Would a person with Alzheimer's Disease ever hurt their own pet?

Reenie317 asked...

My client has a pet dog and I know she loves that dog but lately, it seems she gets agitated with the dog. I am afraid she might hurt him.

Expert Answer

Jytte Lokvig, PhD, coaches families and professional caregivers and designs life-enrichment programs and activities for patients with Alzheimer's disease and related dementia. Her workshops and seminars help caregivers and families create a healthy environment based on dignity and humor. She is the author of Alzheimer's A to Z: A Quick-Reference Guide.

I think your worries are warranted. It sounds as though your client is no longer able to care for her dog. On behalf of the dog, my concerns are twofold: your client may no longer be aware of its needs, i.e. when it needs to go out or what, when and how much to feed it. Many poor pooches suffer at the hands of loving owners, who give them human treats, not realizing how harmful these foods are to dogs, i.e. cookies or even chocolates (pure poison to dogs and cats,) She also may not be aware that kicking or striking her dog is not only is it animal cruelty, but puts her at risk. Even the most devoted dog can turn on its owner in self-defense. Hopefully your client has a friend or family member who's willing to foster the dog and bring it by for visits. Pets can be wonderful companions for someone with cognitive problems, but since dementia influences a person's reasoning and empathy, someone needs to monitor the relationship.