around the yard. He's content and I'm happy! Thanks again!
        Reply to this
  • 3/17/2012 7:31 PM Pauline wrote:
    Dear Kris, Thought that I would send you an update from Australia re Chester ( sheltie / pomeranian cross), he will be 20 years old in April and we are planning a party!! He is now deaf, with very low vision and dementia. However, he still knows all the family members and greets us with licks. This is the way he now communicates with smell and taste. He is still able to walk around the house and garden and generally seems happy. We count our blessings every day and know that when the time comes it will be terrible for all of us. He is one very pampered pooch.
    Reply to this
    1. 3/18/2012 8:56 AM Dr Kris Nelson wrote:
      Wow, that is terrific news.  I hope Chester has a wonderful birthday filled with everything he loves to do.  Thanks for sharing this wonderful news!
      Reply to this
  • 3/19/2012 1:23 AM Pauline wrote:
    Thank you Dr Kris, it was you who helped us through a bad patch about three years ago when Chester's dementia set in. I found the best way to deal with his night roaming and crying was to nurse him back to sleep. I did this for about 6 months, thank fully he responded and now apart from standing staring into space he is not too bad. He is a total creature of habit, and everything has to be done on schedule.. he is just a little old man!
    Thank you for all the wisdom that you impart over the web.
    Reply to this
    1. 3/19/2012 8:17 AM Dr Kris Nelson wrote:
      Chester sounds like a wonderful guy.  I am glad he is doing well.  Thank you for your kind words.
      Reply to this
  • 6/21/2012 9:40 PM Patti wrote:
    I was happy to find your site. I have a wonderful 16.5 yr old blue heeler. He has all the signs of Dementia. I am taking him to the vet, but wondered if there is anything orgnically I could give him. I know I am lucky to have a dog at his age and just want him to be comfortable so I know drugs are probably the only thing that will give him that feeling, but curious about organic products. I love him madly and saved him from the pound the day before they were going to put him down. He came to me at 6 months and is the best dog in the world.
    Reply to this
    1. 6/23/2012 7:48 PM Dr Kris Nelson wrote:
      Wow, I am so happy for you that your dog has reached the age of 16.5 years.  I hope my dog does the same.  Dementia is a tough problem to deal with in animals and people.  In my experience with non-traditional therapy, the best results are achieved with mild cases.  Since it sounds like your dog's dementia is more severe, I would pursue traditional therapy at this point in time.  Use caution when combining supplements, Chinese herbs or other organic with medication to prevent unwanted side affects.  Hope that helps!
      Reply to this
  • 7/2/2012 8:52 AM Linda wrote:
    My Romeo...(my shadow) miniature american eskimo, 19 years old, deaf but vision is good, has shown signs of dementia once before about 6 months ago. I began putting drops of H2O2 (food grade hydrogen peroxide) in his water and was I swearing it was a miracle. He continued to follow me on my farms chores as always, even chasing the cats around etc. BUT, yesterday a relapse, did not want to follow me, sleeping a LOT and just in general a lack of vitality. Today no improvement, and I cannot decide if it is just his "time". Cannot even imagine losing my boy, but I do of course understand that is is something I must accept sooner or later. Do you know of any natural therapies that are being used to improve later quality of life? I would so much like to extend his time with us as gently as possible. Thank you so much for any input.
    Reply to this
    1. 7/2/2012 12:43 PM Dr Kris Nelson wrote:
      Based on your description, I am concerned that Romeo has developed another health problem, besides the dementia.  Bring him to a veterinarian right away for a physical examination and laboratory tests.  There are veterinarians who practice alternative medicine in addition to tradition medicine.  Good luck!
      Reply to this
      1. 7/2/2012 6:09 PM Linda wrote:
        Thanks so much for your reply...yes, I actually called and made an appointment earlier as I was getting nervous. He's doing better, still eating followed me for 1/2 my rounds before wanting to go back inside. But sleeping a LOT more than usual and not able to keep up his "job" as my shadow, normal is to be at my feet 100%. We will find out in the morning what is going on. I will post as soon as I find out. Thanks SO much!!
