One day he was fine and the next day he wasn’t. That’s how fast it happened. One day he’s my adorable, energetic 15 year old boy, always happy, always ready for a treat, always licking the bowl clean, and the next day, like a light switch, he stopped eating everything, even his favorite treats. That was August 13, 2018 and he hasn’t eaten normally since.
At first I thought it might be too warm in our apartment for my senior pup, even though the A/C was on 24/7. Murphy seemed restless and started panting at night so I put a second A/C in the bedroom. The panting and restlessness stopped but Murphy still didn’t eat.
It was hot in August and Murphy was acting fine in every other way. Not every dog eats every meal, right? I got this, right? I bought a few different varieties of food and he ate a bit but not much. I decided to wait a few more days before making an appointment to see the vet.
The odd behavior started on day two. Murphy would approach his food bowl and push it around with his nose like he was burying a bone in the dirt. He pushed it left, right, front, back, occasionally sticking his tongue into the food, then right back out and back to pushing. He didn’t eat. He did this repeatedly for 3 or 4 minutes, appearing to be in a ‘zone,’ and then he walked out of the room.
I had no idea what was happening to him, but I knew one thing for sure – Murphy had to eat. He couldn’t fight this thing if he wasn’t eating. I learned how to syringe-feed a dog and started syringe-feeding Murphy twice a day. Between the feedings I encouraged him to eat on his own, but aside from a few treats and bites of food here and there the syringe-feeding was his main source of nutrition.
More odd behavior started on day three. Murphy would walk to a corner of the living room, and stand there like a statue staring at the wall. He became incontinent, urinating wherever he was standing without knowing he was doing it, even though his pee box was in the bedroom where it always was. He forgot how to walk up the stairs to our apartment, something he’s been doing since he was 6 months old. He would often walk to the middle of a room and stand there not moving. He stopped coming to the door when I came home. And the behavior that brought me to tears was when he looked at me with blank eyes like I was a stranger.
Research into Murphy’s symptoms led me to a possible diagnosis of Dog Dementia, also known as Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD) and Doggy Alzheimer’s Disease. I joined a Facebook group for dog owners who have dogs with dementia and learned more about the disease and about several holistic supplements that were helping other senior dogs who were exhibiting similar behavior. The more I learned about Dog Dementia the more convinced I was that this is what Murphy was fighting. I’m a strong believer in a holistic approach to healthcare and I ordered the holistic supplements that I felt might help Murphy and began adding them to his food.
I syringe-fed Murphy his food/supplement mix every morning and every night, and about four months into this routine he slowly began to improve. He started eating on his own, and his symptoms reversed a little more each day, until no more incontinence, no more staring at the wall, and suddenly the steps were OK again and best of all – mom I’m so glad you’re home! Can I have a treat?
Fast forward to today.
It has now been 16 months since Murphy first showed symptoms of Dog Dementia and at this point he’s symptom-free. Murphy eats all his meals on his own and every evening I syringe-feed his supplements blended into a tablespoon of organic pumpkin (not the pie filling – just 100% organic pumpkin from the health food store).
Even though Murphy is doing so well I live every day knowing that this disease can get really bad really fast. For that reason we never miss a day of supplements.
I hope Murphy’s journey can be a source of comfort to others who are on the same journey.