Doggy Dementia is an age-related neurobehavioral degenerative disease that is very similar to the condition Alzheimer’s in us, humans.
It’s known as CCD or Cognitive Dysfunction to give its appropriate name.
The diagnosis is made through observing patterns of behavior and the symptoms of distinctive behavior.
CCD worsens over time and again, as with humans, this can be very distressing for all involved.
In many ways for us as dog owners it can be heartbreaking to see a trusted and loved member of your household succumb to such a cruel and debilitating disease.
Changes in brain function for dogs and humans suffering from CCD (dogs) and Alzheimer’s (humans) have appeared to be almost identical.
The breakdown of the neurons that both species have in their brains is corrupted by proteins that accumulate and form a sort of plaque around the neurons and inhibit their ability to fire correctly and this is why we see the upsetting effects on dogs and people.
Humans and Dogs share so much in terms of illness as well as the wonderful bonds and friendships that we harvest.
What Types Of CCD Are There?
This is similar to what humans suffer from in terms of chronic depression.
It can result in anxiety led issues such as house soiling.
This involves the loss of proprioception, body and special awareness, in which dogs can get stuck in corners or in front of furniture which little to no way of understanding how to get out.
This can obviously be extremely upsetting for a dog and aggression is often displayed when they are in this Red state.
This is duly associated with dysfunction of the production of serotonin.
Dogs that are suffering from this may well bite without showing any warning signs at all.
In this condition, a dog can display a significant loss of the ability to think or indeed make any understanding of the world they are living in.
Behavioral Signs Of CCD
The important part of looking after your dog’s health and wellbeing is to always treat your dog with the dignity and respect they truly deserve.
If you think there could be something not quite right with your dog, it is very important not to jump to conclusion by playing amateur Vet.
Indeed, there could be some other physical reason that your dog could be displaying some of the characteristics that we have outlined here, but for the purposes of this we always adopt a Golden Rule:
If In Doubt, ALWAYS let the Vet Check It Out!
I really cannot stress this enough. If you ever suspect anything is “off” with your dog, then you must get a true professional veterinary healthcare advice.
If you do start to see any of the behaviors that are outlined above, start by keeping a record of what they did and how the behavior concerned you.
Note downtimes and dates and what happened and where and whether anything had happened prior to the event.
Also, note down how your dog responded to you after or during the event.
This kind of information is very useful for a vet to be able to make a more informed diagnosis and to follow certain routes in trying to give your dog the very best medical care.
Sadly at this time, there really isn’t a defined medical test for CCD so a lot of what your vet will need is the information that you will be giving them.
Things To Record If You Suspect An Underlying Condition
- Confusion and disorientation in which the dog may see “spaced out”, unable to respond to his name, to familiar cues, or to recognize familiar people.
- Loss of house training and of bladder and bowel control.
- Problems learning anything new.
- Restlessness, such as circling or pacing.
- Appearing fearful of familiar people.
- Extreme irritability and unpredictability.
- Obsessive-Compulsive behaviors such as extreme licking or reactions to light or shadows.
- Loss of interest in play and to interactions with others.
- Extreme neediness and constantly following the owner.
- Excessive vocalizing such as barking or whining for no apparent reason.
- Disrupted sleep patterns. Sleeping more during the day and less at night.
- Loss of spatial awareness. The dog may become stuck in front of or under furniture or in corners.
- Loss of ability to remember familiar routes.
- Loss of appetite or constant begging for food because they have forgotten they have already eaten.
- Generalized anxiety and fearfulness.
Veterinary Treatments and Medication And Supplements
Sadly, there is no cure for this kind of progressive condition and it can’t be reversed.
It can be slowed down however and your Vet will be able to advise of the best course of medical treatment.
Your veterinarian may also advise on a special diet that can also benefit your dog’s condition and may well advise on a range of nutritional supplements that will help stimulate brain function.
Omega 3 fatty acids are found in fish oils and these are considered to improve brain function of your dog and can also slow down the cognitive decline (CCD)
The earlier that CCD can be diagnosed, the better for your dog.
Essentially by getting your dog into a program of medicines and help that will slow down the CCD will really benefit your dog and also you as an owner.
CCD, untreated and undiagnosed will be very upsetting for you both so any kind of early intervention will soften this blow and increase the quality of life for your canine chum.
Environment enrichment can include doing exercises that your dog really enjoys along with offering plenty of opportunities for your dog to use their senses.
Food and treats used in connection with puzzle toys and games can also help a lot too as this makes your dog’s brain work that bit harder.
Social interactions with people they like and dogs that they get on with are always important for our dogs to have in their lives no matter what condition they are in as they are a social species.
Sensory stimulation is good for all dogs and with a dog with CCD this can help to improve the quality of life allowing them to engage with the environment and to use their brains in a gentle enjoyable way.
Lots of opportunities for sniffling during walks the use of aids such as a snuffle mat for seeking out tiny tasty morsels and garden plants such as lavender can also be very beneficial.
Creating A Safe Space For Your Dog
You can puppy proof as much as possible by removing objects that they may get in the way.
Section off areas of concern by using safety gates.
You can cover electrical plugs and Corden off corners that your dog has become stuck in previously.
Try to use a soft indoor collar if necessary and remove identity tags that may get caught on something.
To help your keep your dog safe a sense of familiarity is vitally important for a dog with CCD you can ensure the routine such as feeding and exercise times are the same every day and this will really benefit your dog.
Make sure that food and water bowls and his bed are always in the same place to avoid confusion.
When you go out it may be best to make sure that your dog with CCD is kept separate from other dogs (assuming you have more dogs) as this is the safest option for both of them.
A dog in the later stages may behave erratically or unpredictably which could be disturbing to his companions.
Monitoring the quality of life
It can also be useful to keep a journal in which you can track your dog’s behavior and emotional and mental states.
This will encourage you on good days and it will also enable you to see how fast and how far the disease is progressing.
Many dogs with CCD remain physically healthy during their cognitive decline and where the disease is advanced this can cause feelings of guilt if the quality of life has become so poor that euthanasia seems the only option.
Looking after you
Caring for a dog in the later stages of COPD can be stressful and exhausting especially if your nights are continually disturbed.
It’s very distressing to see a beloved dog lose his faculties and become confused and no longer responsive and it’s important to make sure that you have the emotional support that is available.
The best book about CCD is one called Remember Me? Living And Caring for a dog with canine cognitive dysfunction by Eileen Anderson.
Eileen has an excellent blog too at dogdementia.com.
Books and blogs for caregivers of those who are looking after relatives who have Alzheimer’s can offer tips that are just as relevant for you and your dog.
Taking a few hours out or even having a night away if someone can stay in your home with your dog can help if you’re suffering through a lack of sleep.
If your dog sleeps during the day but vocalizes through the night try to take naps if you can.
Seek out support network whether this is a qualified dog behaviorist from your friends or a counselor.
Ultimately there is little else we can do as dog lovers and owners. It is a sad time when your dog gets ill and it’s also part of owning and loving one too.
But, here is a thought….
No matter what is going to happen with your dog in the time you have left, they need you more than ever.
You are defined in life by how you deal with these times and it’s what makes dog owners that truly love their dog’s quite special people.
The love you show your dog will help them in this very upsetting time and it will also help you too because it shows the one thing that no one can ever take away from your relationship with them and it is this:
You were the best friend they ever had.