        Reply to this
  • 7/2/2012 12:43 PM Patti wrote:
    Boy you and I are so lucky to have our dogs at their age. Monty is 16 and I came to the post asking about organic or natural products to help him. He has good and bad days. The bad days are hard to watch. I have always promised him that I would let him be in pain. He has an appointment with the vet Thursday. I want him to be as comfortable as possible and I am so greatful for having him this long. Good luck to you and your sweet dog.
    Reply to this
    1. 7/2/2012 6:13 PM Linda wrote:
      You are so right, it is so wonderful to spend time with these wonderful boys! But like you I don't want him to suffer. We just lost Juliet (17) last Sept, so hope we can keep Ro a bit longer ( altho it's NEVER enough) I sure hope Monty does well, and can stay a very long time too!
      Reply to this
      1. 7/3/2012 8:38 AM Dr Kris Nelson wrote:
        I agree. . .no matter how long a pet lives, it is never enough! 
        Reply to this
  • 7/3/2012 9:04 AM Patti wrote:
    Thank you for your good thoughts to Monty. Looking at him now playing with our 11 month old lab. He's leaning a little to the right, but having a ball. That's what I want for him, to be comfortable, loved and happy. Good luck with your puppy. If I say so myself we are good doggy owners. I lost Bear (Rott/Lab) at 18 yrs. I promised him that I would adopt and save a dog from the pound and thats how we got our 11 month Toby.P.S. Monty was saved the day before they were going to put him down and will adopt after its Monty's time.
    Reply to this
  • 7/18/2012 8:47 AM Char wrote:
    My poodle is 14, I think has CDS, he whines,paces constantly when he is up and walking, in circles too, his hind legs give out on him at times though. He also has a leaky eye. I've had him at the vet a month ago, had blood work done, didn't show anything. I wonder if I am being cruel to him by keeping him alive.
    Reply to this
    1. 7/18/2012 11:04 AM Dr Kris Nelson wrote:
      It is obvious from your comment that your love your dog very much and only want the best for him.  Dogs with CDS suffer from anxiety.  Talk to your veterinarian about treating the anxiety with medication.  Since your dog's blood work is within normal limits, your veterinarian will have a variety of medications to try.  In my experience, it works well and will give you more time with your beloved pet.  Good luck to you! 
      Reply to this
  • 7/18/2012 11:26 AM Patti wrote:
    I took my dog Monty in for blood work and it was perfect. I have discovered that I need to let my dog be a dog. He has another dog as a companion and spends the day playing and being just a dog. An old dog (16), but a dog. My vet has perscribed a pet food that I am picking up at the end of the week that is designed for dogs with Dementia. If Monty starts to pace or bark at night I put him outside with our other dog for about 30 minutes and when he comes in he is done. He doesn't bark out side or pace with anxiety at all. When he comes back in after being out for 30 minutes he is ready for bed. I won't put my dog down because of anxiety or barking. He's worth the extra work and he's actually gotten much better since I stopped fussing over him and started acting like a worry wart.

    Good luck to your sweet dog and you.
    Reply to this
  • 8/5/2012 1:02 PM Laurie Shipman wrote:
    After reading all the posts I am wondering if my 13 yr old Cocker Spaniel Sunny has CCD on top of liver disease. I have spent about $1300 so far to pretty much rule out cancer. We had an ultrasound done and her liver had many nodules on it but have not gone the biopsy route yet. She is on Metronidazole to help with diarrhea and Zentonil to help with liver health. We took her off the metonidazole and the diarrea returned. She paces all night and sleeps all day. She pants a lot and also sometimes gets into knapsacks looking for food and rips papers etc apart. Also treating her for a recent UTI. Now thinking of doing a urine test to see if she has Cushings. Dont know if that will help with the panting and pacing. I love her so much and I feel so helpless as nothing we are trying is helping with the pacing and panting. She rarely has accidents in the house so that isn't a problem but neither of us are getting much sleep at night. I get up and sit with her for a bit many nights and let her out but she only settles for a little bit after that. Any suggestions on where to go from here? Thanks.
