Demented old dog
January 31, 2011 11:26 AM   Subscribe

Old, physically healthy dog and dementia. How did that go for you?

I have a thirteen year old big poodle. No physical problems. Vet said her vitals are those of a dog half her age.

On Friday morning, she started walking around and around the house with her nose to the ground. She was totally unresponsive to anything I said to her.

Came home after work and it was evident that she had kept it up while I was gone. There were turds evenly distributed along the path she'd been following.

The fugue came and went the next day and Sunday was mostly good except she suddenly peed in my son's room when we were putting him to bed.

This morning she seemed fine. Took her to the doctor and all her vitals were good. The vet says we could spend a ton of money to rule out anything physical, and we can't do that. I had some bloodwork done.

How'd you cope? What was the progression like?
posted by Mr. Yuck to Pets & Animals (15 answers total)
I am not sure why you assume it has to be dementia? I have two much younger dogs who occassionally do same. Those events are so rare I usually don't even pay much attention to them. It could be upset stomach, stress or any other factors that have nothing to do with cognitive abilities of your pet.
posted by mooselini at 11:49 AM on January 31, 2011

As I recall, my folks had some luck with dementia meds for a little while (they helped especially with needing clean-ups in the house, seemed to improve things for the dog a little), but our beloved old dog soon made it pretty clear that her quality of life just wasn't there anymore. When she spent a few days not even enjoying her old favorite activities, they finally put her to sleep. Sorry you're dealing with this - especially such a stark difference between the dementia and your dog's physical health!
posted by ldthomps at 11:53 AM on January 31, 2011

Our dog started to do that. Steroids helped for a while, but made her very very thirsty and made her pant a lot. We also had her on some anxiety medicine for a while to help with the pacingpacingpacingpacing and lickinglickinglicking that was driving everyone crazy. This went on for six months. Eventually she stopped eating very much, and she went sort of nuts one night - running around, barking, jumping, all at nothing - and that's when we knew it was time. It was annoying sometimes, but nothing we couldn't deal with, until, suddenly, we couldn't deal with it. I was glad that something like that happened so we didn't have to agonize over the decision to put her down. But, even if you have to do it that way, you'll know when it's time. Hang in there - it's not a fun process.
posted by dpx.mfx at 11:57 AM on January 31, 2011

Best answer: Several of my friends have reported good results using Anipryl in their older dogs.
posted by labwench at 12:42 PM on January 31, 2011

Get a recommendation/referral to an internal medicine specialist. It could be anything.
posted by TheBones at 12:42 PM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

We have NO IDEA if this is actually dementia, it could be a host of other issues. Dementia could be a symptom of something else. The dog could be acting crazy because of something completely unrelated.
posted by TheBones at 12:44 PM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Regarding the accidents: Our older dog recently started having them in the house. He would wake up, take a few steps, and just pee away like he was in a trance, oblivious to our scrambling and shouting and trying to usher him to the door. He was also leaving ghost poops.

Our vet asked for a urine sample, and after a round of antibiotics for the urinary tract infection, both kinds of accidents have stopped right away. The whole thing was not particularly expensive.
posted by bunji at 12:56 PM on January 31, 2011

If in fact it is dementia, you might want to investigate Cholodin. I don't have any personal experience with it, but know a couple of people who have gotten very good results with it, and there's a lot of positive anecdata online.
posted by HotToddy at 1:09 PM on January 31, 2011

If it *is* dementia, I'd be very careful. I know a family where the mother got severely mauled when the dog went too loopy (it was diagnosed with dementia, too), and it had to be put down immediately (while she had to go to the hospital for many, many stitches). I'm not saying to put the dog down, but just be aware that it is a creature with teeth and claws that you and the kids need to have a plan for if it snaps.

But from what you've described, I'd not necessarily jump to that conclusion.
posted by wending my way at 2:46 PM on January 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

2nding an internal medicine specialist. As the owner of a dog with a lot of health problems, I wish I had gone earlier.

Normal vets are great at vaccinations and stuff, but IMSes are experts.

As my dog's disease email group says - IMS seems expensive but saves a lot in the long run.
posted by k8t at 5:14 PM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

We have an old lady (13) shepherd mix who has diagnosed canine dementia. Her behavior is occasional confusion (asking to go outside against a wall instead of a door, getting lost in the house, needing guidance through once simple commands), sleeping A LOT more, breaks in house training pared with odd behavior (this one is new, and usually a later sign, according to our vet), some regression (chewing up things), and constant hunger. She's in very good physical condition, save some minor shoulder arthritis. She sees the vet regular, gets exercise.

