Cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CCD) is a heart-breaking condition where a dog’s brain undergoes the process of ageing which may bring about a decline in their level of awareness, learning and memory capacity as well as their reaction to stimuli. The onset of symptoms is generally minor, but over time, they get progressively worse. Unfortunately, 50% of dogs older than 11 years of age display clinical signs of cognitive dysfunction. By the age of 15 years, 68% of dogs show at least one sign.
Signs and Symptoms
- increased irritability
- reduced interest in playing
- appetite loss
- changes in sleeping patterns
- disorientation and confusion
- reduced learning capabilities
- failure to recall learned house rules and training
- urinary and faecal incontinence
- reduced interest in self-grooming
- unnecessary licking
Symptoms of CCD can coincide with age-related issues such as diabetes, arthritis, kidney conditions, cancer as well as sight and hearing loss so it’s important that you distinguish between the actual reasons your dog isn’t behaving as they used to. Perhaps they’ve stopped chasing their tail due to painful aches. On the other hand, it could be due to a progressive cognitive decline.
A very helpful acronym that helps pet parents decipher if there’s more than meets the eye to their pooch’s condition is DISHA. DISHA was created to assist owners in distinguishing the obvious CCD symptoms and changes.
- Disorientation and Spacial Awareness Issues – One of the most common signs is when a dog gets confused in their familiar environment. They may crawl behind an object and be unable to get out from behind it; they may enter or exit through the wrong door or stare blankly at a wall instead of doing something they’d typically do at that time of day.
- Interactions: Your pooch might usually be the social butterfly on the block, but you gradually notice that they begin snapping or growling at dogs or children they used to be friendly to. In order to discount any physical conditions that could potentially be causing them pain, such as diabetes or arthritis, your vet will need to take blood tests, X-rays and ultrasounds. Your pooch may not show as much enthusiasm towards activities or treats that they once used to.
- Sleep-Wake Cycle Changes A change in normal sleep patterns is a common symptom of CCD. Many pooches appear to interchange their daytime activities with their night time activities. If, for example, your dog used to sleep soundly but now paces most of the night, try leaving a light on for them or playing white noise for them. If this is unsuccessful in aiding their sleep issues, consult your vet for medication that may restore their sleep pattern.
- House Soiling If your pooch is house-trained and suddenly begins “doing their business” indoors, this could be a vivid indication of CCD. Your dog has most probably lost the ability to control their elimination or forgotten where to eliminate entirely. If diabetes, bladder infections or kidney issues have been discounted from the equation, one can presume there’s been a cognitive decline.
- Activity Level Although most dogs tend to become less active with age, those with CCD exhibit changes in how they respond to people, sounds and other stimuli in their environment. They may not find the enthusiasm to greet or play with you as they once did, they may display repetitive motions such as walking in circles, bobbing of the head or shaking of the legs. This behaviour is usually linked to deterioration of the brain and less likely to be confused with other conditions. Pet parents should also acknowledge that something isn’t right if their usually serene pooch begins barking unexpectedly and unnecessarily.
If you notice anything peculiar along these abovementioned lines, consult your veterinarian immediately.
Your veterinarian will require a thorough account of your dog’s medical history as well as when you initially noticed associated symptoms and the nature thereof. It’s also useful to mention any likely occurrences that may have triggered the abnormal behaviour or complications. Once a physical examination has been conducted by your vet to assess your pooch’s overall health and cognitive performance, ultrasounds, X-rays and blood tests will be carried out to discount other conditions that may be linked to cognitive dysfunction syndrome.
Unfortunately, there is no way to stop cognitive deterioration, but it is possible to decelerate the process so that the number of problems that potentially arise can be minimised.
By feeding your pooch a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids and anti-oxidants, vitamin C and E, flavonoids, beta carotenoids, selenium and carnitine carotene as well as enhancing your furry loves one’s environment, you may increase their chance of cognitive improvement. Keeping your fur child mentally and physically stimulated with food puzzles, frequent scheduled play sessions, walks and socialising with other dogs, are vital to arouse their brain activity and enhance their learning and memory capabilities.
Your veterinarian may also prescribe psychoactive medication and dietary supplements to hinder your pooch’s cognitive decline. This will be introduced in accordance with your dog’s medical history and current health status.
Your pooch should be regularly assessed by your veterinarian to evaluate how they are responding to treatment as well as if there have been any developments in their symptoms. You will need to update your vet immediately if any further changes in their behaviour arise. If, however, your dog’s behaviour appears stable, bi-annual check-ups will suffice unless further issues surface.
Written for inFURmation
by Taliah Williamson
Disclaimer: The information produced by Infurmation is provided for general and educational purposes only and does not constitute any legal, medical or other professional advice on any subject matter. These statements are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease. Always seek the advice of your vet or other qualified health care provider prior to starting any new diet or treatment and with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you suspect that your pet has a medical problem, promptly contact your health care provider.