    Reply to this
    1. 8/7/2012 8:29 PM Dr Kris Nelson wrote:
      I just had a similar case in which an older dog who needed metronidazole to control diarrhea started vocalizing and pacing.  I took her off the metronidazole because it can cause neurologic disease and controlled the diarrhea with another antibiotic.  Unfortunately, the pacing and vocalizing did not improve until I started the dog on a medication to control anxiety. Your  veterinarian wants to check for Cushings because excessive panting is a common sign of this disease.  I recommend video taping the behavior to help your veterinarian diagnose and treat Sunny.  Good luck!
      Reply to this
  • 8/8/2012 2:29 AM Laurie Shipman wrote:
    Thanks for the suggestion. She has never really been an anxious dog so I didnt really think it was an anxiety problem. Is this something associated with old age in a dog?
    I am taking a urine sample in today to have her checked for Cushings. Thanks for your help.
    Reply to this
    1. 8/8/2012 8:13 AM Dr Kris Nelson wrote:
      Older dogs often develop anxiety as their senses diminish.  It is also associated with canine cognitive disorder. 
      Reply to this
  • 8/19/2012 6:25 PM Joanne Curtis wrote:
    I never realized dogs can develop dementia. It is sad, primarily because they are not able to communicate with us. This is why it is so important for us to keep an eye on our senior dogs and be aware of any changes that may occur.
    Reply to this
  • 8/23/2012 9:34 AM kay anderson wrote:
    My male 8 year old boxer has suddenly began acting strangely this past week. Pacing, whining and refuses to lay down anywhere except in our bed and only if someone is laying on the bed. Urinating in the house first thing in the morning.Put him outside and he wants right back in. Will only eat if you hold the bowl up to his face. Will not drink water from his water bowl either. Tests at the vet showed low grade fever and slightly anemic. Given antibiotic, pain meds and wormed ..Has become fearful of certain sounds around the house...ex..lawn mover. He has become my shadow with constant need for reassurance. He will no longer interact with my other boxers. His eye sight and hearing appear normal.I can accept dementia but this seems so sudden.Any suggestions would be appreciated.
    Reply to this
    1. 8/27/2012 8:17 AM Dr Kris Nelson wrote:
      I am sorry for the slow response.  I was traveling with no internet capability.  I agree with you that the sudden onset of this behavior at only 8 years of age makes canine cognitive dysfunction less likely.  Some forms of eye disease like SARDS can be difficult to diagnose without seeing a specialist.  I would recommend a visit with a veterinary ophthalmologist as soon as possible.  Good luck with him! 
      Reply to this
  • 10/13/2012 5:33 PM Anna wrote:
    My dog has been deteriorating quickly last few years. He is Maltese cross, approx 15yrs. He has arthritis, almost blind, probable Cushings, & seems to be losing his hearing. 2 years ago we almost lost him to hepatitis. Now he is showing some very strange behaviors. He was sitting beside me yestarday and suddenly started a high pitched howl. He's eyes looked terrified, & he was bearing his teeth. 30sec later all was normal again. He has been doing this fairly often. He seems to have sudden bursts of aggression towards family, & other pets & sometimes doesn't greet people anymore. He's also toileting inside if unsupervised, & seems to have redeveloped separation anxiety. He sleeps day & night, loves his food, & his walks (although tires very quickly). He also gets lost in places he doesn't know as well. I can let him out the door to toilet, & he can't find it again, even when I call. I have to go & get him, & he will be standing at a window, or wall scratching to be let in. Took him to the vet a
    few weeks ago after he didn't want to do
    anything for 2days & the could find no issue.
