Brain damage in dogs is something we don’t often think about until we’re faced with the question of how to handle a seemingly mentally disabled puppy. That’s because it’s something that we don’t see too terribly often. I worked at the vet for over 7 years, and I only ever saw one case of a dog with mental impairment, and that occurred after the dog was hit by a car. However, I came across an interesting Reddit post regarding a family who recently adopted a puppy that brought up the question of dealing with mental disabilities in dogs.
All About Brain Damage
The post was horribly painful to read. Te puppy is 7 months old, and she exhibits major signs of brain dysfunction. She is detached from her surroundings, she paces, has jerky body movements, had difficulty eating, and generally appears lost. Basically, this little girl is deficient in all aspects of daily life, which is just heartbreaking. However, this post brought up something that’s very important – the often undiagnosed and unrecognized problem of brain damage. Let’s talk a bit about the signs of a deficiency as well as how to handle a seemingly mentally disabled puppy.
What Causes Brain Damage
We often think of brain damage as a condition resulting from trauma, but that’s not always the case. Of course, a head injury can, and often does, result in brain injury. However, neurological impairment can stem from a variety of things including:
- Physical trauma
- Oxygen deprivation
- Congenital defect (the animal was born with it)
- Age (dementia)
Symptoms of Brain Damage
Symptoms of brain damage and neurological impairment can be widely varied, including everything from pacing and circling to vocalizing. The problem is that many of the symptoms of brain issues can also be seen as symptoms of other things. Generally, you could be looking at a neurological condition if more than one of these symptoms are present:
- A blank stare
- Appearing to be lost
- Jerky movements
- Vocalizing in the absence of pain or other stimuli
- Difficulty eating
- A general demeanor of being disconnected from the world
Of course, when dealing with something as complex as the brain, there are more ways than this for a dog to show signs of brain damage or neurological problems. These are just the most common. In general, if your dog is acting off in a way that doesn’t seem to be related to pain or another physical impairment, especially if your dog is older or has just recently been in any sort of accident, get him to the vet right away.
How to Handle a Seemingly Mentally Disabled Puppy
Some neurological conditions like epilepsy and spinal cord issues can be treated in dogs. Unfortunately, in cases like the one mentioned above where the brain itself is damaged or in cases of dementia, there is no treatment. When a dog has brain damage, it’s permanent. Your only options are to help keep your dog comfortable and as happy as possibly or to put him to sleep if his quality of life is abysmal.
I remember working at the vet, and being so sad that we had to put one of our resident animals, Minion, to sleep. She was an ancient, 22-year-old miniature poodle. Her body was the picture of health, but her poor mind was just gone. We realized we had to put her to sleep when she began to stand in the corners of the room and just vocalize. The quality of life was not there.
That’s just one story, though. If your dog has brain damage or an untreatable neurological issue but is relatively happy, there’s no reason to do that. It’s all subjective. In any case, the first thing you should do if you suspect your dog has brain damage or any sort of neurological issue is to get him to the vet. Your vet can help guide you on the best course of treatment possible.