Dementia in older dogs: Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

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Misty and Cloudy 2
Just as we do, some dogs have to face the sad truth as they age – they suffer from what is known as Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, henceforth known as CCD. After many years of loyal, self-sacrificing companionship, it is hard for many owners to reconcile themselves with the fact that their dogs have trouble with simple thought processes like finding their way around the home or negotiating stairs. Seeing their furry friends unable to find their way around the backyard can be heartbreaking for an owner, who would love to know the symptoms of canine dementia and how to cope with it.
 
Misty stealing dry food
Symptoms of CCD
Getting lost
Dogs with CCD often get lost. Getting lost does not simply refer to not being able to find their way home after being let out of the house; the dog might get lost in the house too. He may not know one room from another or be able to find his way from the garden to the kitchen, mirroring the symptoms of dementia some people experience as they age.
Disorientation
Your dog might start sitting up, staring at walls or blankly into space. While it is normal behavior of older dogs, you might wish to consult a veterinarian if you find this happening too often.
Your canine may also find it difficult to negotiate the stairs or run into doors constantly. If you find your senior pet often stumbling down stairs, especially when he never did so before, it would be good, as always, to consult your veterinarian.
Isolation 
A dog with CCD may be less interested in socializing or in your company. If your dog begins to lose interest in you or seek less of your attention, its cognitive functions could be degenerating and this could be something an owner might be concerned about. Owners might also witness a change in sleep patterns or find that their dog is staring constantly at walls or into space. He might hesitate when you offer a treat and his hesitation may be more pronounced if he has always loved the occasional treat. Do take note if your dog begins to find difficulty learning new things – with CCD the phrase ‘you cannot teach an old dog new tricks’ takes on an added meaning.
Degenerating cognitive functions
A CCD diagnosed canine might experience frequent shakes or not respond to names. If you see your dog wandering aimlessly throughout the house, or become trapped in places where he was not before, it is a clear sign of an older dog’s cognitive functions degenerating. Alarm bells should ring if your dog does not even respond to its name but reacts strangely instead (or worse still, not at all).
Misty contemplating
 
Helping a senior pet with Canine Cognitive Dysfunction
Unfortunately, though there are drugs like Dopamine that can lessen the effect of CCD and help your dog feel a little bit better, coping strategies need to be developed as with any medical condition. So how does one cope with a canine with CCD?
Rearrange the furniture
The first thing that one might want to do in such a case is not rearrange the furniture around the house. The familiarity this maintains will help your dog with making associations that will prevent him from getting lost. To help him negotiate stairs, do consider building a ramp to make climbing up and down a little easier.
Consider getting a ramp for stairways. 
A little bit of an investment, but it is what our dogs deserve after being faithful companions to us tor so many years. A ramp would help a dog with difficulty negotiating the stairs or has fear of descending them, very much in the way we assist those who require the use of wheelchairs.
Keep commands short. 
Long commands will make a dog confused or disoriented. Keep the commands short and loving – try not to show your impatience when it cannot respond to you in the way that it used
to.  A little consideration makes for a happier dog and owner.
Develop routines
It will be good to develop routines for walking, eating or even taking a bath. A dog will find security and familiarity with expected time schedules. Keep commands simple and try to avoid scolding your dog for the little mistakes that it makes; as with a person who has dementia, maintaining an approachable tone will help the dog’s self esteem. Do eliminate clutter around the house; again, this will help your canine should he get lost.
Understand your dog’s limits. 
Your dog might not wish to play when you introduce new toys to him at this stage. When introducing him to a new environment, remember that he might display a sense of insecurity-either by yawning or by showing resistance to being within the new area. It is important to understand your dog’s needs and wants.
Conclusion
After many years of being a loyal friend, time comes to return the favor when he becomes afflicted with CCD. Patience and understanding amounts to an extension of more years of loving companionship.

By Michelle Liew

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17 Replies to “Dementia in older dogs: Canine Cognitive Dysfunction”

  1. Great article. we lost our 17 year old schnauzer in Jan and I swear he suffered from this. especially the last year. it is so sad to see them go thru this and act so confused. yet we live them thru all of it.

  2. What a great topic that not many people are aware of. All of our family dogs made it to old age, but I don’t think any of them had this. These are great tips you’ve listed for how people can help make their environment easier and more manageable for their pet going through this. Awesome!

  3. Thanks for this article. Somehow I had never thought about dementia hitting dogs, but I will keep this in mind now as my oldest Dalmatian might just be starting to enter this phase. Sometimes he just stands in a spot and stares. Now I understand what he might be going through. Thanks for bringing this topic to our attention.

  4. What a great article. I hadn’t even thought of loss of cognitive function in dogs, but of course, they’re susceptible to pretty much everything we are.

    Very informative.

  5. Thanks for an informative article. I realized that dogs got old and may get “confused”, but I did not realize that can actually suffer from a disorder. So sad. I love the tips on not re-arranging furniture or simplifying commands. Thanks again!

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