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What Is Canine Cognitive Dysfunction?

1694 Views 1 Reply 2 Participants Last post by  3181wly

This is another Petguide article with a Golden Retriever.

As dogs get older, they’re at risk from developing Canine Cognitive Dysfunction. Here’s what to watch for so you can get your pooch the help he needs.
Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD) is the canine equivalent of dementia. It’s even sometimes called “doggy Alzheimer’s.” Like Alzheimer’s, CCD is a progressive disease with no cure. However, catching it early by spotting symptoms and implementing a treatment plan can help your dog with CCD happily navigate his or her world.

CCD, like dementia, is a degenerative brain disease. It affects aging dogs equally, though giant breeds age quicker than small breeds. It’s also an underdiagnosed problem. In a June 2010 study reported in The Veterinary Journal, researchers used a behavior survey to diagnose CCD. According to the respondents’ questionnaires, 14.2 percent would receive a CCD diagnosis, yet only 1.9 percent were diagnosed with CCD by a veterinarian. The study authors conjecture that this discrepancy represents real diagnoses. So, it’s critical that pet owners pay close attention to their pet and note any symptoms to share with their vet. After all, vets only see dogs in a clinical setting, rather than in their own homes, where behavior can be completely different.

If you’re concerned about your dog, here’s what to watch for: According to Becky Lundgren, DVM, in her article Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (Senility), “Cognitive behavior issues include difficulties with spatial orientation (a sense of direction while moving around); problems with memory, learning, housetraining; and difficulty in recognizing and reacting to human family members.” There’s a full list of symptoms—plus a helpful checklist to take with you to the vet’s office—on the website.

If you notice any symptoms in your aging pet, visit your vet. There isn’t a way to “cure” or even reverse the degeneration that causes CCD, but you can take steps to slow its effects on your dog.

Management strategies include a range of supplements or dietary changes. Some studies, like a 2002 report in Neurobiology of Aging, indicate that antioxidants and mitochondrial cofactors can mitigate the effects of the degeneration. Other drug treatments (like L-Deprenyl and S-adenosylmethionine) and dietary adjustments may be recommended by your veterinarian. Plus, enrichment activities that get your pup’s brain working may stave off CCD’s effects. Look for food puzzles and toys that require problem-solving to activate your dog’s mental muscles. Hint: This might even help prevent the onset of CCD when started with young pups!

Bottom line: Work with your vet to devise a treatment plan, whether that includes medication, prescription food, supplements or even just careful attention. Though it can’t be prevented, dogs with CCD can live out their days happily with management strategies and assistance from their loving family.

Author : Maggie MartonMaggie Marton is the definition of “crazy dog lady” and an award-winning writer based in Bloomington, Indiana. Obsessed with dogs, she writes for numerous pet-related publications and is active in animal welfare. Recently, she launched her first eBook, Authentic Blogging, to inspire others to write with their own voice. When she’s not reading about dogs, writing about dogs or walking dogs, she loves to hike and nap—both activities usually with her dogs. Maggie lives with her husband, John; Emmett, a pit mix; Lucas, a shepherd mix; Cooper, a pit mix; and Newt, the lone kitty (who, of course, runs the show). You can find her online at
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· Bill & Doc
185 Posts
Interesting. My Doc is a professionally trained program Service Dog. He underwent daily training for about 18 months. He initially was trained to help people with Parkinson's Disease. I have Lewy Body Dementia and, in addition to the cognitive problems that every LBD person has to deal with, LBD is also involves some of the worst parts of Parkinsons, dementia, and autonomic failure of all or most internal involuntary actions within the body like breathing, heart working and lungs working, eating, digestive track and temperature control, and balance, eyesight, and so much more. LBD is also visual, auditory, and sensory hallucinations, and really bad behavioral and psycho problems because those are ruled by a part of the brain that Lewy loves to kill off early. Agitation, anger, anxiety, apathy and psycho stuff are my daily bread, along with everything else.

There are many other things equally bad, but too many to discuss here and frankly I am surprised I remembered as many as I did. Now, I did take most of today on and off trying to put together this long reply. I guess worst of all, with Lewy, us LBD people fluctuate all of the time, so I never know when the boogie man is going to take over my body and mind, and start raising hell. And I think worst of all, Lewy allows us to keep some of our cognition all the way up to death, so we LBD people will know and understand exactly what it happening to us usually until about a month before death.

