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Monthly Archives: July 2020

Dogs & Dementia: What You Need to Know

Recognizing Canine Cognitive Disorder

Improvements in diets and veterinary care mean that most pets are living longer than ever, so it’s important to adapt diet and care to their particular needs at each stage of life. In addition, we’re also more likely to see more serious age-related health conditions arise. Senior pets require increased attention including more trips to the vet, possible changes in diet, and in some cases, changes in their home environment. However, some age-related conditions such as Canine Cognitive Disorder, also known as Dog Alzheimer’s, will require lifelong therapy along with frequent veterinary care and support to manage.

Causes of Dementia in Dogs

If you’ve ever cared for an elderly loved one, you know that memory issues and confusion are common, but these symptoms can also indicate a bigger underlying health issue. It is the same for dogs. Most dogs are considered seniors around the age of seven. Larger breeds of dogs tend to have shorter lifespans, so they reach senior status earlier than some smaller breeds. As we age, the brain gradually atrophies and cells begin to die, eventually impacting brain function, memory, and mood. Small strokes may also play a role.

While the exact causes of Canine Cognitive Disorder are not fully understood, it’s likely that the same health conditions that trigger Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia in people are at work in aging pets as well. Although the initial symptoms of canine cognitive disorder are mild, they will gradually worsen over time, which is known as “cognitive decline.” In a senior or geriatric pet, any change can be serious, so it’s important to talk to your veterinarian at the first sign of a problem to ensure your pet maintains their quality of life.

Dog Alzheimer’s Symptoms

Clinical signs of cognitive dysfunction are found in nearly one in three dogs over the age of 11. By the age of 16, nearly all dogs will display at least one sign. Some dogs with dementia will begin to display aggression, most likely due to confusion and fear. The most common symptoms of dementia in dogs that you need to know include:

  • Disorientation/confusion
  • Anxiety/restlessness
  • Extreme irritability
  • Decreased desire to play
  • Excessive licking
  • Loss of appetite (anorexia)
  • Forgetting previously learned training or house rules
  • Slow to learn new tasks
  • Unable to follow familiar routes
  • Excessive barking or howling
  • Lack of self-grooming
  • Fecal and urinary incontinence
  • Changes in sleep cycle

Diagnosing Canine Cognitive Disorder

If you observe any of these or other behavioral changes in your dog, notify your vet immediately. A full veterinary physical exam, along with blood tests, ultrasounds, or other diagnostic tools can help your vet determine what may be happening with your pet. From there, a treatment plan can be formulated to meet your pet’s needs to help slow the cognitive decline and keep them as healthy and happy as possible during their senior years.

Caring for Dogs with Alzheimer’s

As scary as it is, a diagnosis of Canine Cognitive Disorder is not an immediate death sentence. There are many steps you can take to help slow cognitive decline including maintaining a healthy and stimulating environment for your pet and sticking to a regular daily routine of exercise, meals, and playtime. Your veterinarian can recommend a balanced diet that includes key supplements such as antioxidants, vitamins E and C, selenium, flavonoids, beta carotene, carotenoids, omega-3, or carnitine, which can help improve and support your dog’s cognitive function. At night, keep your dog in a small, familiar area for their comfort and safety. Night lights and orthopedic foam beds can help keep them comfortable and calm, so they can get adequate rest during the nighttime hours. Potty pads nearby or located near the door can help prevent accidents when your pup can’t wait to go out, or you’re asleep.

Ultimately, the life expectancy of a dog with Canine Cognitive Disorder or dementia is hard to predict. If the dog is otherwise healthy, dementia will gradually diminish the pet’s quality of life which can be a matter of months or years. Work with your veterinarian to monitor your dog’s quality of life, partnering with them to keep your senior dog comfortable, happy, and as healthy as possible throughout your journey together!

Need a good vet for your pet? Visit to find one near you!

[DISCLAIMER] Not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinarian advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian with any questions you may have regarding the medical condition of your pet. If you think your pet has a medical emergency, call or visit your veterinarian or your local veterinary emergency hospital immediately.

4th of July: Fireworks Safety for Pets

How to Keep Pets Calm and Safe During Fireworks

The 4th of July is a time for being outdoors, enjoying barbecues, red, white, and blue, and of course, fireworks. The biggest problem? Pets and fireworks don’t mix. Cats and dogs have very keen senses of hearing, so they’re naturally predisposed to be scared of loud noises. In fact, most pets are terrified of the thundering booms, bangs, and crackles of fireworks, and the light flashes simply add to the panic and distress pets are feeling. That’s why the 5th of July is the busiest day of the year for most animal shelters. The staff will spend their day trying to find the owners of companion animals that fled or escaped their homes, only to be found exhausted, disoriented, or even injured. With a little preparation the night before the 4th of July, you can keep pets calm during fireworks.

The Night Before the 4th of July

Don’t lose your pet in a fireworks panic. Be prepared. Take a few minutes to create a safe sanctuary for your pets; one that’s away from exterior doors and windows. Keep all windows and doors closed, and draperies and shades drawn. Include a few favorite toys and a familiar blanket or bed for your pet in a sheltered area of the room. Playing soft music can also help soothe your pet’s nerves. For very anxious cats and dogs, try a Thundershirt or a snug-fitting harness. For pets that cannot be soothed naturally, a sedative type medication may be necessary – speak to your veterinarian to discuss options. 

How to Find a Lost Pet With a Microchip

Fireworks are just one reason why it’s so important for all pets to be microchipped. A microchip is a form of permanent ID for a pet that can’t get lost like a collar or tags. Lost pets that have a microchip are far more likely to find their family than animals that are unchipped. For more on the benefits of microchips, see our blog. Of course, if the owner’s information registered to the chip is out of date, the microchip isn’t much help. Make sure your pet’s chip registry and collar tags are up to date and have all the most recent address and contact information. Not sure how? Read on.

How to Update a Dog’s Microchip

Lots of rescues in the area routinely microchip their pets prior to adoption. When adopting a pet from a shelter, you should be provided the chip information, the specific chip number along with any relevant health history records. It’s important to contact the corresponding registry to update your contact information accordingly. Not sure which pet chip registry site was used to register your pet? If you have your pet’s microchip number but have forgotten where you registered your contact information, you may find the original registry here. Call the phone number listed or visit the appropriate registry website to have the information updated. If you don’t have the microchip number, ask your vet to check your pet’s record or have them scan your pet for the chip number and any other information. 

Have a lost pet or need to find a specific pet rescue or shelter? There are many around the Valley, from large organizations like the Maricopa County Animal Control, Arizona Humane Society, and Arizona Animal Welfare League to smaller rescues dedicated to a particular breed or pet type. Google or Yelp can be helpful in searching for local pet shelters and rescues. Social media pages such as Straydar and Lost Dogs of Phoenix can also be helpful for locating a lost pet.

Happy 4th of July from your AZPV family! Be safe, remember to maintain social distance from others, and have fun.

[DISCLAIMER] Not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinarian advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian with any questions you may have regarding the medical condition of your pet. If you think your pet has a medical emergency, call or visit your veterinarian or your local veterinary emergency hospital immediately.