Cognitive dysfunction in dogs

Cognitive dysfunction in dogs is one of the many challenges they may face as they age. Nicknamed ‘dogzheimers’, canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD) causes dogs to become confused, disorientated, anxious and even incontinent.

It should not be ignored by pet owners simply as a pet’s natural ageing process as it can manifest in anxiety and poor quality of life for both the dog and their owners. Symptoms of CCD may overlap with other diseases associated with old age so it is important to investigate any symptom that you may see in your dog.

Cognitive dysfunction in dogs: symptoms

  • disorientation
  • restlessness – often waking at night when everyone else is asleep
  • vocalisation
  • incontinence or loss of house training
  • confusion
  • pacing

Hearing and vision loss seems to accelerate the process by accentuating the disorientation these pets experience.

How to cope with CCD

If your dog is showing symptoms of CCD be sure to book an appointment with one of our vets for a consultation. They will start with a full clinical examination and rule out any possible underlying health issues. If any other health problems are found then the vet will start a treatment programme for that. If the dog is otherwise healthy, then a programme focused on CCD will be started.

• If dogs are just starting to show signs of disorientation, adhering to a stricter schedule for them could help. A strict routine around feeding, walking, relaxing at home etc is excellent therapy for confused pets; it’s orienting.

• Ensure that your home and garden is safe for your elderly dog. Make sure that they do not have access to swimming pools or driveways and that staircases are safe for them. Inspect your property’s perimeter and ensure that they cannot escape.

• Often they have underlying arthritis making moving around difficult, so make access to the outside, their sleeping spot, food and water as easy as possible.

• If they lose house training skills then creating a safe, warm, comfortable spot for them outside is important when you cannot supervise them.

• In many cases, a diet change or medication can alleviate some of the symptoms of CCD. For more severe cases, anti-anxiety drugs may be prescribed. Amazingly, some dogs with advanced dementia are quite relaxed, but most display some degree of stress – especially when lost in a corner of a room or when they find themselves alone and awake in the middle of the night.

A veterinary behaviourist can help owners re-orientate their confused geriatrics and create a safe and stimulating environment for the older pet. Expert advise can improve your pets quality of life during their golden years.

We understand that coping with a pet with CCD can be very challenging. Thus, it is important to consult one of our vets before you and your pet become frustrated. In many cases we can help your pet live a comfortable and productive life after the loss of normal brain function. Some cases are exceptional and can’t be satisfactorily helped, but you’ll never know until you try.

Remember, age is not a disease and our senior dogs require as much attention and special care as a puppy. We’d love to help you have truly golden years with your older pet.


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