Greyt Inspirations Life

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Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

Elderly_DogA friend of mine was asking some questions about Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome earlier this week.  If you haven’t heard of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, it’s often thought of as senility in older dogs.  It can be hard to describe since the symptoms are, understandably, a little different than they are in humans, but it’s one of those things where you often recognize them when you encounter them.

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction does occur in older dogs but not all old dogs get these symptoms.  Many older dogs continue just fine until the end of their days without any impairments.  CDS is sometimes difficult to diagnose because some of the symptoms can be confused with the general ailments associated with aging.  A dog may lose some of his hearing and his eyesight may decline as he ages.  This may lead him to have some difficulties in the home but he won’t have the same kind of difficulties that are caused by CDS.  Or, a dog my feel some pain from arthritis that makes it hard for him to get around very well but, again, this isn’t something that is caused by CDS though it could lead to some overlapping symptoms.

With Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome a dog may exhibit some of the following symptoms:

Disorientation — wandering aimlessly, getting lost even in the house, getting “stuck” in rooms or behind furniture.

Change in activity and/or sleep behavior — the dog may sleep heavily during the day and wander the house during the night.

Change in Housetraining skills — a previously well-housetrained dog may forget his housetraining and begin having accidents in the house.  The dog may go outside and do nothing then come indoors and have an accident.

Change in interaction with family members — the dog may walk away from being petted; may no longer be interested in petting or play; may seem lost in his own world.

A few years ago, after my dog Jasper turned ten years old, he began showing signs of some of these changes.  He would walk into a room and stand staring at the wall.  He acted like he didn’t know what to do then.  He would just stand there until somebody moved him.  Or, he would start barking for someone to find him.  Sometimes he would become “lost” behind a chair or sofa.  We would have to go get him because he literally couldn’t find his way out to the rest of the house again.

Now, a little later my dog Sami began showing some signs of aging.  She would bark at night when she was in the living room and the lights were out.  However, her situation was very different.  We realized that she was having some eyesight problems.  There was nothing wrong with her cognitive abilities.  She simply couldn’t see her way through the house in the dark with her declining eyesight without some help.  She also had trouble stepping over other dogs and walking down the back steps on the deck to go outside at night.  So, it’s not always easy to generalize when it comes to the changes in an older dog.  You should watch them very carefully and avoid jumping to conclusions.  Not all changes are indications of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome.  Some changes are signs of normal aging.

Currently my dog Taylor is showing some increased agitation toward Blue.  He really can’t stand to have Blue near him.  He will wake up out of a nap just to bark at Blue across the room.  But I can’t tell if this is an indication of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction — which can include increased aggression toward other dogs and people — or if it’s simply jealousy or old dog crankiness.  Taylor seems normal in every other way.  He doesn’t seem to be having any other CDS problems or any health problems (knock on wood).  He barks for his food everyday.  He demands to be petted the same as always.  He even still plays at nearly 13 years old.  He just has this dislike of Blue.  It’s too bad, too.  He liked him a lot when Blue was a puppy.  Now, Taylor has never liked other boys very much.  He has pushed Beau around ever since Beau was born.  So it’s possible that this is just Taylor being Taylor, but it’s something that I need to watch to see if it does become a Canine Cognitive Dysfunction problem.

If you suspect that your dog does have a problem related to Canine Cognitive Dysfunction there are some things that you can do.  First, you can make your home a little more old dog-friendly.  You can remove obstacles where your old dog tends to go so he won’t run into them.  You can use baby gates to keep your old dog in parts of the house where he won’t hurt himself.  You can restrict him to parts of the house where clean-up is easy if he has an accident.

You should also take your old dog to the vet so he or she can help with a diagnosis.  If the vet agrees that your dog has Canine Cognitive Dysfunction then Anipryl is the medication of choice to treat CDS.  Many dogs respond very positively to Anipryl and it can restore them to themselves.  Your dog may need to take the drug for the rest of his life but the results are very worthwhile.

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June 17, 2009 - Posted by | dogs, Pets | , ,

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