    Blood work as expected, athritis no worse (he
    has rimadyl if needs). Could this be dementia? I don't want to medicate him anymore (he's tired...), & am worried about him as well as the safety risk to other pets, & my young children. He had been living in retirement at my parents for last 6mnths as my home just became too much for him, & he's been much happier there. What's the best for him now?
    Reply to this
    1. 10/13/2012 9:38 PM Dr Kris Nelson wrote:
      Hello Anna, I'm so glad you thought to have the blood checked.  That ruled out many possibilities.  I can tell how deeply you love your dog and how difficult this is.  There is not a clear correct answer here.  If you are open to it, the one last idea you could try is drug therapy for dementia/canine cognitive dysfunction.  Within a week or two, you will know if it is working.  If it does not, then I am sad to say it may be time for humane euthanasia as I worry your dog is suffering.   Please know I'm thinking about you both at this most difficult time.     
      Reply to this
  • 10/30/2012 1:41 PM S Ryan wrote:
    I have a 15 year old labrador retriever, Keira, who has been recently diagnosed with dementia. She is taking medication for anxiety and also for arthritis pain. Am noticing similar things to other folks who have posted. Symptoms of agitation and pacing are definitely worse at night. Just wondering what would be a normal heart rate for her at this age so I would know if her rate were elevated. Am still in the process of trying to adjust the medication dose to minimize her symptoms (in conjunction with our vet). Was looking on the internet because I was trying to educate myself as to how I would know when the most compassionate thing to do was to let her go to heaven. She seems to still enjoy her food, walks are short, still the odd spurt of having fun on a walk, dropping and rolling, but this is not most of her day. If she isn't medicated quite heavily she will pant and pace. Just not sure if this is fair to her. Having some bouts of night disturbance and out for bathroom breaks, plus the odd house accident... so trying to adjust when and how much we feed her to help with this too. Just looking for some moral support on this challenging new journey with our adored companion animal of 15 years.
    Reply to this
    1. 10/31/2012 2:55 PM Dr Kris Nelson wrote:
      I am sorry to hear about Keira's anxiety.  Of all the clinical signs of dementia, this one is the toughest to understand because nothing besides medication seems to bring them comfort.  It will take a while to figure out what medicine and dose works best for her.  In the meantime, try to keep her awake more during the day so she sleeps better at night.  A normal heart rate for a large breed dog like Keira is between 80 and 130 beats per minute.  It may be a little higher in older dogs because of age-related changes to the heart and lungs.  Knowing when to say goodbye is always difficult.  If she has only been on the medicine a short time, I would give it more time to work.  If she's been on it for a long time, then I use combination of appetite, interest in favorite things and heart rate to make a decision.  My thoughts are with you during this difficult time. 
      Reply to this
      1. 10/31/2012 5:03 PM S Ryan wrote:
        Thankyou for your speedy response. My only other question is in regard to the number of medications which can be taken concurrently. Keira has for the most part been medication free throughout her life, except for the odd bout of antibiotics. We just started anti-inflammatories, pain control medication and diazapam (for the anxiety)in the past few weeks. My vet has told me about the drug specific to dementia, which you also mentioned, I am just a bit worried about her being on so many drugs. She gets her pain and anxiety meds 3x per day. As they are wearing off the symptom of pacing and heavy breathing start again. Do you think it might be helpful to Keira to add the Selegiline to the mix? We are trying to give her comfort care.
        Reply to this
        1. 11/1/2012 1:01 PM Dr Kris Nelson wrote:
          When Keira is on the selegiline, she will probably be able to go off the diazepam so it will still be about the same amount of medication.  I would definitely switch to that or one of the anti-anxiety drugs.  In my experience, dogs that do well on diazepam do even better on one of these.  Also, now is not the time to hold back on medications that will make her final time more enjoyable. Even if the medications are hard on her liver, the alternative (humane euthanasia) is worse so make her comfortable.  As they say in hospice care, have dessert first.   
