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  1. #1
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    Question Dementia in an Old Dawg _UPDATE

    Is anyone else dealing with this sort of thing? Over the past few years we've watched age pick away at our old folks Boxer. All the usual stuff we've seen before with a lifetime of always having at least one Boxie - arthritis, displasia, a little cancer factory action, incontinence...but this dementia thing is new.

    While in the house - which is where Big E is 23/7, all is well. If I'm outside with him, which is the majority of the time spring - fall, all is well. But when the days get short and colder, every so often Big E will go out to potty and then it's like sometimes he just forgets who he is, where he is, etc, and will "vanish." Tonight we looked for him for over an hour, calling his name, wandering all over with spotlights and flashlights...the whole 9 yards & nothing. I finally found him shivering behind an outbuilding about 15 yards from the house. He was lying in a bunch of pine needles sort of up against the building (well, the crap piled up next to the building). He was just out of it. Didn't recognize me; didn't respond to his name. I slipped a lead on him and he got up just fine and walked back to the house on the correct side, with me step for step (he's got mad obedience skills and ALWAYS has to heel correctly - won't walk on the wrong side); came into the house where I wrapped him up and rubbed him to warm him up and FINALLY he started wagging his nub and acting like he knew who I was. Now he's back to normal but this is really starting to worry me. He's done this about 1/2 a dozen times and has zero discernible after effects like I would expect to see if these were mini-strokes. He's been to the vet recently and she gave him a clean bill of health other than arthritic knees (Big E & I are on the same old knee med cocktail). She didn't seem too concerned about the "hiding" in the shrubs (we usually find him holed up in a den-like setting).

    Anyway- sorry to be so wordy but I'm just fishing for information. Anyone else dealt with/dealing with this? I've never had one whose mind went before its body.
    Last edited by Finzean; Dec. 14, 2012 at 11:51 AM. Reason: update



  2. #2
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    My English setter Pat seems to be a bit on the demented side. Sometimes he'll go through the dog door to go to the bathroom, and a little while later I'll hear him barking in the yard. Not barking at something, just a one woof!...pause...woof!...pause...woof!. He'll be standing in the yard maybe 5 feet from the ramp that leads to the dog door, just looking confused. I'll say his name and he looks at me and that look says "oh, right. I'm supposed to come in." Then he comes in like nothing happened. He can see fine, it's more like when I go into the kitchen and forgot what I got up to get.

    I think they make doggy Aricept for dementia. According to this article, there is a med.

    StG


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  3. #3
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    Anipryl is very inexpensive. It worked wonders on my cocker when he got a little senile. (He'd suddenly sit down and just howl, howl, howl for no reason, often 2-3 times in the middle of the night).


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  4. #4
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    I had a dear Jack Russell that suffered from Cognitive Dysfuction Syndrome. His anxiety was treated successfully with an anipryl type of drug. This was over 10 years ago so I'm sure there are more treatments available.

    The best advice I can give is to treat your dog as if he is a dear old gentleman. You may not be able to put the dog out alone anymore and he may require assistance with knowing when do go potty. Your dog may also forget to eat (I hand fed my Eddie). There may be bouts of aimless walking or trying to squish into corners (you've already noticed the den behavior). You may notice your dog trying to go out the wrong side of the door. All this is pretty common behavior and mirrors some dementia symptoms in people.

    Talk to your vet to see what's available and enjoy these olden times. It's not easy but these can be very special times with your dog.


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  5. #5
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    Y'all are great - thanks for the replies and the suggestions. Going in to the vet with the Anipryl talking point will help with the conversation.

    What I guess is so weird to me is how he's totally confused about his name, etc. but seems so cognizant of his dog "job skills" once I put the leash on him. I guess this is all part of the disconnects going on in his brain.

