Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

Does your elderly dog walk into a corner and just stand there? Does she just stare into space? Does she pace in circles? Go to the hinge of the door to be let out? Not respond to her name?  She might have Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD), commonly referred to as doggie Alzheimer’s or dementia. 

Eileen Anderson is an award winning blogger (eileenanddogs) and dog owner. She knows all about CCD as her beloved rat terrier, Cricket, had it and she was able to manage Cricket for two years with CCD. Ms. Anderson has written a book, Remember Me?  Loving and Caring for a Dog with Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, which has garnered praise from experts such as Dr. E’Lise Christensen, board certified veterinary behaviorist, and Jean Donaldson, author of Culture Clash. One of her goals, with the book and website, is to help owners diagnosis CCD early because “there is medical help for cognitive dysfunction in dogs.” She also wants to provide owners with information that will make their lives and that of their dogs more manageable. I have not read the book, yet, but her website dedicated to canine dementia is filled with valuable information about CCD, including photos, videos, a printable symptoms checklist, treatment options, suggestions on caring for a senior dog, and more.*

One of the pages I found to be the most helpful was on symptoms. Ms. Anderson lists types of symptoms as well as specific ones. (She includes pictures and a couple of videos to illustrate the symptoms.) Here is her list of types of symptoms:

 

Disorientation
Changes in social interactions
Sleep disorders
Loss of house training
Changes in activity level
Memory loss
Inability to learn
Anxiety

She goes on to list 29 specific symptoms of canine dementia, and at the bottom of the page is a link for a printable checklist of symptoms that you can take to your vet. In addition to the four listed at the beginning, here are some others to look for:

  1. Failing to get out of the way when someone opens a door.
  2. Failing to remember routines, or starting them and getting only partway through.
  3. Performing repetitive behaviors.
  4. Having trouble with eating or drinking (finding the bowls, aiming the mouth, keeping food in mouth).
  5. Losing appetite.
  6. Trembling for seemingly no reason.
  7. Falling off things. 
  8. Getting trapped under or behind furniture.
  9. Sleeping more during the day and less at night.

Under Treatment she lists prescription drugs as well as supplements that may be helpful. Food and enrichment are discussed on the treatment page as well as on the Enrichment page. The resources page has tips from other owners as well as links to books and articles that can help you manage your dog. And, she also has a kind and sensitive page devoted to how to decide when the time has come that “you need to help your dog with dementia leave this world.”*

Watching our dogs age is never easy, but having a dog develop dementia can be especially painful. But, by diagnosing early and effectively managing it, we can provide our senior buddies with a good life for however long they have with us. 

 

 

* On Your Family Dog, Colleen Pelar and I have a two part series with Dr. Alicia Karas, of Tufts Veterinary School, on elderly dogs. Part 1 is Giving Older Dogs the Good Life, and part 2 is Knowing When It’s Time to Say Goodbye.

Also, just after publishing this blog, this link about a potential new drug to treat CCD came through my email. Let’s hope the trial goes well and we have another tool for helping our elderly dogs.

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