Hospice Care: An alternative for pets suffering from Doggy Dementia

At first, Alissa Algarin didn’t think twice about her dog, Cain, spending more time on the couch than normal. After all, he was getting older, but then Cain, a pit bull mix, stopped following her to the door when she left and lost all interest in his toys. He also began pacing in a circle around the kitchen.

Note: This is the third and final installment in this series on Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (Doggy Dementia).

Here are links to the two previous posts in this series:


Veterinarian Shannon Skevakis with Cain and owner Alissa Algarin

Veterinarian Shannon Skevakis with Cain and owner Alissa Algarin


After some blood tests to rule out other issues, the dog’s veterinarian produced a diagnosis — cognitive dysfunction syndrome — a condition that Algarin sometimes calls “doggy Alzheimer’s.”

“What might happen is that his brain might go first, before his body,” Algarin says of Cain, now 11-years old. “So it means that I might have to get to a point where I have to put him down.”

But she’s also not quite ready to say goodbye.

Cain, diagnosed with cognitive disorder

Cain, diagnosed with cognitive disorder


Alissa Algarin seeks out hospice care for Cain, her 11-year-old dog who was recently diagnosed with a cognitive disorder. Shannon Skevakis, a veterinarian with Lap of Love, a veterinary hospice network, visits Cain and Algarin at their Highlands home.

Helping families say goodbye

Still, some pet owners and veterinarians may not agree with hospice, thinking the practice prolongs suffering. But in a field where eating and sleeping are primary concerns as opposed to blood work and kidney values, Mary Gardner disagrees.

“Hospice is not about prolonging anything,” says Gardner, 43, a hospice veterinarian in the Los Angeles area who grew up in Vineland. “It’s actually sometimes making it shorter but making it better.” Some clients compile bucket lists for their pets, or plan their last day together as a special send-off.

There are many factors to consider when assessing an animal’s quality of life, says Gardner, who co-founded Lap of Love six years ago with fellow veterinarian Dani McVety in Tampa, Fla. “There is so much more than just the pet,” she says, and more than the cost of hospice. “It’s the emotional budget, it’s the physical budget.” The very act of lifting a heavy dog can tax a caregiver.

To read the rest of this informative article, click the following link: People turning to Hospice Care for their pets

Watch video: Veterinarian Shannon Skevakis counseling Alissa Algarin about Cain, her 11-year-old pit bull mix, who was recently diagnosed with cognitive dysfunction syndrome.


Canine Cognitive Dysfunction: The Regenerative Neuroscience Group

This is the second installment in my series on Canine Cognitive Dysfunction. Today’s post focuses on the work of the Regenerative Neuroscience Group in Sydney, Australia.

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD) is very distressing to the dog’s owner and family. Their well-loved pet will begin to wander and pace, appear lost, get stuck behind furniture, stare aimlessly at the walls, and lose continence. Perhaps most sadly, dogs with CCD seem to forget their connection with the people they have lived with for many years. About 12% of dogs older than 8 years of age are estimated to have CCD, and the likelihood of developing CCD rises dramatically with age.

Know the signs of dementia in your dog? – What can be done about it?

Listen to this podcast by Dr. Sarah Toole from the Regenerative Neuroscience Group talking about Canine Cognitive Dysfunction on VETtalkTV


Note: Click the following link to download a PDF version of the Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Rating Scale (CCDR)


Behavioral changes in dogs with CCD include:
  • Changes in activity levels
  • Changes in eating or drinking habits
  • Changes in sleeping patterns (awake and often vocal at night whilst sleeping during the day)
  • Aggression and anxiety problems
  • Loss of learned behaviors such as house training (often resulting in housesoiling)
  • Inability to navigate familiar surroundings (e.g. getting stuck in corners or going to the hinge side of the door to be let out)
  • Failing to recognize owners or familiar people and other pets


Canine Sand Maze

The Regenerative Neuroscience Group developed and validated the Canine Sand Maze as a practical and accurate method of assessing canine spatial learning, working memory and delayed recall in pet dogs.

This video shows a young dog that successfully completes the Canine Sand Maze probe trial (and then tries to escape!), and an old dog that has no delayed memory of the learnt food location. It’s easy to work out which one is which.


Timmy, a 13-year old Cocker Spaniel

The Regenerative Neuroscience Group worked with Timmy, a 13-year old spaniel, and the unlikely symbol of hope for Dementia sufferers around the world… after receiving a unique form of stem cell therapy which appears to have restored his memory…and in so doing…saved his life!

A video on Timmy’s story was featured in the first installment of this series on Canine Cognitive Dysfunction. Timmy is a cocker spaniel living with a form of dementia. Timmy became part of a University of Sydney research project focused on rebooting the brain with stem cells harvested from the subject’s own skin, and in doing so became the first dog worldwide to survive such a transplant. Now Timmy faces a series of ongoing tests designed to measure improvements in his canine condition, which is similar to Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of human senility.

A feature story was published on Timmy in “The Saturday Paper” which is published in Carlton, Victoria, Australia.