She has always been an impeccably behaved and mild-mannered girl, and her new behaviors have stayed within a very manageable continuum of her personality. We have only just recently noted a few things that worry us (spells of keeping to her kennel and crying to herself), that remind us that it is likely that we will need to make the decision to end her suffering before her body, physically, wears completely down. She is not, at this time, eligible for medications to slow the disease's natural history.

She was crate-trained, and this has been a blessing. Her crate remains her safe place, and a good place for her to reset when she has been confused. Also, she seems to need her world to be a bit smaller. We have a really strict feeding and potty routine that helps her, and have recently needed to regulate her water because she'll drink bowl after bowl because it's there (and we've had her checked for medical issues related to increased water intake and ruled those out, it's a behavior thing). We make sure she gets as much exercise as she can tolerate--it keeps the blood flowing to what's left of her brain, helps her muscles support her joints, and relaxes for the evenings, which are her worst time.

She still enjoys lovin', and her walks, and chew time. She doesn't like games anymore (catch, tug-of-war, etc.) because she gets so frustrated and confused. She used to be a dog's dog, liking nothing better than romps with other dogs, but being around other dogs scares her now, she withdraws and can't figure out the signals. She still loves us and other people, but she doesn't remember friends of ours anymore, she just remembers us. We have a big room in the house with her crate in it and little else (for safety), and she is often more comfortable being restricted to that room because it's more predictable. In our case, her increased lack of cognition has not resulted in aggression. If it did, in our dog's case, we feel it would be a sign to let her go and put her down. She's always been so sweet, I'd know she was suffering if her behavior switched to that.

It's more work, more like when she was a puppy, but she's been an epic dog and we're happy to do this for her. In that her disease is not unlike Alzheimer's, I'd say she's in the second, moderate stage. We know there are more deficits to come, and have resolved to not let her descend into any place of fear or severe anxiety or into days that have more confusion in them than comfort. It's a hard line to see, but we're trying to vigilant. We take her to the vet a lot to make sure anything new can't be explained by something like a UTI or pain, etc.

One of the sweeter outcomes has been my son's behavior towards animals. He's three, and our dog's diagnosis came around the time my son became interested in her as an older baby/young toddler. We were extra careful, since a dog with this kind of diagnosis could be unpredictable, and taught our son easy, firm commands, and to be really gentle, and we never encouraged rough play. Now he treats all animals gently and respectfully as a matter of course. It's a nice gift our "first baby" gave our son as they passed each other coming and going in this life.

Here's to our gray-muzzled, white-faced friends everywhere!
posted by rumposinc at 5:41 PM on January 31, 2011 [9 favorites]

On preview, k8t and TheBones are right about the kind of vet you want for this point in your dog's life--an IMS. Visits are spendier, but diagnoses are more precise and they can more quickly determine your animal's eligibility for treatment and meds than a general vet's more trial/error/refine approach (so saving money).
posted by rumposinc at 5:48 PM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

I suspect your vet suggested it might be dementia, and that's why you brought it up.

If the bloodwork was a full "senior panel" it might still turn up something physical going on, even if the vitals are good. There are even some physical issues that can cause mental confusion, when the various byproducts are in the bloodstream and affecting the brain.

I could go on for a while about my senile dog, but in short, she seems to have developed some dementia as a result of what we think was a stroke. She doesn't seem to be getting terribly worse; there is some progression but it's still quite manageable, and it's been about 2 years.

We cope by recognizing what she has trouble with, and managing it carefully. For example, she does occasionally have accidents in the house; they're almost certainly my fault. If I take her outside right after meals, also about halfway through the day and then just before bed, and make sure to put her right where she usually goes, she sniffs the spot and she goes. As long as I can manage to get her outside before she goes on her own, she doesn't have accidents.

And so on. She's gotten kind of confused and vague with this, but she still seems to be pretty happy, in her own little doggy world. As long as she's got a good quality of life, we're happy to give her the support she needs.
posted by galadriel at 5:50 PM on January 31, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks to all of you.

The dementia diagnosis is mine. There were signs of it before. I read a bunch of detailed posts from people who eventually obtained this diagnosis. They spent megabucks ruling everything else out, and that is the usual way this diagnosis is obtained. The vet thinks possible brain tumor. She's asked us to vid the next episode so she can show it to the neurologist.

When I say "vet", I refer to a full-service animal hospital. Labs, surgery, equipment. 55 people work there, including 2 IMS's. The bloodwork is going to be comprehensive. They get it processed Thursday.

She's in my lap, mewing like the 8-week-old pup that we took on. 50 lbs of dog in an office chair. All of my previous dogs died suddenly, in their sleep, and that was easier than watching a slow decline.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 11:59 PM on January 31, 2011

Response by poster: Update. The blood tests came back fine and whatever it was passed in 48 hours. The doctor gave us a valium prescription to use if it happens again.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 2:26 PM on March 2, 2011

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