One day he was fine and the next day he wasn’t. That’s how fast it happened. One day he’s my adorable, energetic 15-1/2 year old boy, always happy, always ready for a treat, always licking the bowl clean, and the next day, like a light switch, he’s not eating anything, not even his favorite treats. That was August 13, 2018 and he hasn’t eaten normally since.
At first I thought it was too warm in our apartment for my senior pup, even though the A/C was on 24/7. Murphy seemed restless and started panting at night so I put a second A/C in the bedroom. The panting and restlessness stopped but Murphy still didn’t eat.
It was hot in August and Murphy was acting fine in every other way. Not every dog eats every meal, right? I know this stuff, right? I bought a few different brands of food and he ate a bit but not much. I decided to wait a few more days before making an appointment to see the vet.
Then came the odd behavior. Murphy approached his food bowl and pushed it around with his nose like he was burying a bone in the dirt. He pushed it left, right, front, back, occasionally sticking his tongue into the food, then right back out and back to pushing. He did this repeatedly for 5 or 10 minutes, appearing to be in a ‘zone,’ and then he walked out of the room without eating.
I had no idea what was happening to him, but I knew one thing for sure – Murphy had to eat. He couldn’t fight this if he wasn’t eating. I bought some syringes and I started syringe-feeding Murphy twice a day. Between the feedings I encouraged him to eat food and treats on his own, but aside from a few treats here and there the syringe-feeding was his main source of nutrition.
I’m a strong believer in a holistic approach to healthcare, and research led me to several holistic supplements that were helping other senior dogs who were exhibiting similar behavior. Their behavior was attributed to a brain disease called Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD), also known as senior dog dementia. CCD causes cognitive decline in dogs, similar to Alzheimer’s Disease in people. The supplements that were suggested were known to increase blood flow to the heart and brain. The more I learned about CCD the more convinced I was that this was what Murphy was fighting. I ordered the supplements and began adding them to his food…
…More odd behavior. Murphy occasionally walked into a corner of the room and just stood there. Twice he peed in the kitchen without knowing he was doing it, even though his pee box was in the bedroom where it always is. Then he forgot how to walk up the stairs to our apartment, something he’s been doing since he was 6 months old. He would often walk to the middle of a room and stand there not moving. He stopped coming to the door when I came home. And the behavior that brought me to tears was when he looked at me with blank eyes like I was a stranger…
…Over the next few weeks the supplements took hold and Murphy started to improve, and then one day he actually ate dinner on his own. After that his symptoms slowly started to reverse, a little more each day, until no more incontinence, no more staring at the wall and suddenly the steps were OK again and best of all – mom I’m so glad you’re home! Can I have a treat?
It’s now been 9 months since Murphy’s first showed signs of CCD and at this point he’s asymptomatic. Even so, I live every day knowing that this disease can get really bad really fast.
I hope Murphy’s journey can be a source of comfort and inspiration to others who are on the same journey with their dogs.