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  • 11/2/2012 12:53 AM Pauline wrote:
    Dear Dr Kris, I read this post and remember my own frustration when Chester Sheltie/Pomeranian cross now 20.5 years was diagnosed with dementia.For at least six months i would get up to him and nurse him to sleep, this could take up to one hour each night.Finally he settled. We now have one geriatric gentleman who is deaf, senile and nearly blind on heart and arthritis tablets. He eats and sleeps most of the time, he stills knows me and sleeps ( uninterrupted) by my bed every night.He is still patted to sleep. He some times has accidents inside, but is not too bad considering.
    We have a mobile vet here on the Mornington Peninsula ( Victoria, Australia) which is wonderful as Chester no longer likes to go in the car.He is one loved pooch. I dread the day that he goes, or that we have to have him put to sleep.So until that day comes, and we know that it is not too far off..we will continue to love and cherish him as he loves us .
    Our pets give us such unconditional love, we must give the same in return.
    Thank you for your advice and help over the years Dr Kris and congratulations on your new book.
    Pauline Peters.
    Reply to this
    1. 11/2/2012 8:45 AM Dr Kris Nelson wrote:
      Thank you Pauline.  I lost my father last night and I think your advice to love and cherish is right on.  When the end is near, I think both humans and animals benefit from having loved ones near.   
      Reply to this
      1. 11/3/2012 1:17 AM Pauline wrote:
        Dear Dr Kris, My deepest sympathy to you and your family. Our thoughts and prayers are with you at this very difficult time.
        Reply to this
  • 11/2/2012 7:50 PM S Ryan wrote:
    Sorry to hear of the passing of your father Dr Nelson. He must have been a very special person to have a wonderful daughter like you. I hope you have many cherished memories to keep him close to your heart.

    Keira just started on her first dose of alprazolam and is currently sleeping like a baby. Thank you for all your help and suggestions.
    Reply to this
  • 11/19/2012 3:46 AM Kendra wrote:
    My 10 year old Beagle just recently started with severe anxiety even when we are home with him (he has always had seperation anxiety). It started at night with panting, pacing and inability to then progressed into the daytime as well. He doesn't do it every day, I would say it happens 3-4 times a week. All blood work and physical exams were negative (CMP and thyroid came back negative). Today, he had 2 urine accidents in the house right in front of us (something he has never done before) and shortly after we took him for a walk; took him to the vet and urinalysis was negative for infection. Is it safe to say that we should be focusing now on dementia since all vet visits haven't been able to diagnose anything? We were planning on adopting another 10 year old Beagle in 2 weeks and now I'm rethinking that but I did read that having another animal can help with the progression of dementia. Any advice would be appreciated...this is just breaking our hearts.
    Reply to this
    1. 11/19/2012 8:36 PM Dr Kris Nelson wrote:
      Hello, I'm not really sure this is dementia.  My guess is that it is a continuation of the anxiety.  I'm pleased you have done all the diagnostic work with your veterinarian.  This ruled out a great many potential problems.  For now I would see your veterinarian about some anti-anxiety medication.  Years ago, my wonderful Golden Retriever suffered from this same condition and made remarkable progress for several years with this treatment.  For now my advice is to get this dog healthy and stable before introducing a second one.  You are right that it might help to have a friend in the case of dementia.  Someday, should it come to that, you may wish to consider a Beagle who is four or so years younger than your boy. 
      Reply to this
  • 11/19/2012 9:00 PM Kendra wrote:
    Dr. Nelson,
    Thank-you for the quick response. Is there a reason why you are thinking it isn't dementia, just curious why?
    We just started Calvin on medication called fluoxetine (2 pills once a day) and we started them on Saturday and haven't seen any changes yet. Sometimes these episodes are lasting 6 hours or more.
