Just a Little Loopy

Molly, our fifteen-year-old English Cocker Spaniel had been waking us up for weeks at 3AM, barking until her fur became drenched with perspiration.  We tried leaving her out of her crate, leaving the dog door open, medication…all with no improvement.  I finally suggested a visit to the vet was in order.  Molly was not a fussy dog or a needy one.  The incessant barking was quite out of the ordinary.  A quick exam ruled out our fears that she was in pain from arthritis; however a more troubling diagnosis was given:  Canine Cognitive Dysfunction or Doggie Dementia.  After the vet explained all the early symptoms of the disease and then what to expect in the more advanced stages, the Englishman declared that Molly was “just a little loopy”.

The diagnosis really fit with the symptoms:  sleeping more during the day, less at night, more accidents in the house, barking at nothing and an increase in anxiety.  The vet initially suggested trying a nighttime dose of Benadryl to help her sleep.  We tried it for two nights in a row and it made things worse.  With Chase, a small dose of Benadryl makes him sleepy but with Molly, it made her hyperactive.  I decided to do some online research and found several support groups and websites with suggestions.  There were so many articles to read and so many ideas I became overwhelmed until I stumbled across and article called “Dementia and anxiety in your older dog” on A Path with Paws website.  Everything began to click with me, especially the sentence “Not all dementia has an anxiety component to it and not all anxiety in older dogs is from dementia but the two often go together”.  I realized that we needed to treat the anxiety, first.

Molly had lost all of her hearing over the past couple of years and her eyesight had greatly diminished.  She slept soundly because of this but when she woke up in the dark, she would bark until the Englishman or I came to her aid.  She wasn’t barking in our direction.  She was barking in the spot where she woke.  I could only imagine that it was a great distress to Molly when she woke in the dark and couldn’t see or hear.  We immediately moved her bed into our room, placed a water bowl nearby and added a motion activated nightlight right next to her.  If she woke in the night, there was a light at her level and she could detect our presence with her nose.  I also added lavender essential oil to a timed diffuser for extra comfort.

The improvement was immediate.  Molly no longer barked incessantly and reached such deep levels of sleep, her snoring returned.  The other two dogs, while initially envious of Molly’s new nighttime sleeping arrangement, settled back into their crates with four-inch memory foam mattresses and custom sheets.  As we headed into the New Year and Molly’s upcoming 16th birthday, we felt it was just fine that our companion was a little loopy.  Aren’t we all?