Order By Phone (833) 332-8655
Fact Checked By
Dr. Jamie Whittenburg, DVM
When a beloved older dog begins showing disturbing behavior changes, many owners panic and do not know what to do.
An older dog may start to wander at night, become unable to sleep, seem lost in their own houses, forget their housetraining, or have personality changes.
These changes may seem like a dog simply “getting old,” but there may be an actual medical condition to blame.
Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CCDS) is a brain disorder, similar to Alzheimer’s disease in humans, that affects some older dogs (1).
Initially, the first signs of CCDS are often subtle.
Most pet parents assume these changes in behavior are due to normal aging.
However, the issues often continue to worsen and begin to negatively impact both the dog and the owner’s quality of life.
Most commonly, CCDS manifests in dogs over the age of nine years; however, there are cases of early-onset disease.
It is vital for an owner to be aware and to notice changes in their dog’s behavior as soon as possible.
Early intervention has been shown to improve outcomes drastically, so it is essential to discuss any signs of CCDS with your veterinarian as quickly as possible.
Brain Changes in Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome
Though all older dogs may display some changes in behavior as they age, dogs with CCDS have an actual disease.
These dogs are not simply getting “old”; structural changes are occurring in their brains, resulting in the clinical signs of CCDS.
Like humans with Alzheimer’s, dogs with CCDS have difficulty thinking, impaired recognition, memory issues, and changes in behavior.
The exact cause of CCDS is not entirely known.
It is believed that, like Alzheimer’s, there are amyloid deposits in the brains of affected dogs.
The amyloid forms plaques that cause cell death and brain damage. Structural and chemical changes in the neurotransmitters in the brain may also play a role.
Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome in dogs is diagnosed relatively frequently.
The majority of dogs older than nine years will experience one or more of the clinical signs associated with the disease (2).
Another feature of CCDS that is essential to understand is that the disease is progressive.
Dogs with this disorder will not all progress on the same timeline, but they will worsen.
The currently displayed behaviors may get more severe, or new behaviors may manifest with time.
Clinical Signs of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome
Owners of elderly dogs need to know the signs of CCDS and be vigilant.
It is essential to differentiate these signs from normal dog aging.
If anything is concerning the owner, a consultation should be made with a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Often, the first thing an owner of a senior dog may notice is that their dog may sleep more than usual.
Usually, this sleep will occur during the day, and then the dog will be restless and unable to sleep through the night.
Owners should watch the behaviors displayed by the dog during the night.
Behaviors such as pacing, restlessly wandering, barking or whining, and circling should cause concern.
Another sign that is often seen in the early stages of CCDS is disorientation.
This confusion may come and go, with the dog being completely normal at times and seemingly lost and confused at others.
Dogs may get lost in once-familiar places, get stuck in odd areas within the house or yard, or seem to forget where the door is to go outside.
Many once well-trained dogs will begin house soiling and seem to forget they are housetrained.
Tricks and commands may be forgotten.
Sadly, as the disease progresses, dogs may have difficulty recognizing their owners or other humans they used to know.
In general, dogs with CCDS may be less excited about things they used to love, such as playing fetch or going for walks.
Obsessive behaviors may be seen as well, such as circling, shaking, or pacing.
Because the clinical signs of CCDS can mimic other diseases such as infections, neurologic disease, and cancer, it is essential that dogs showing these signs be seen and evaluated by a veterinarian.
Testing and Treatment
No one test can definitively diagnose CCDS.
After ruling out other possible medical causes for the clinical signs, a diagnosis will be made based on a thorough physical exam and history (3).
Keeping a diary of signs observed and behaviors displayed can be very helpful to aid in the diagnosis.
It is crucial to evaluate the overall health of the older pet to make sure no other contributing health factors are causing the dog to feel poorly.
Diagnostics may include routine blood panels, x-rays, parasite testing, and a urinalysis.
There are many treatment options available for CCDS.
The most successful approach is multimodal, meaning the management of the disease is approached with many different types of treatments.
These treatments typically include medications, dietary changes, supplements, and changes to the dog’s environment to enable it to live a more comfortable life.
Research has shown that a structured training and environmental stimulation program can slow the progression of CCDS.
Anipryl (selegiline) may be prescribed as a maintenance medication to decrease the clinical signs of CCDS.
To help with instances of night restlessness and better sleep, trazodone or alprazolam may be beneficial.
There are also diets with proven benefits for the brain functioning of dogs with CCDS.
Many of these diets require a prescription, so a consultation with a veterinarian is required.
Additionally, many natural nutraceuticals may benefit a dog with CCDS.
Changes in the home to better accommodate the older dog and establishing set routines are essential.
Luckily, even though there is no cure for Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome, treatment options are available.
The most important step is recognizing that a dog is displaying signs of the disease and seeking treatment.
With the help of a veterinarian and a multi-modal approach to therapy, dogs with CCDS can live both longer and happier lives.
967 E. Parkcenter Blvrd #345
Boise, ID 83706
THE STATEMENTS MADE ON OUR WEBSITES HAVE NOT BEEN EVALUATED BY THE FDA (U.S. FOOD & DRUG ADMINISTRATION). OUR PRODUCTS ARE NOT INTEDNED TO DIAGNOSE, CURE OR PREVENT ANY DISEASE. K9MAXX IS NOT AFFILIATED WITH ANY OF THE STUDIES MENTIONED ON THE WEBSITE. THE TESTIMONIALS ON THIS WEBSITE ARE INDIVIDUAL CASES AND DO NOT GUARANTEE THAT YOU WILL GET THE SAME RESULTS.
© All Rights Reserved 2021
has been added successfully to your wishlist.×