    Getting old is definitely not for sissies....
    Last edited by Finzean; Dec. 12, 2012 at 07:31 AM. Reason: addition



  6. #6
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    Yes, my old collie, Dakota had the same kind of problems. They seem to be worse at night (in people too). She used to go with me to the barn (on my property). One day I found her wandering in the pasture...she had no idea how to get back to the barn or the house.

    We kept her on a leash at night.
    "We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals." ~Immanuel Kant



  7. #7
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    Towards the end of my Eddie's life I slept on the floor with him as he no longer understood the bed. He also had those moments of "need to wander" so we'd cuddle on the floor with a leash attached to him and my hand, in case he woke up and I didn't. He was calm with me but I couldn't leave him for a moment. Thank goodness I could bring him to the office with me. I'd have a friend sit with him in the car if I had to rush into a store for groceries. He was such a dear little dog. I was glad that the anipryl calmed the whining time at night.



  8. #8
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    Are you sure he's not having seizures? A lot of what you're describing is like the postictal stage after a seizure and it's not uncommon for a dog to kind of wander off before a seizure begins. Since most are brief, well under 2 min, you may not be seeing them.

    4) The next stage is called the post-ictal period. The dog begins to recover, but a varying degree of neurological signs will persist. Commonly, dogs remain blind for some time after a seizure. They often pant and seem disoriented. Some dogs sleep for a long period following a seizure. The post-ictal stage usually lasts for less than an hour, but can be considerably longer - up to two days.
    (http://www.canine-epilepsy.com/Graves.html)

    Probably a long shot, but it popped into my head.

    As for dementia, yeah, I've seen it. Some critters respond well to meds, some just really can't be out on their own anymore though.
    A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

    Might be a reason, never an excuse...



  9. #9
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    StGermaine said:
    Sometimes he'll go through the dog door to go to the bathroom, and a little while later I'll hear him barking in the yard. Not barking at something, just a one woof!...pause...woof!...pause...woof!.
    I have one that does that. I call it her Sheldon bark. In the 80's, we had an elderly Collie that would go outside to potty and forget to come back in almost every night. We had a young Aussie at the time and she would come back right away. If the Collie didn't, we'd tell the Aussie to go get him and a short while later the Collie would come back with the Aussie herding him. The day the Aussie couldn't get him herded home was when we knew it was time. Those two were both great dogs.
    Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Goethe



  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by maunder View Post
    The best advice I can give is to treat your dog as if he is a dear old gentleman. You may not be able to put the dog out alone anymore and he may require assistance with knowing when do go potty.

    It's not easy but these can be very special times with your dog.
    This is very good advice. We lost our 18yo Lab (yes, 18) this past fall and he had "dear old gentleman" status on my parents' farm for about the last 5 years. Matter of fact, he always had special status on the farm, but as he got older the entire family took to watching out for him. The 2 other dogs even looked out for the old boy towards the end, and the horses would steer clear if they saw him tottering through the paddock.

    He had always been a vigorously healthy outdoor farm dog, no real illnesses or injuries to speak of; and in his last few years, he just sort of slowly became mostly blind, and mostly deaf, and mostly incontinent, arthritic, and sometimes confuzzled.

    We all had to be mindful of him, keep an eye/ear on him, make sure he wasn't stuck somewhere and couldn't get up. It's a lot like caring with a very elderly grandparent with Alzheimer's.

    Since our dog was mostly outdoors (and once the incontinence set in, he was outdoors-only), he had "lairs" around the farm where he'd hang out: under the porch, in the hay room of the barn, etc. We had to make sure we saw him frequently because if we didn't, it probably meant he was stuck on his "bad" side in a lair and had to be gently extricated.

    One day last winter I was cleaning stalls and heard a few barks from the creek, which had frozen over. My spidey senses told me to check it out, and I found the old boy had fallen on the ice and couldn't get up. If I hadn't gone looking for him, he likely wouldn't have made it.

