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Health & Wellness Wednesday - Know the Signs of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction affects senior dogs and early detection can increase the effectiveness of treatment.


Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CDS) may affect up to one-third to half of all dogs 11 years or older, and over two-thirds of dogs older than 15. The disease has much in common with Alzheimer's Disease in people and is caused by degenerative inflammation of the brain. It also mirrors Alzheimer's in that scientists are still attempting to determine the exact causes.

It is not unusual for a senior to show the signs of aging, such as slowed movement and lower energy and deterioration in their vision and/or hearing. A dog with CDS has much more pronounced difficulties that go beyond the signs of general aging. Some of the symptoms you should look for in your older dogs include:

  • Confusion and/or a sense that the dog is disoriented by moving around its surroundings - bumping into walls or standing in corners or seeming "lost"
  • Anxious and irritable behavior that is unusual for your dog's personality
  • Problems with housetraining
  • Changes in sleeping patterns - may pace at night
  • Changes in appetite

If you notice changes in your senior dogs behavior and some or all of the symptoms above, taking him or her to a veterinarian immediately is crucial. There is no known cure for CDS, but treating it early can help to alleviate some of the symptoms and halt your dog's mental decay. Some types of treatment your veterinarian may suggest including providing nutritional supplements, changes in diet, and medication such as Anipryl. Many of the supplements your veterinarian may suggest are similar to supplements used with human Alzheimer's patients. Providing your older dog with more environmental enrichment can also be helpful. This can include more (short) play sessions, regular walks, interactive-type dog toys, and even limited training sessions to engage your dog cognitively. Low-impact and low-stress activities like scent work can also be a good source of enrichment for a senior dog with CDS (as well as senior dogs without CDS!)

Remember that you know your dog best, so if you have a senior in your house, keep an eye on his or her behaviorif anything seems out of the norm, check with your veterinarian without delay to halt the progression of this disease.

Sources: Dementia (Geriatric) in Dogs, Alzheimers-like disease in pets needs quick attention, and Dog Dementia: Help and Support.

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