When Is It Time to Put Down a Dog With Alzheimer’s or Dementia?


If your dog has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or Dementia, then you are going to have a difficult road ahead, and it can be really hard to watch your dog struggle with such a disease. One of the most difficult parts about getting this diagnosis is knowing when it is time to have your dog put down if their quality of life is not what it used to be.

It is important to be aware of the fact that dogs do not get Alzheimer’s, but they can develop a condition that is very similar to this, which is called canine cognitive dysfunction. However, this is often referred to as Alzheimer’s or dementia by dog owners due to the fact that it is a similar condition.

Seeing your furry friend deteriorate over time is going to be really difficult, and CCD is a difficult condition to manage and live with. As difficult as it may be, we can understand that your top priority is your dog and their well-being, which leads to difficult decisions that need to be made. In this article, we are going to walk you through canine cognitive dysfunction to give you a better understanding of the condition and help you to decide when it is time to let our dog go.

What is Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome?

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome is similar to Alzheimer’s in people, and there is no definite cause for this condition. What is known is that it often occurs in older dogs of a senior age, and research suggests that it can come from genetics. So, if the parent had the disease, it is more likely for your dog to develop it in old age.

Dogs that have this condition will have a protein in the brain that is called beta-amyloid, which will accumulate to the point where it starts to produce plaque. The nerve cells in the brain will start to die off and the dead cells are then replaced with spinal fluid.

This process will cause pathological changes in the brain, which will severely impact and slow down the mental processes and functioning of your dog. Due to this awful condition, your dog will start to lose their memory, and it is possible for them to forget you, tricks and training that they have learned, and more. It can also lead to reduced motor function.

What Are the Symptoms of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome?

An early diagnosis is really important to help to maximize your dog’s quality of life, which is why it is essential to be aware of the symptoms. Catching the disease early will allow for early intervention to start therapies and medication that can help to slow down the disease and increase your dog’s quality of life for longer. Some of the symptoms that you can look out for are:

  • A lack of interest in going outside for walks
  • Unusual vocalization, like whining, howling, or barking
  • Spacing out or staring at walls
  • A lack of interest or response to stimuli
  • Increased anxiety levels
  • A lower threshold for aggression
  • An engagement in repetitive behaviors, like circling or pacing
  • A lack of interest in any social interaction
  • Appearing to be disoriented
  • Appearing to be forgetful
  • A change in their sleeping cycle
  • Defecation inside the house

The symptoms of CCD are much less noticeable in the early stages of the condition, but these are some of the things that you can look out for. They may be mild symptoms that are less noticeable, and while some of these things generally happen with old age, it could also be CCD. If you notice any changes with your dog, or they start to act out of character, it is always worth a visit to the vet just to be sure.

What Should I Do if I Think My Dog Has Dementia?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for dogs that have been diagnosed with dementia, but there is medication that can be prescribed to help to reduce some of the symptoms. You will need to take your dog to the vet to get a proper diagnosis if you think that they might have CCD.

The earlier that you start with medication, the more of a chance you will have to get the illness under control and manage your dog’s condition. We will leave a list of some things that you can do to help below.

You can try to keep each room that your pet is in as familiar as possible. It can be helpful to not move things around, as this can cause further confusion.

Try not to get angry with your dog if they have an accident or get confused, as this is only going to make things worse for them as they do not understand.

You can also try to increase environmental cues by doing things like leaving a radio on in a certain room or associating it with a certain scent. This will help them to find their way if they get confused.

Even if your dog does forget you over time, try to keep all interactions between the dog and family members positive, so they don’t get scared or anxious.

You can also provide them with things that will help to keep their brains active, like training or puzzle games. You can also gently retrain them with some of the things that they might have forgotten, like when they should be going to the toilet.

Your vet may even prescribe medication and brain function supporting supplements for their food. You should always follow your vet’s advice and make sure that your dog is taking any medication that they have been prescribed.

How is Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome Treated?

As we have previously mentioned, there is no cure for CCD, but there are some treatment options that are available to try and mask the symptoms and slow the progress of CCD. This will help to improve the overall quality of life for your dog.

One of the treatment options that is available is therapy with the aim of masking symptoms. This can include getting new toys, starting new exercise plans, and teaching your dog new things. There are also dog trainers that can help with this.

There is also some research that supports the idea that a certain diet can be used to help to treat CCD. These foods are those that increase cell membrane health and improve memory.

There is also medication that can be prescribed by your vet. Some of these drugs will work to adapt the brain chemistry and improve cognitive function.

What is the Life Expectancy for a Dog With Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome?

Once your dog has been diagnosed with this condition, the life expectancy is around two years on average. However, this will depend on how far the disease has managed to progress before the diagnosis. If the disease is more advanced, the life expectancy will be lower, but they can also live longer in certain circumstances.

When is it Time to Put Down a Dog With Alzheimer’s or Dementia?

If your dog has gotten to the stage where they are rapidly deteriorating, showing worrying symptoms, or experiencing a poor quality of life, then it might be the right time to consider putting them to sleep. However, you should always talk to your vet before you make a decision, as each dog is different.

Unfortunately, CCD is a degenerative disease that is also terminal. Your dog may have a good quality of life for a while but after time, things are only going to get worse. If you have a close bond with your dog, it is difficult to even think about having them put down, but it is often the right thing to do if your dog has a poor quality of life.

One of the most important things for you to think about is whether or not your dog has a good quality of life. You should think about their ability to function on a daily basis, whether they have more bad days than good days, or if they seem like they are in pain or struggling. These are all things that will help you to decide if it is time to let them go.

It is important to remember that you are not alone in making this decision, and your vet will be able to provide as much information and perspective as they can. They are objective in the situation, so they are often the best person to talk to for getting advice about putting your dog down. They will also be able to provide you with the right information and resources to plan the process.

If you do not think that now is the right time to have your dog put down, then you should try to take as many steps as possible to help to make them more comfortable. You can follow the tips that we left earlier on to help improve your dog’s quality of life and help to manage their condition.

How Do You Know if Your Dog Has a Good Quality of Life?

Anyone that owns a dog will want to make sure that they are living a good life, and if your pet has been diagnosed with CCD, then you might be concerned that this is not the case anymore. It can be difficult to tell if your dog has a good quality of life, but there are some things that can be good indications of this.

If they are still playful, active, eating normally, and comfortable, then it is likely that they are still having a good life. If your pet is having a lot of bad days, is in pain, or is struggling significantly, then they might not have the best quality of life.

It is important to keep monitoring the situation and your dog’s symptoms to ensure that the situation hasn’t worsened. In this case, it might be time to say goodbye, especially if your dog is rapidly deteriorating.

If things are getting to be too much for your dog, it might be time to prepare yourself for saying goodbye to end their suffering. If you are still unsure, then be sure to talk to your vet, as they will be able to tell you more about your dog’s quality of life. They will assess your dog during an appointment and explain all of your options to you.

You might even find that there are further medications or management techniques that you can try that can make a difference. Otherwise, they will be able to give you support and guidance if it is time to put your dog to sleep. This will only ever be the final option if nothing else is working as it will prevent any further suffering.

Kerry White

Kerry White is an avid dog lover and writer, knowing all there is to know about our furry friends. Kerry has been writing for PetDT for three years now, wanting to use her knowledge for good and share everything she can with new dog owners. Kerry has two dogs herself - a German shepherd called Banjo and a chocolate labrador called Buttons. Kerry knows more than anyone how adjusting to new life with a puppy can turn your life upside down, and she wants to ease some of the burdens through her articles.

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