    He still wanted to ride along when we cut firewood, or went for a pasture walk; we just had to make SURE he could make it back on his own or we drove back and picked him up. He would NOT stay on the porch when Important Farm Work was going on.

    Towards the end he would sometimes bark at nothing once in a while. Not for extended periods; I don't think his attention span was long enough for that by then.

    It was all worth it. I loved that dog like a sibling for most of my life, and his golden years were some of the best. Despite his very long, slow decline, when it was time for him to go, we could tell.
    In order to think outside the box, one must first know what is in the box.


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  11. #11
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    My JRT is 19, blind, and has signs of dementia....although some are the same things a blind dog will do, so not sure how much is really dementia. I do go out with him and watch him during potty breaks, because he can't always find the house again. I think I owe it to him, to watch out for him in his old age...no way would I let him outside on his own (unfenced yard). He still loves to play tug with his rope toy, aggressively, and that's kind of my "when is it time?" factor. As long as he is enjoying life, I'll do my best to keep him comfy and safe. Sometimes I'll find him staring at the dishwasher (it's black, and with his cataracts/vision loss, it probably looks like a doorway) and I'll speak to him so he isn't startled before I gently pick him up and take him over to one of his beds. He's gotten used to the routine. I've also found that his night wanderings are minimized by a good round of rope toy tug followed by a potty break, right before bed. I think it tires him out so he will sleep longer.



  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by BuddyRoo View Post
    Are you sure he's not having seizures? A lot of what you're describing is like the postictal stage after a seizure and it's not uncommon for a dog to kind of wander off before a seizure begins. Since most are brief, well under 2 min, you may not be seeing them.

    (http://www.canine-epilepsy.com/Graves.html)


    Probably a long shot, but it popped into my head.

    As for dementia, yeah, I've seen it. Some critters respond well to meds, some just really can't be out on their own anymore though.
    This was the first thing I thought of. We've actually watched him wander off twice last year while we called him. Those times he ignored us (he's a Boxer so that's not unusual - HA!) and then loitered around a cabin we have on our property, finally just laying down in the leaf piles. If he's having seizures they definitely aren't the traditional idea of a seizure...more like he just times out for a little bit. We aren't seeing any whining or odd barking during the night but this dog is not at all vocal. I've only heard him bark a few times and only when there was something to bark at (threatening dog in the yard, loud, strange truck pulled in driveway of house...).

    I'm not ruling out the post-seizure stuff. We'll see what the vet thinks next week. I have a feeling this is going to be a myriad of old dog issues. :-/



  13. #13
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    Well, I'm sorry. Le sigh. They don't make it easy, do they??

    With focal seizures as opposed to the petite or grande mal, it may not look like much. Just some fly biting or eye twitching or muscle twitching. That's how my dog started when he presented w/ seizures.

    You're probably right in that it's dementia of some sort, but the seizure thing really popped up in my head reading about the behavior.

    Good luck!
    A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

    Might be a reason, never an excuse...



  14. #14
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    My little guy had had a few quiet strokes, which I didn't know about. The vet was able to see this in his eyes and in other ways during an exam.

    That might also be something that they can look for.



  15. #15
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    So back from the vet this morning and she says Big E sounds like a text book "sundowner." The dementia becomes obvious when the sub goes down. She pulled blood for labs & we are planning to remove a couple of little Boxer cancer factory spots next week so long as the labs come back okay.

    We talked about Anipryl...going to give it a whirl. The hurdle to medicating this dog is that he's a puker. Chicken manure, horse poop, various other farm items...never seems to bother him. Give him meds of any kind, hidden in anything, put it in a suspension, disguise it w/filet mignon...he just sends it back up. Oh well.

    Vet didn't seem to think seizures and no evidence of stroke - thank God for that. We'll just be hyper-vigilant about Emmett's where-abouts and watch the cat...the cat seems to have assigned himself to keeping tabs on him.

    Everyone have a great weekend!!



