Fido finds himself in a corner and seems confused. Lately, he’s spent hours staring into space. He doesn’t feel like playing with his human. Other times, he gets stuck behind furniture or acts afraid of people he once greeted joyfully. Sometimes he barks for no reason, and paces at night. And then there were those “accidents” on the living room floor, right after he’d been outside…
Fido’s loyal human thinks these are just symptoms of old age. But Fido knows something’s not right.
These symptoms, among others, could point to Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CCD), a disease similar to Alzheimer’s, where tissue changes in the brain block normal communication between neurons. Both Humans and dogs can develop beta-amyloid plaques on their brains.
As many as 85% of CCD cases are undiagnosed, according to the Washington State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital. And while there is no cure, there are things you can do to help.
“The goal is to slow the disease’s progress and improve the quality of life. Treatment may involve medication, an enhanced diet, and management of the environment and behavior,” said Dr. Laurie Brush, founder of Heaven at Home Pet Hospice.
“For example, ensuring play, structured social interaction and exposure to sunlight will help with engagement and regulation of the sleep-wake cycle.”
The first step, she said, is to see your routine care veterinarian to rule out any other medical cause for the symptoms, which might be reversed. But if your pet is diagnosed with CCD, the following tips may help:
- Similar to puppy-proofing, senior-proof you home by making sure there are no spaces where he or she might get trapped. This may include gating off safe areas.
- Use runners to help your dog remember the layout of the home. Dogs with dementia often end up in corners.
- Place food at optimal heights to see.
- Use night lights to minimize night time anxiety
- Engage your dog with games and activity to stimulate his or her brain.
- Even if you need assistive devices, include daily outdoor exercise, sunlight and play sessions.
- Be aware for some dogs, dementia can also cause failure in animal-to-animal communication or increase aggression.
Most importantly, give yourself, and your loyal companion, the most pleasant present moments you can, and enjoy those sunset years.
Need help with a fur-friend suffering from CCD? Contact Us for an appointment.