Timmy & His Owners

Timmy & his owners


The Regenerative Neuroscience Group conducted a worldwide survey of owners of older dogs (8+ years). They collected over 1000 responses from 11-countries on a 100 different dog breeds and a multitude of cross breeds. From this data we identified the behaviors performed by older dogs that are most indicative of CCD with an accuracy of approximately 80%. These 13-behaviors make up the canine cognitive dysfunction rating (CCDR) scale. Based on this scale, we identified that overall, 12% of the older dogs surveyed had behavioral symptoms consistent with CCD. The risk of having CCD also increased with age with 31% of dogs over the age of 14-years estimated to be affected.

Cell Therapy – Replacing Lost Cells and Connections
Replacing Lost Cells and Connections

Replacing Lost Cells and Connections


To read more about this exciting development, see Cell Therapy for the Reversal of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction


Links to resources on this page


Acknowledgment & Disclosure

I want to express my gratitude to the Regenerative Neuroscience Group for the lion’s share of the information reposted here. This post was written in the desire to help owners of dogs who are suffering from Canine Cognitive Dysfunction. It was heartbreaking to watch Divinity pacing non-stop throughout much of the night. Hopefully, a cure for this disease will be discovered through the research from the Regenerative Neuroscience Group, and other institutions.

Dementia in Dogs: Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

As long-time readers of Divinity’s blog know, in the last year of her life, Divinity suffered from K9 dementia. Specifically, Sundowner’s Syndrome.

Note: This is the first post in a multi-part series on dementia in dogs.

Symptoms of K9 Dementia can include:
  • Pacing back and forth or in circles (often turning consistently in one direction)
  • Getting lost in familiar places
  • Staring into space or walls
  • Walking into corners or other tight spaces and staying there
  • Appearing lost or confused
  • Having difficulty getting all the way into bed
  • Getting trapped under or behind furniture
  • Sleeping more during the day and less at night

Click the following link to download a printable version of the complete Canine Cognitive Dysfunction checklist

To learn more about Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, click the following link to DogDementia.com

Cognitive Dysfunction in Older Dogs


Canine Cognitive Dysfunction – Timmy’s Story

Dealing with a dog with Dementia

The latest Kerry Blue Terrier Foundation newsletter includes an excellent article about caring for a dog suffering from Dementia.

In fact, half of their current newsletter is devoted to Dementia.

Dementia: A Journey of Transition


Dementia getting worse, and more weight loss

Unfortunately, Divinity’s dementia symptoms have increased dramatically. My little lady no longer just paces at sundown; Divinity now regularly paces for hours throughout the night.

Last night the evening pacing began around 9:00pm, and kept up until around 1:30am. Every time Divinity made the rounds up the upper floor, she’d jump on the bed, and wake me. After very little sleep, I put Divinity in the back room with her bed, and closed the doors as I needed a break. However, when I checked on her at 1:00am, she was still pacing frantically.

Divinity receives the maximum dose of her dementia medication, so there’s no increasing the dosage in the hopes of calming my little lady. This is difficult behavior for her dad to watch. My sweet little lady is rapidly meandering her way into the sunset.

Ten days ago, I published a post on Divinity loosing weight. Unfortunately, since then she’s lost even more weight. I don’t have a scale, but I can feel her bones more than I could even ten days ago. Divinity’s boots are now regularly falling off, as her ankles have gotten smaller, as her weight drops.

As it is, I needed to modify her boots to fit, as even the smallest size boots, were too large for her tiny feet. I’m managing to keep the boots on for the most part, but after two plus years of heavy use, these boots are well worn.

Lost in Space

Today, during our mid-morning walk, Divinity stopped, and just stared into nowhere. This lasted for more than five minutes before she decided to move.

Along with cancer, Divinity also suffers from dementia, etc, etc, etc. All of Divinity’s medical problems are increasing in intensity as time goes on.

Lost in SpaceAfter waiting patiently for five minutes, I walked up to my little lady, picked up her front half, and asked her if she was OK. Divinity’s answer was a nice “nibble-kiss” on my nose that she does when she is especially affectionate.

This is a very difficult time for dad. I don’t want to do the deed too soon, but then I don’t want to wait too long either, and have Divinity in pain.

Lost in SpaceTomorrow, if the weather cooperates, we’ll be taking a nice day-trip that I’ll write about after. If not tomorrow, then hopefully we’ll be going no later then Monday.

Lost in Space

Novifit – One month update

After one month on Novifit, Divinity is more alert, active, affectionate, and she is generally just happier. This past week Divinity had her yearly physical; Dr. Steve was thrilled with Divinity’s improvement.

Active again thanks to Novifit

Active again thanks to Novifit


One thing I did change, and this relates directly to Divinity’s pacing. When I first started Divinity on Novifit, I gave it to her in the morning, after nearly a month, her pacing had hardly subsided, so I now give it to her at dinner time.

It has now been one week since the change, and while Divinity still paces, she is pacing less than when I gave her Novifit in the morning.

All in all, I can recommend Novifit for dogs suffering from Dementia.