Follow up to dementia and anxiety in older dogs – Sadie’s hospice care

One of my clients Margaret recently lost her very sweet older girl Sadie. In the end Sadie had a lot of health issues including signs of dementia. She recently sent me this letter as a follow up to my article Dementia and Anxiety in older dogs and gave me permission to share it with all of you. I hope it will be helpful for others dealing with the same issues in their loved canine companions.


From Margaret – I read your post on aging dogs with interest and with my usual twinges of grief. I appreciated all your kindness as we were experiencing so much decline with Sadie. I thought I’d follow up with a couple of points we were talking about the last time you saw us.

In addition to the herbal tea you sent her, and the benefits of acupuncture and acupressure, I ended up relying on several things. Maybe some of the others you know who are living with this stage of life could use the tips.

After lots of short stabs at various kinds of food she would eat, toward the end it was chicken baby food (she preferred Beachnut to Gerbers) with her pills ground up and mixed in along with some warming/thinning water and some Pedialite to balance her electrolytes a bit. I used baby syringes (free at the Rite Aid pharmacy) to give it to her as she lost the ability to figure out how to eat out of a small bowl unless she was really really hungry and the food tasted really really good to her at that moment. We did the syringe feeding twice a day with little treats at other times (people chicken – she preferred sharing Gary’s BBQ’d bits; Red Barn log bits; soft bickies).

sadie1We followed her vet’s caution about sticking to only a couple of sources of protein as she wasn’t able to process a variety. Since she wasn’t able to chew or digest well, we diced or minced what we gave her. The vet suggested that as she was having problems with nausea, in addition to the Pepcid AC we had been giving her for quite a while, toward the end we gave her half a Cerenia tablet every other day (wrapped in a smudge of smoked salmon, which really got her attention). She did well on that, as vomiting undigested food had become a problem. Baby food slurries helped as well. For the last couple of weeks she wanted syringe meals more often, so she had those 4-5 times a day, each “meal” = about 6Tbsp. I also mixed in Benefiber as she wasn’t getting much fiber in her food. Helped with constipation.

On the drugs for senility, it was pretty clear that Senilife for small aging dogs helped her. After 3 days on it, we could see some improvement. I ran out for 3 days, and the issues got worse, but were corrected again after about 3 days back on it. I gave it to her before bed so that she could settle down. Her restless/anxious periods usually started around 8-9 p.m. For the last week she was pretty miserable for several hours in the night. Senilife is much less expensive than Anipryl and doesn’t seem to have some of the side effects they warn about. It’s easy to give because you just snip off the end and squeeze a little “juice” into the mouth.

When she was really miserable, I gave her a little of the Gabapentin you prescribed. It was too much for her most of the time – made her loopy – but it was okay in the middle of the night toward the end.

On the incontinence part, we ended up with PetSmart’s Top Paw washable cover ups. As her bladder problems got worse, I just increased the pad (human ones are cheaper and more varied than dog pantiliners) to “overnight” capacity, folding in the ends since they were too long for our little girl. The kind with wings worked best as she just couldn’t hold it when she woke up even from naps.

The Phyto-B Donna Kelleher gave her stopped the sleeping incontinence in the first week we gave it to her over a year ago. We never stopped that. (NOTE: Phyto-B has recently been discontinued and is difficult to get)

We kept a little bit of light on at night for her as darkness increased her anxiety. Even in the daytime, she wasn’t able to make sense of some of her surroundings, like reflections in windows, recognizing what was going on, figuring out where Gary and I were even when we were close by. She saw movement rather than shape, I think. Rescue Remedy helped when things got bad for her. I’m sorry I didn’t think to try melatonin.

sadie2More than the Thundershirt, T-shirt, Equafleece or ACE wrap on her body, Sadie did best with a piece of soft elastic “calming band” (1-2″ wide short strip of ACE bandage or soft underwear elastic tied in a figure 8 around her face: lay elastic at midpoint over nose, cross under chin, tie at back of neck; can be pushed up off nose to above “eyebrows” like a Hillary Clinton headband). The calming cap that both Premier and Thundershirt sell is helpful in some cases because it closes down visual stimuli to some extent as well as providing the light pressure around the face, but in Sadie’s case, her vision was already compromised and subtracting from her ability to see made it worse for her. Oddly enough, the Top Dog “bloomers” provided kind of a Thundershirt for her rear end. It provided a little support for her back legs, probably by bringing awareness to that part of her body, and also separating her legs a little because of the pad. More importantly, feeding her tail through the hole had the effect of keeping her tail from getting tucked. Her back was less roached. Her tail was more relaxed. Robyn Hood and Linda Tellington-Jones say, “Change the tail (or the posture) and you change the dog.” Clamping her tail and her back legs was a default self-protective strategy for Sadie, so the “bloomers” were a big help with her stance, stability, and confidence.

Thank you so much for sharing this Margaret!

One Response to “Follow up to dementia and anxiety in older dogs – Sadie’s hospice care”

  1. Charlotte Matthews Says:

    Thank you, Margaret, for sharing your tips and experience! I had one dog with CCD who left us almost 2 years ago. Now I have a 14 year old who is developing same, but appears in less distress. I’m grateful for the experiences with my first dog, and feel better equipped to deal with the challenges.. as irie and I were out tonite getting her food, we met a lady with a 10 month old, large puppy. I encouraged her to enjoy the dog at all stages of life, because they don’t last forever <3 Be well..