OK, as I said before, Doc originally was trained to be a Parkinson's Service Dog to help with all of the mobility problems associated with Parkinson's. After some considerable back and forth with the owner of this particular service dog program, they agreed to basically sell me a Service Dog, because I didn't have time to wait a couple of years to get one. And by paying them via a tax deductible donation, I got a Service Dog and they got enough money to purchase and train many other service dogs for people who have little or no money. I had been very lucky, because I had already called a dozen or more service dog programs around the country, and none of them would even consider providing a service dog to someone with dementia. They told me directly that they didn't want to waste a good service dog on someone with dementia. But I finally found a program that would sell me Doc, because the person he had been partnered with died before Doc was ready, so the program completed his training in order to tee him up for a new partner who had been waiting for a long time. But they then were intrigued with seeing if they could train a service dog to help a person with dementia, plus get a large donation to their program. Doc was then trained to do special stuff that I needed at the time, like find home, find me, get me out of the house in emergency, find a selected group of places that I go to frequently on foot, find the way out using the route coming inside at restaurants and other such places. Doc did all these thing and all the Parkinson stuff very well for over two years, but now he and I are in a CCRC place where they have progressive steps of care for people with problem and also people who just retired to the houses surrounding the apartments and facilities. Not a whole lot of need for Doc's special stuff here, so he now is allowed to pay attention to people and get petted so long as I am not off the ranch at the time due to Lewy.

Doc still knows all his stuff, but he is losing his sharpness because I allow the residents here to pet and rub on Doc during most of our outings around the premises, and that has caused Doc to think that he is a "free dog" all the time. I can still tell him he is on working dog time, but while working he gets distracted by people because he like to meet them, and they have come to expect that they can pet and be close to Doc. Doc likes having their attention now that he knows the pleasure he gets from it most of the time. This part of allowing Doc to pay attention to other people while working is huge no no for Service Dogs.

Doc was trained for about two years to pay no attention to anyone other than his partner when he was in working dog mode, so the new freedom to interact with people confuses everything for Doc, which in turn seriously compromises his ability to be the same Service Dog he was when I got him and for the two following years. The owners of the program that trained Doc would go crazy if they knew what I have done in allowing Doc to migrate into the real dog world almost all dogs get to enjoy living in. Well, that don't matter to me, because they got a very large donation from me in return for letting me have a fully trained Service Dog without going through normal channels and waiting two years or more.

What Carolina Mom writes about, managing the dog who has dementia in such a way to maximize their quality of life just happens to be exactly what my wife does now. And since my flavor of dementia is LBD, I have been allowed to also participate to some degree in the quality of life gameplan. Yes, it really hit home for me when I read Carolina Mom's posting here. Doc is still relatively young at 4 and a half years old, so my wife will likely be the one to find ways to improve Doc's quality of life in the event he gets dementia, and she will have the time then because I will be gone.

I bore everyone here with all of this because I know what dementia is all about, because I live LBD every day 24/7. The thought of my Doc ever having this happen to him is just plain depressing. But I go to all this detail to try to educate people to what Lewy Body Dementia is all about, and Carolina Mom's posting here reminded me of what I needed to do.

Lewy Body Dementia is the second most prevalent form of dementia, with Alzheimer's being the most prevalent. Yet very few people, including most doctors have no idea what LBD is or how to treat it or even how to diagnose it. And since the prime time to get LBD is between 45 and 64, with some getting it as young as the upper 20's, getting the word out about LBD is one of the things many of us LBD people do while we can still do it. And the doctors need to get the word most of all, because almost all of them, including doctors who believe they are experts in dementia, believe that it is impossible for someone to get dementia if they are younger than 70 or maybe 65. Someday people will know what LBD is all about, and maybe they might become dementia advocates and/or Lewy Body Dementia advocates. I am just doing what I can do, and I do this whenever is seems appropriate. And I thank Carolina Mom for teeing up the issue of doggie dementia, because it served to remind me to jump in. And I obviously put this basic mash-up together a couple of years ago, with some additions or subtractions here and there to fit the landscape here.
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