What are some signs to watch for regarding dementia in aging animals?

What precautions might pet owners take if/when it develops? My dog has started barking, when she seldom did before. She also seems to be about 95% deaf. Is her new found barking because of deafness or might it be related to onset of dementia?

Many older dogs will display aging changes mentally as well as physically. It is possible that both the hearing loss and aging changes are contributing to your dogs new found barking. Similar to senility in people, dogs can get Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS) which can manifest as behavior changes or loss of ability to perform routine activities. A dog’s loss of sensory input (deafness) and decreased vision at times causes them to use other means of “communication” to feel comfortable in their environment. Since talking with our dogs is how we communicate and deafness takes away this option, other methods become necessary. Some people feel a high pitched whistle still works in dogs that have lost hearing. You might try to work with a whistle and reward her when she comes to create a new form of communication. You may want to put a flashing light on her collar during the summer trips so she will be easier to locate.

There are options for trying to increase her cognitive skills. Talk to your veterinarian about your options and to see what you can safely try on your girl, i.e., diet, supplements and medications. Make sure she is not on any medications that might interact anything you give her. You can read about canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome here. Good luck!