    Reply to this
    1. 11/22/2012 8:14 AM Dr Kris Nelson wrote:
      Because of Calvin's history of having separation anxiety, I recommended treating the anxiety first.  In my experience with other animals, it is common for separation anxiety to increase as the patient ages.  Also, ten years of age is a little young for dementia.  My own golden retriever suffered from separation anxiety.  By the age of 8, she was acting like Calvin.  I put her on the anti-anxiety medication amitriptyline which made a huge difference for her.  She lived to be almost 15 years old without any more anxiety.  Your veterinarian will help you figure out what is the best medicine for Calvin. Hang in there! 
      Reply to this
  • 1/5/2013 4:04 PM Annemarie wrote:
    I have a 15 year old Jack Russel with confirmed dementia not on any treatment.Can you please tell me how long a dog can live after being diagnosed as I know in humans it is 8-10 years Thanks
    Reply to this
    1. 1/5/2013 7:36 PM Dr Kris Nelson wrote:
      I can not offer a longevity past diagnosis for dementia because at some point many owners choose humane euthanasia for the pet.  As you know, your dog is nearing the end of typical life expectancy for the breed.  However, and in contrast to both those points, I strongly recommend pursuing treatment for the anxiety.  My dog was also elderly and had several good years once I treated her anxiety.  Good luck!
      Reply to this
  • 1/10/2013 5:52 AM Lori Dunn wrote:
    13 year old lab/retriever mix. Sudden severe anxiety. Pacing, panting, pawing at my bed, cannot get settled down. Sleeps well during day if someone is around. Looks worried. Wants to follow me around if I am at home. Would anxiety meds be in order?
    Reply to this
    1. 1/10/2013 9:03 AM Dr Kris Nelson wrote:
      From your description, it sounds like your dog is suffering from anxiety and needs help.  If she has been nervous all of her life, this may be an exacerbation of the problem.  It not, this could be the start of canine cognitive dysfunction (dementia).  I would recommend a trip to your veterinarian for blood tests. Based on their physical examination and the lab results, your veterinarian will be able to prescribe medication to let her enjoy her golden years.  Hope that helps!    
      Reply to this
  • 3/22/2013 7:24 PM janine wrote:
    Our 15 year old shih tzu has just been diagnosed with demenia. Our vet prescribed selegiline that we will begin in the morning for him. He is a great little guy that has just become blind, deaf and now has dementia. I am wondering does this drug work forever or will it as some point stop working. Are there other drugs out there used for treating this disease? Also, will this disease shorten his life expetancy? Thanks in advance for your advise. Janine
    Reply to this
    1. 3/24/2013 9:29 PM Dr Kris Nelson wrote:
      I am sorry for the diagnosis of dementia but glad the selegiline was prescribed.  It is hard predict how the disease will progress for your dog because each case is different.  Some dogs' symptoms will control well on the same dose for the rest of their lives but most require an increasing dose through time.  In my experience, using medical therapy to control the clinical signs of dementia usually increases a dog's life expectancy.  I wish you good luck Janine.  
      Reply to this
  • 4/10/2013 1:59 PM Stacy wrote:
    I have a 10 yr old cocker Cocoa who is the love of our lives, who has early kidney disease (being treated for it)she also had bells palsy so she cannot blink right eye.A few months ago she started pacing and circling at night only, happened for a week then stopped, she was good for a month and it happened again for several nights. Again she was ok for month or two and now she has for the last 5 out of 6 nights done the same thing, one night even defecating in house once (not done this before). She will come to me when i talk to her during these episodes, wag her tail, give me kisses etc, but won't settle down. We try taking her outside or we go downstairs on the couch.(she normally sleeps with us in bed) Eventually when the episode is over she will go to bed and be fine. She is totally fine during the day, eats well and seems normal.Sometimes the episodes are short an hour or so or sometimes they last for 3-4 hours during the night. My vet has done bloodwork and urine test and nothing looks out of ordinary from her normal issues. He does not think it is dementia, but maybe a tumor. He has had us watch her and she seems to always circle to the left. She has had several small cancerous plasma cell lumps removed. One thing our vet suggested is either benadryl or melatonin before bed, I did give her a melatonin last night. Not sure if it helped. From what I have been reading it does look like she has the symptoms of dementia. What do you think? Is it usual to go weeks/mths in between episodes if it is early dementia? Our vet has said we could have a catscan to rule out tumors but it is very expensive. Not sure what to do, would it hurt to treat for dementia if that is not what it is?
