What is Canine Cognitive Dysfunction?
Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD) is a disease found in dogs that display symptoms of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease shown in humans. CCD can occur for a number of reasons, like an accumulation of abnormal proteins in the brain. This creates a build-up of plaque, that eventually damages nerves, resulting in the loss of brain function. This affects your dog’s memory, motor functions and learned behaviors. Most dogs, regardless of breed, experience some form of CCD as they age, researchers found that 28 percent of dogs aged 11-12 years, and 68 percent of dogs aged 15-16 years, showed one or more signs of cognitive impairment.
Dogs with canine cognitive dysfunction may exhibit many symptoms associated with senile behavior and dementia. Often finding themselves confused in familiar places of the home, spending long periods of time in one area of the home, new fears or phobias, not responding to calls or commands, and experiencing abnormal sleeping patterns, pacing and circling. Although some of these symptoms may be attributed to old age itself, when they are exhibited together, there is a higher likelihood of CCD.
What are the symptoms?
In order to properly diagnose CCD in dogs, there is a list of symptoms that when observed together, show signs of the disease.
Disorientation – loss of ability to navigate the house or remember where specific places are (furniture, corners of rooms)
Interaction changes – decreased interest in social interaction (petting, grooming, playing)
Sleep/wake cycle Changes – restlessness throughout the night, sleeping during the day
Housebreaking issues – defecating and/or urinating indoors, not signaling to go outside
Physical activity level – decreased interest or responses to stimuli (sounds around home, people, voices, doorbell)
Medical causes for these symptoms must be ruled out. Medical diagnoses that may contribute to these symptoms include thyroid disorders, Cushing’s disease, diabetes, kidney disease, musculoskeletal disease, cancer, liver problems, vision loss and hearing loss.
What can I do to help my dog?
There is no cure for canine cognitive dysfunction, but there are medical aids to help decrease the symptoms attributed to the disease as it progresses. Therapies are a major form of symptom management, such as exercise increase, new toys, treat puzzles and learning new commands have shown increases in memory. Changing the dog’s diet is also a helpful tool in improving memory and cell membrane health.
Supplements such as Neutricks can help slow down progression of CCD and studies have shown improvement in memory functions while taking supplement.
As dog’s age they lose proteins that support their brain cells. This can affect learning, memory, and concentration. Neutricks® (apoaequorin) supplements these proteins and helps support cells during this natural process of aging.
Neutricks® once a day was shown to significantly improve learning, accuracy and enhance attention by supplementing proteins.
Senilife is a dietary supplement that helps maintain normal brain function in elderly pets. Contains a blend of natural ingredients that have been tested to show improvement in clinical signs after 7 days of treatment.
Interactive toys help keep canine minds working. Snuffle mat is an interactive work to eat dog toy that provides entertainment, enrichment and mental stimulation for dogs of any age, breed, or size, but is especially helpful in stimulating the minds of senior dogs suffering with CCD.
Medication is also one of the most effective ways to mask the symptoms of CCD. Anipryl (selegiline) is the only drug that has been approved for use on dogs with Canine Cognitive Dysfunction and it has shown drastic improvement in the quality of life in dogs living with CCD. Anipryl is not a “quick cure”, it takes about 4 weeks to start seeing improvement in symptoms.
Simple ways to help your dog cope with CCD
In order for dogs to cope with CCD with as little frustration as possible, it is important to make the transition into the progression of the disease easy and stress free. The environment in which the dog lives is very important in this process.
- Keeping the environment familiar to the dog
- Eliminating clutter to prevent obstacles for the dog
- Keep commands short to avoid confusion
- Provide short, friendly play sessions
- Develop a feeding, watering and potty schedule and stick to that routine
- Avoid rearranging furniture in the house, as this will often cause confusion
Dogs will have a much higher chance of living longer with more controlled effects of CCD, when the above suggestions.