At the beginning of this year our female Greyhound Lizzie, started to behave a little strangely. She's never been a 'normal' dog but there were changes in her behaviour that we'd never seen before. By the end of January it was clear that something wasn't right. Her eyes were no longer sparkling and they had begun to look dull and 'empty'. She was also staying up most nights, wandering aimlessly and whining. She used to be a real Daddy's girl, spending all her time with my partner, like his wee shadow. This had also changed and she was either spending more time with me or on her own. We had our suspicions that it could be dementia but Lizzie was only 8 ½ so we thought it unlikely. One night, she woke me up wanting to go out to the toilet and this was the point where we knew she needed help. We have a baby gate at the top of the stairs to keep the dogs upstairs at night. I opened it for her to go through ahead of me but she just stood there looking confused. She then tried to get through the space between the gate and the wall, which must be around 4 inches. It wasn't as if she had missed, she was trying to force her head through the gap repeatedly. It was utterly heart breaking to see her so confused. That morning, we took her in to see our vet who agreed with my suspicions. A thorough check up showed nothing untoward that may be responsible for the odd behaviour. At only 8 ½, she was very young to be showing signs of dementia but they were clear. Our vet decided to try her on a nutraceutical drug called Aktivait. It contains anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals and has a good success rate in slowing or halting the progress of brain ageing in older dogs. We wanted to try her on this before looking at stronger drugs. We were advised that it may take up to 6 weeks to see a difference but if she didn't respond within 8 weeks we'd have to try something else.
Lizzie had suffered appalling abuse prior to me finding and rescuing her. She was repeatedly beaten unconscious with a metal bowl if she spilled her food, and was also given 'performance enhancing' drugs to make her run faster. Our vet's theory was that there is scarring to her brain, similar to that which a boxer might have, due to the abuse, and the drugs that she was given also added to the 'brain damage'. It would certainly explain why she developed dementia so early. Unfortunately Lizzie deteriorated quite dramatically in the following week. She was totally bewildered and it was as if she had no idea where she was or who we were. When we let her out to go to the toilet she would just stand there looking confused. One good thing was that she remained quite happy throughout all this. She even regressed a bit and started playing like a puppy which she had never really done in all the 7 years we'd had her. 'In the following week she deteriorated even more and started urinating in the house. She was also awake all night, whining. In case she was anxious at night, she was also prescribed the herbal remedy Skullcap and Valerian. The following evening she slept all night.
Three weeks into treatment we were starting to worry we were going to lose her. However, one day I thought she looked a bit different. My partner agreed but we thought it was wishful thinking at first. The next day, there was no mistaking it. The improvement was quite dramatic. She had improved remarkably and the 'old' Lizzie was back. We were stunned that it happened so quickly. My parents visited to see if they thought she was better and they noticed immediately. Lizzie's eyes were sparkling again and she was bright and alert.
We are now 6 weeks into treatment and she's absolutely fine. She initiates play with our other Grey, Lurcher and Galgo and carries on like a puppy half the time. She sleeps through most nights and is back to being my partner's wee shadow.
I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Aktivait to anyone with an ageing Grey. It's available without prescription from the vet and costs around £30 for a month's supply. Expensive, but it's worth every penny. It's given us back our wee princess.
If any readers are in the same position with a Grey with dementia and want to discuss it further, they can contact me by email through John. Click here. The picture below is of Lizzie as she is now.