Learning about CCD – Doggie Dementia

If your dog is experiencing some of these behaviors, he may have Canine Cognitive Dysfunction or CCD. What is CCD? In short, it is a fancy term for, “doggie dementia”. Just as in humans, our canine friends can also experience a decline in brain function due to aging. While the cause(s) of this phenomenon may differ from dog to dog, it is believed that an accumulation of abnormal proteins can cause a buildup of plaque on the brain. This plaque damage nerves, resulting in the possibility of multiple changes to the dog’s memory, motor functions, and previously known behaviors. Aging can also be responsible for altering the usual amount of oxygenation to the brain, as well as harming normal brain cells, or disrupting the normal channels of brain chemicals

As with any health or behavior concern, always schedule an appointment with your vet to discuss it and, of course, to rule out any medical condition that could be contributing or responsible for anything out of your dog’s norm. The symptoms of CDD can often overlap with other common senior dog health issues such as arthritis, diabetes, cancer, kidney issues, hearing and/or sight loss. You know your dog’s behavior better than anyone. Keep a list of your dog’s symptoms and observed new behaviors in order to assist your vet in diagnosing what is going on.

What might your vet be able to offer your dog if CCD is suspected? Your vet might request some testing (X-rays, blood and urine tests) to rule out other physical problems. Some suggestions your vet may have to “slow down” CCD might include supplementing with antioxidants and Omega 3’s (many senior dog foods already include these), encouraging mental stimulation with simple food puzzles and enrichment toys, scheduling low key play sessions with other dogs, and generally making an extra effort to keep your dog mentally and physically active. If your dog is able, 2 short walks per day is highly recommended. Additionally, some vets may suggest specific vitamins, herbs, CBD oil, or prescription medications which affect neurotransmitters in the brain. Your vet will have suggestions to decrease anxiety, so be sure to ask!

Some suggestions for home safety: A consistent environment can help dogs with dementia avoid becoming confused. This means that you should keep furniture, dog beds, food and water bowls, and everything else around the house in relatively the same position. It’s not the best time to consider redecorating. If appropriate, consider blocking off the stairs when you aren’t home to supervise your dog. Also, be aware that guests can cause your dog to become confused and anxious, as they introduce new stimuli into your dog’s environment.

You are the most instrumental element in your dog’s wellbeing, happiness, comfort and safety. In addition to supporting your dog, don’t forget to support yourself during what can be a very stressful time as a pet owner! Assure proper sleep and nutrition, and considering finding an online support group/message board to share ideas and emotions with others who are going through similar challenges.

-Written by Jane Rachel Potts