Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

Canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD) is a disease prevalent in dogs that exhibit symptoms of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease shown in humans.[1] CCD creates pathological changes in the brain that slow the mental functioning of dogs resulting in loss of memory, motor function, and learned behaviors from training early in life. In the dog’s brain, the protein beta-amyloid accumulates, creating protein deposits called plaques. As the dog ages, nerve cells die, and cerebrospinal fluid fills the empty space left by the dead nerve cells.[2] Canine cognitive dysfunction takes effect in older dogs, mostly after 10 years of age. Although there is no known cause of CCD, genetic factors have been shown to contribute to the occurrence of this disease.[3]

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Symptoms of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

If you’re like me you might not even notice that your senior dog is acting rather odd at times. Or you might notice it and not think it unusual. Murphy is a funny guy, an animated little character who surprises me all the time with his quirky behavior. But quirky behavior may be the first sign that something isn’t right.

Here are some of the symptoms of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD), a brain disease that affects many senior dogs.

  • Strange behavior – Murphy approaches his food bowl and pushes it around with his nose like he’s burying a bone in the dirt. And then he walks away. He does this every time I feed him.
  • Pacing or anxiousness – Does your dog aimlessly pace and wander around the house? Does he circle round and round?
  • Getting lost in corners or on the wrong side of the door – CCD dogs will often stand on the wrong side of a door (the hinge side) waiting for it to open, unsure of what to do next.
  • Doesn’t greet family members as before – If your dog runs to the door every time you come home and suddenly stops, take note.
  • Disorientation – Does your dog seem disoriented, dazed or lost, either out in the street or indoors. Kind of like he walks into a room and doesn’t know why he’s there? Does he stand there staring?
  • Incontinence or loss of house-training – Incontinence may be caused by a medical condition so check with your vet.
  • Doesn’t follow voice commands – Senior dogs often have hearing loss but dogs with CCD may not be able to process even familiar commands.
  • Withdrawing from the family – Is your dog acting differently towards family member. Does he ever look at you like he doesn’t know who you are?
  • Barking for no reason – You may not see a reason but maybe your dog doesn’t recognize you, or is ‘lost’ somewhere in your home and doesn’t know how to find you.
  • Loss of appetite – If your dog isn’t eating see your vet as soon as possible.
  • Sleep irregularities – Some dogs with CCD confuse day and night and others may sleep more than usual.
  • Activity Level – Dogs with cognitive dysfunction withdraw from things, people and sound. They’re less focused and more confused.
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