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  • Writer's pictureDotty Ann Harding

What's Happening To Buddy?

I often talk about my life with my dogs and their love, companionship, laughter, and even tears. Buddy is a toy Manchester Terrier who is 16 years old that I brought home as a puppy of 8 weeks. He seemed laid back most of the time, except when strangers, especially men, came to the door and would become aggressive for some unknown reason. To be on the cautious side, he was always crated before I would open the door to greet folks. He was also somewhat of a clown who always let his sister boss him around and be chased under chairs playing their little games. But he was always my Buddy.

One night, I heard him crying next to my bed in the middle of the night, which never happened in the past. It seemed to me that he felt lost, even though all his familiar sounds and smells surrounded him. Wow, I thought, what is going on here? I placed him back in his bed and covered him with his blanket, but 10 minutes later, he was back again. This confusion continued through the night until the both of us were exhausted. I now noticed other behaviors, such as being unable to find his way out from under his blankets and staring in the corner of a room as if he could not figure out how to move to get out.

We made it through that night and quickly obtained an appointment with my veterinarian, who mentioned Buddy could have dementia because his blood work and other testing were normal. I had never heard of dogs getting dementia, but when dogs, especially small breeds, can live long lives, dementia could be a problem you could face. Labs can also develop this condition because even though they are a large breed, they can live for 10 to 12 years.

Dementia in dogs, also known as canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD), is a disease that affects older dogs, much like dementia in humans. The following is some information regarding this disease;

Causes: The exact cause of CCD is not fully understood, but it's believed to be related to age brain changes, including the buildup of abnormal proteins in the brain, genetic factors, or reduced blood flow.

Symptoms: Dogs with dementia may exhibit various symptoms including:

1. Disorientation and confusion, including getting stuck in corners or staring into space.

2. Changes in sleep patterns include nighttime restlessness and daytime sleeping.

3. Increased irritability, anxiety, or aggression.

4. Loss of house training. (Doggie diapers can help with this. Don't laugh; there are actually more human adults wearing diapers than there are babies).

5. Changes in appetite and weight loss.

6. Repetitive actions, such as pacing or circling.

Diagnosis: A veterinarian typically diagnoses CCD based on the dog's clinical signs and physical examination, ruling out other potential medical issues that could cause similar symptoms. Blood tests, neurologic exams, and imaging, such as MRI or CT scans, may help diagnose or rule out other conditions. However, in my opinion, after blood work and physical/neuro exam, I personally will not go further using MRI or CT scan because they are very costly, and this disease is affecting my very senior dog, who has enjoyed a great life, is comfortable and still mostly enjoys himself.

Treatment: While there is no cure for CCD, several strategies can help manage the condition and improve a dog's quality of life:

Medications: prescribed by your vet can be ordered to manage symptoms. Diet: Special diets with antioxidants and Omega-3 fatty acids may be recommended to support brain health. I have made my dogs food for many years and believe it has helped them with their longevity. Environmental enrichment: They all enjoy a daily car ride and a stop for a small cheeseburger, and hold the condiments that the four of us share among myself and my three small dogs. I take them out on the grass and sunshine as we sit and watch the routine actions of our neighbors surrounding us. Routine: Maintain a consistent daily routine to reduce confusion. Comfort: Make your dog's environment comfortable and safe, with easy access to water, food, and bedding. Monitoring: Regular check-ups with your veterinarian are essential to monitor your dog's condition and adjust treatment as needed. Prognosis: CCD is a progressive disease, and the rate of decline can vary among dogs. While treatment can help slow the progression and improve symptoms, there is no cure, and the condition will ultimately worsen over time. Prevention: While you can't prevent CCD entirely, maintaining your dog's overall health through regular exercise, a balanced diet, and mental stimulation may help reduce the risk or delay the onset of cognitive decline. So where is Buddy? He is still by my side, wagging his tail, lying on the warm grass, and riding in the car to get his share of that cheeseburger. I thank God for allowing me to share life with His creations every day, and when Buddy finally lays his head down for the last time, I pray I will be there to comfort him and whisper, "Buddy, you are such a good boy; go on boy, and watch for me…… I will see you soon".


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