Therapy Dogs for Humans with Dementia

dogzheimersHumans and dogs alike can experience the horrible disease of dementia.  And while this blog is initially designed to assist people with helping their canines companions who are afflicted with the condition, there is a connected issue that we want to address here as well.  It is something of the reverse of the problem.  It is the concept of how therapy dogs can assist humans who are dealing with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Before we begin providing the information about how a dog can help a human; let’s cover briefly what Alzheimer’s is and how it affects people. Does it impact both our four-legged friends and homo sapiens the same?

alzheimer'sAlzheimer’s is a form of dementia that affects a person’s thinking, behavior, and memory.  It happens to be the most common form of dementia.  It usually begins gradually, with the symptoms progressing over time.

Typically, and Alzheimer’s patient is going to be working with a doctor who will prescribe medication to help treat the disease.  There are no cures for the condition though some drugs will help slow the process.  There are also experimental drugs being made available as well to see what impact they may have on dementia.  Being that Alzheimer’s is a neurological condition, drugs such as Nuedexta typically used to treat Pseudobulbar Affect (PBA) are prescribed to help the patient.

Some of the difficulties in using medication to help treat the disease are the side effects of the medication and high price associated with purchasing the drugs.  Dealing with just one of these issues would be challenging enough.  Having to address both only adds to the concern.

The common side effects of using Nuedexta that an Alzheimer’s patientalz dementia may experience is bloating, weight gain or weight loss, runny nose, and swelling of the limbs as well some aches and pains in the back.  More severe yet less common effects are diarrhea, blood in the urine, fever, and chills.  These problems are lessened over time as a person’s body gets used to the drug

Taking this medication with other drugs is concerning as the side effects may become more severe.  Certainly, talking with a physician before beginning this course of treatment would be a good idea.

Even using experimental drugs can be expensive with the cost of Nuedexta itself running between $600 to $900 every couple of months depending on whether you have a coupon or discount available to use.  Insurance companies won’t necessarily be on board with either paying or helping to pay for this treatment.

For the reasons above and others, drugs may not be a solution for a person with Alzheimer’s.  However, another possible answer to the problem might be another option.  That solution is the use of a therapy dog.

Canines have been viable solutions to assisting individuals with all sorts of things for years.  The list is long, and it stems from hunting to seeing eye dogs, to the human protection and now therapy dogs.

labrador therapy dogWhat types of dogs can be used for therapy?

Most any dog can be a therapy dog. However, based on some breeds known traits, those breeds of dogs will likely be preferred for this activity.  Labrador breeds are typically good therapy dogs.  Still, I’ve known pit bulls, golden retrievers and other types who have worked well in this particular role too.

How do make a dog a therapy dog?

Therapy dogs begin with a balanced well-mannered dog.  Some dogs are raised as pups and even bred for the purpose of treatment.  Then again, there are are dogs who’ve been rescued whose owners have turned them into therapy dogs.  Dog training is necessary though, formal training in the way many would expect isn’t always a requirement dependent upon the type of therapy work the dog will be expected to perform.

Many owners will work with their furry friend to develop certain traits and behaviors if the therapy is something such as going to group homes, hospitals, etc., and just being a comfort to those people he is meeting.

Therapy dogs expected to do more for the individual such as seeing eye dogs, PTSD dogs, diabetic therapy dogs, and those who assist Alzheimer’s patients, are required to go through intensive training designed to teach them of signs they need to look out for in their human.  Plus, the therapy dog training teaches them how to respond when those symptoms appear. This training can last from several months to over a year.



Now getting back to treating dogs with dementia, AKA dogzheimers, there is medication for that purpose as well.  Although there is no known cure for canines with dementia, some treatments have been shown as effective for slowly the disease.

A couple of options prescribed by veterinarians for this treatment have been found to be promising.  One is a drug, and the other is supplements.
Anipryl is an actual medication for treatment.  SAMe, Senilife, and Nuetricks.  Coconut oil and Omega-3 fatty acids are also a possibility, but there is no direct evidence of their effectiveness.

dog dementia drugSome preliminary studies in humans may also give an indication in options for treating pets.  For humans, continuing to work the cognitive function of the mind has been a benefit.  It may hold true that the same theory applies to dogs.  You can work your beloved pups mind with dog training that works his brain throughout their lives.

When you love your pet, you’ll give anything a try to help him live a long, productive, healthy life.  Give these options a shot to see how you might be able to prevent or limit the effects of dementia in your dog.