    Reply to this
    1. 4/10/2013 2:56 PM Dr Kris Nelson wrote:
      Cocoa sounds like a wonderful dog. I am so sorry that she is having problems.  I agree with your veterinarian that her symptoms are not classic for dementia. Most dogs with canine cognitive dysfunction have consistent clinical signs. They do not wax and wane to the degree you described. I am also concerned about a tumor as well as idiopathic vestibular syndrome or a metabolic problem.  I recommend a consult with a veterinary neurologist to learn more about the possible causes as there are several, and also potential treatment options for Cocoa. Good luck,
      Reply to this
      1. 4/10/2013 3:13 PM Stacy wrote:
        Thank you so much for your quick response. I will check with my vet about the consult and the other possible causes.
        Reply to this
  • 4/22/2013 2:16 PM Canine Senility Treatment wrote:
    I have been using a product called Dynalode for many years for canine cognitive dysfunction. It is what is called a "choline loading" product in that it supplies chemicals to help the body produce more acetylcholine for neurotransmission in the brain. It also contains several different vitamins and minerals to help support brain function.
    Like any nutritional supplement, it doesn't work all of the time, but I would say that it works about 40% of the time.
    I tell my clients to start at a lower dose as directed on the bottle for a week, and if that doesn't seem to help, to increase the dose and use it for the remainder of the bottle.
    I think if it isn't helping by the end of the first bottle, it probably isn't worth getting another bottle unless they are giving the maximum dose for a large dog. Then another bottle would be indicated before giving up.
    Reply to this
    1. 4/24/2013 7:02 AM Dr Kris Nelson wrote:
      Thanks for sharing.  I have not used this product in my patients and am eager to find out if it works.  Does anyone else have experience with Dynalode?
      Reply to this
  • 4/23/2013 1:21 AM Emily wrote:
    I have a mix breed ( possibly beagle and German Shepard), approximately 5-7 years. I have had Roxi for a year, she's a shelter dog and i have no information on her history. At night time she will pace and pant and excessively lick the floors. Also she will eat paper or cardboard. She has only done this twice but it is concerning behaviour and I want to nip it in the butt early.
    Reply to this
    1. 4/26/2013 8:04 AM Dr Kris Nelson wrote:
      Since your dog is middle-aged, I am concerned that she is experiencing low grade pain that disrupts her sleep.  I would bring her to your veterinarian for a check up.  In my experience, arthritis, dental problems and reflux esophagitis are the most common causes of low grade pain.  Each responds well to treatment.  Good luck!
      Reply to this
  • 5/3/2013 1:22 PM Dermatillomania wrote:
    I dont think my dog has Dementia, but she is getting old (12 years old) and she has a really bad skin infection. She seems miserable and we take her into the Vet every month to get a shot for it. Its just hard dealing with it because I know she's one her way out :( anyways, thanks for this blog, it's really helpful!
    Reply to this
  • 5/4/2013 7:10 AM Dr Bob Turrou wrote:
    I'm not making a diagnosis, but have you tried using any antibacterial shampoos for the skin infections, if that's what is going on. If so, it might provide some relief. I have a patient who came in frequently because of recurrent skin infections so I prescribed chlorhexidine shampoo to be used, more frequently at first, and then reduced in frequency to keep the infection in check. I have only had to give him oral antibiotics 3 times in the past 4 years, whereas he used to get them at least 3 times a year. Talk to your veterinarian and see if he/she thinks a shampoo could help.
    Reply to this
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