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Dear Katie, my dog is going senile in his old age

My dog is going senile as he gets older. He is forgetting a few things and his temperament has slightly changed – is there anything I can give him to help? 

When a dog is going senile, it can be hard to live with and stressful for both pet parent and canine. As a starting point, it’s always worth booking an appointment at the vet as there is medication that can help with blood flow to the brain. A behaviourist is also worth contacting as they may be able to help you see day-to-day life through your dog’s eyes and suggest some modifications to reduce stress. 

Picture of senior dog

Signs a dog is going senile

The most common signs a dog is going senile or showing signs of dementia (CCD) are:

  • Disorientation/confusion
  • Anxiety/restlessness
  • Extreme irritability
  • Decreased desire to play
  • Excessive licking
  • Disregard for previously learned training or house rules
  • Slow to learn new tasks
  • Inability to follow familiar routes
  • Excessive barking
  • Lack of self-grooming
  • Incontinence
  • Loss of appetite
  • Changes in sleep cycle

From a nutritional perspective, senior dogs don’t have hugely differing nutritional needs to adult dogs. However, we need to be mindful of changes to the digestive system and other problems such as tooth loss and loss of smell. You may need to reduce calories a little as well, if they become less active. It’s common for owners to continue feeding the same amounts their pal used to be happy on, but this can lead to your dog gaining weight, which can have a really negative impact on their health. 

dog mental enrichment games

Try to keep your dog healthy physically. Do keep up regular walks, as often or as far as they can manage, even if it’s just a few short strolls a day, and consider introducing new means of enriching your dog’s life, from tasty food to simple games. Mental care is also important when a dog is going senile, keeping the mind as active as possible. You can buy different puzzle board games to encourage stimulation and feed their food in a kong, slow feeders or play a variety of food games. All of these things can help boost activity levels as they start to slow down in their senior years, whether or not senility is an issue.

Supplements to support brain health

Research shows adding omega-3 oils EPA +DHA can improve brain function in older dogs, and their anti-inflammatory effects can also help arthritic joints.  Check your dog’s current food for omega-3 content. If you need to add some, my preferred source is krill oil, which binds to the cell membrane and delivers the antioxidant Astaxanthin – antioxidants are known for their anti-aging properties. Krill oil also contains Choline, which is a crucial component in the build and maintenance of your dog’s nervous system. It lends support to neurotransmitters, facilitating cognitive messaging, and it also has a positive impact on brain development, combatting the decline of memory and cognition as pooches age. It’s an all-round nutritional powerhouse.

Krill - omega 3 supplement

It has also been noted that some essential B vitamins contribute to the synthesis of brain neurotransmitters, specifically Dopamine and Noradrenaline. One study showed that a mixture of B vitamins helped maintain brain health, particularly in areas known to control cognitive function and support age-related brain health. It was noted that the vitamin B supplements worked better when in the presence of adequate omega-3 supplements, so we would recommend looking for a mix of both if you did wish to add these supplements to your canine’s diet.

Hug's senior herbal blend

A suitable herbal blend may also bring detoxifying benefits, aid joint health, and deliver antioxidants. We have our own special senior blend and use krill powder in our raw recipes – together, these are an amazing combo. We source our krill from QRILL Pet: the only fishery ranked ‘A’ by the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership. QRILL developed an eco-harvesting method that involves just 1% of the krill biomass, so there’s plenty left for natural predators in the wild. All krill is processed on board their ships, so it has no time to deteriorate, ensuring it has high bioavailability. Our cold pressed senior blend has been formulated with all of these aspects in mind, packing in omega-3 from green lipped mussel and added glucosamine for joint health, too.  

I understand how hard it can be when a dog is going senile. I hope this advice helps you both.

Katie x

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