By Karen A. Soukiasian
We know and accept there will be certain changes as our dog ages. However, it is devastating to watch your once intelligent, sociable, active, alert, happy dog, rapidly plummet into Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome.
The bad news, there is no cure.
The good news, two-thirds of the dogs diagnosed early and properly treated, show improvements, and exhibit a slower rate of decline than dogs left untreated.
What is Canine Cognitive Disorder Syndrome?
Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome is more serious than your dog becoming senile. CCDS is similar to Alzheimer in humans. It is caused by an accumulation of plaque, in the frontal part of the affected dog’s brain, associated with behavior, motor skills, learning, and memory. It reduces the dopamine your dog’s brain transmits, needed for motor controls, hormones, and reward motivated behaviors such as eating, playing, socializing, and learning.
Signs and Symptoms
The list is long. Your dog may show one or more signs. The most obvious are behavior changes such as aggression, depression, fearfulness, shyness, excessive barking, and/or lack of control over bodily function. Other changes are compulsive behaviors such as licking or chewing, little interest in food or treats, little interest in playing, difficulty eating, confusion, anxiety, need for constant attention, or withdrawing.
Spatial disorientation, difficulty maneuvering, pacing, panting, excessive thirst, excessive sleeping, unable to recognize familiar people or objects, and not responding to their name are further signs something is wrong. It may also have an effect on their vision and hearing.
When treated early, you have a good chance of preventing your dog from the swift descent in behavior, changes, cognitive skills, and motor functions; thus, improving the quality of his or her life.
Your veterinarian most likely will suggest a number of diagnostic tests to identify or eliminate other health issues. They could include tests of your dog’s liver, kidney, blood, pancreas, thyroid, electrolytes, and heart. Some may suggest an MRI.
There are treatments known to be successful in slowing the decline, and in some cases, even reversing the loss of your dog’s cognitive and motor skills, and behavior changes. They include changes in lifestyle and diet and with the help of medication.
Regular exercise, socializing and interaction with people and other dogs, and games involving mental stimulation, helps to stimulate your dog, rather than allowing them to withdraw.
Changing your dog’s diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and adding supplements containing antioxidants also produce encouraging results.
There is a medication, called deprenyl (anipryl), which has shown remarkable improvements in two out of three cases of CCDS. Your veterinarian may suggest including it in your new regimen.
When CCDS is treated early, the majority of dogs show an improvement within 6-18 months.
Bottom line: Know your dog. Know the signs. Don’t live in denial. Take immediate action. With your help, your dog can live a longer, active, and happy life.
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