What can I do to improve my elderly dog’s quality of life and sleep? He’s showing signs of dementia.

Original Question: I have a 14-year-old Sheltie that’s about 36 - 40 lbs and he has been taking 10-12 mg/day of Medicam for arthritis. It seems to help somewhat and if he goes off it the pain seems to worsen. My question is that at night after I carry him upstairs and attempt to go to sleep he starts to pace back and forth from bathroom to bedroom and around the bedroom. He also gets caught in strange places under things and he doesn’t remember to back out of an area. If he is really caught he panics severely. This causes more anxiety. Also, he is 90% deaf and his eyesight is somewhat compromised especially up close. He was on a low dose of Tramadol for 20 days and it helped but wore off around 3 am and it is very expensive. Can you please recommend something just for night-time sedation? THANK YOU!! - Nancy

What can I do to improve my elderly dog’s quality of life and sleep? He’s showing signs of dementia. Apr 23, 2018

Hi Nancy,

Thanks for your question.

It sounds like you care very much for your sweet older dog! You have already done lots of things to maintain his quality of life. It is very common for older dogs to experience behaviour changes, especially if they are also dealing with a loss of hearing and vision. This is similar in some ways to dementia experienced by elderly people. Medications can certainly help, including those designed specifically for cognitive dysfunction. Your veterinarian can review this with you to determine if they are appropriate for your dog. There are also several supplements (specifically, anti-oxidants) that could provide some benefit. Pet food manufacturers have also recently developed diets for dogs that may improve brain function in ageing dogs. There are indeed costs associated with these options, which needs to be balanced with the possible impact on maintaining your dog’s quality of life. I would also suggest that you continue to provide your dog with exercise outdoors and daily interactions to keep his mind stimulated. I hope this gives you some direction.


Dr. Kim Hester

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