  16. #16
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    So back from the vet this morning and she says Big E sounds like a text book "sundowner." The dementia becomes obvious when the sub goes down. She pulled blood for labs & we are planning to remove a couple of little Boxer cancer factory spots next week so long as the labs come back okay.

    We talked about Anipryl...going to give it a whirl. The hurdle to medicating this dog is that he's a puker. Chicken manure, horse poop, various other farm items...never seems to bother him. Give him meds of any kind, hidden in anything, put it in a suspension, disguise it w/filet mignon...he just sends it back up. Oh well.

    Vet didn't seem to think seizures and no evidence of stroke - thank God for that. We'll just be hyper-vigilant about Emmett's where-abouts and watch the cat...the cat seems to have assigned himself to keeping tabs on him.

    Everyone have a great weekend!!



  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Finzean View Post
    S

    We talked about Anipryl...going to give it a whirl. The hurdle to medicating this dog is that he's a puker. Chicken manure, horse poop, various other farm items...never seems to bother him. Give him meds of any kind, hidden in anything, put it in a suspension, disguise it w/filet mignon...he just sends it back up. Oh well.
    I'm one of those who throws up a pill if I manage to swallow it! I'm so glad that there is no evidence of anything major happening with your friend and that it looks like old dog syndrome. I hope the Anipryl works for him. It's a little pill so hopefully he'll be able to tolerate it. Anything that eats chicken poop should have an iron stomach ha ha



  18. #18
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    Good luck! hope that helps!
    A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

    Might be a reason, never an excuse...



  19. #19
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    Hey, I had a couple more thoughts. I did some training to help with Alzheimers and dementia patients when I did home health/hospice. I normally worked overnights with patients who tended to get very disoriented at night, hence families needing someone in the home keeping an eye on things.

    I don't know how much of this would apply to your pooch as I've not had first hand experience there, but maybe some of this would transfer over to dogs. These are just my experiences and I'm not a doctor nor a vet, but I guess it can't hurt to share.

    Knowing that for many of my clients, evenings got very disorienting, we avoided doing new things, introducing new people or leaving the home late afternoon/evening.

    Sound and smell were great "grounding" things. So sometimes, playing music the patient enjoyed and knew well would help, or burning a candle they liked. It didn't necessarily keep them "in the now" but it would often settle/comfort them.

    In your dog's case, if there's a nice CD you like that you can play during the day when everyone is lucid, it might transfer over later in the day if there's anxiety. Or having a scent in your home that you could use later could help settle.

    A favorite bed/blanket (smells, feels) might also be good. A good routine in the evening with a crate and such.

    You mentioned that your pup does well when on leash usually. Having a sense of a comforting person nearby may be really helpful. I had a patient who, when she was getting confused, thought that I was her sister and we were up at their summer cabin. Just playing along and being there with her, not trying to yank her back into "reality", helped her a lot. I only got her as a patient after she'd taken swings towards several other employees--but found that they kept trying to tell her that they were actually X person, not her sister. I just played the sister role and we had comfortable, anxiety free nights.

    I'm not trying anthropomorphic here, but just to show you the level of utter confusion and frustration..my sweet little old lady client (the one who would take swings) spent almost an hour one night trying to ask for an ice cube. The words failed her. She couldn't tell me where they came from. She couldn't really describe them and "work around" the words. She knew she wanted something, but she just couldn't ask, couldn't show me and she was getting more and more wound up.

    I turned on the music her husband (sleeping in the next room) said she loved and she asked me to dance like we did when we were kids. She was laughing in minutes. Then all of a sudden she said, "Ice! I want ice cubes!"

    I really think the music helped her.

    I would guess that establishing some sound and smell routines during the lucid parts of the day might help you later on.

    Best wishes.
    A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

    Might be a reason, never an excuse...


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  20. #20
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    BuddyROo, I wish I could "like" your last post about 20 times.
    What's wrong with you?? Your cheese done slid off its cracker?!?!


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