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Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

What Is Canine Cognitive Dysfunction?

Mild memory loss (or mild cognitive impairment) over the age of 60 is normal and not a cause for concern. Almost 40% of people will experience mild memory loss that interferes with their ability to function in daily life.

It turns out, that age-related mental changes occur in the same pattern in older dogs.

What is important for vets and dog owners is to distinguish changes that aren’t part of normal aging. This includes being aware of normal signs of aging and signs related to Cognitive dysfunction syndrome.

Canine Cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CCD) is a progressive neurobehavioral disorder of geriatric dogs with cognitive impairment that are not attributable to other disorders (Ruehl and Hart, 1998).

CCD can cause significant suffering for the dog, may confront the owner’s ability to care for the dog, and may persuade the owner to abandon or euthanize the pet.

Symptoms Of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

Traditionally, the hierarchy of signs of CCD can be summarized with the acronym DISHA:

  • Disorientation
  • Interactions
  • Sleep changes
  • Housesoiling
  • Activity changes

The below-mentioned checklist can be used to check your dogs regarding signs of CCD (Dr. Landsberg).

This acronym doesn’t describe all the signs for CCD, these signs don’t have to be present all the time, but vets work through that acronym to try to make the findings.


  • Does your dog seem to be lost in familiar environments or wandering off to odd locations in your home?
  • Have you noticed the dog fails to recognize family members?
  • Does your dog get stuck in corners or stare blankly at the wall?


  • Is your dog more (irritable or clingy or aloof) than usual?
  • Does your dog not actively seek any attention or is less interested in being petted?

Sleep changes

  • What’s about your dog sleeping patterns- Sleepless or more, unusual changes in sleeping patterns?
  • Is your dog inactive more than usual during the day?
  • Wander, whine, vocalize, scratch or pace continuously during the night.


  • Has your housetrained dog lost all or most of its training?
  • Do you have frequent peeing accidents at home?

Altered activity level

  • Has your pet become more (restless, lethargic, or sluggish) than usual?
  • Is your pet showing signs of being destructive?
  • Does it show intolerance to exercise?

Now we add an additional A and L added at the end of D-I-S-H-A


Does your dog show more signs of anxiety?


Do you find any impairment in the dog's learning (new tricks) ability?

Treatment Options For Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

In treating CCD, the first step is to find out any other diseases that may cause similar signs.

Pets must receive regular examinations to address pain control, physical and mental changes, Dietary needs, and obesity management.

Effective management of CDS may involve drug therapy, environmental and behavioral interventions, nutritional treatments, and complementary therapies.

Drug therapy:

1.Selegiline: monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI):

  • Dosage: 0.5 to 1.0 mg/kg q24h.
  • (Anipryl or Eldepryl, l-deprenyl, Selgian, Zelapar).

2. N-Methyl-d-Aspartate Receptor Antagonists:

  • Dosage: 0.3 to 1.0 mg/kg q12h.

3. Anxiolytic agents: Tricyclic antidepressants, serotonin reuptake inhibitors, γ-aminobutyric acid agonists, benzodiazepines, or azapirones.

Home Remedies For Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

  • Develop a therapeutic diet for your dog’s CCD. Consult with your vet.
  • Give medications to reduce anxiety and slow progression.
  • Keep the dogs active and stimulated ( physically and mentally).
  • Stick to the daily routine ( walking, feeding, sleep).
  • Make the home environment more comfortable.

Prevention Of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

While CCD is not typically considered a serious condition, it can have considerable effects on the human-animal bond and quality of life.

Early diagnosis of the disorder can permit time for therapies to be started before the damage is done.

So, owners of middle-aged and older dogs always should be aware of signs of CCD.

Affected Breeds Of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

There is no breed disposition. All senior dogs are at the risk of getting affected.

Additional Facts For Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

Canine cognitive dysfunction (or canine cognitive disorder) is doggy dementia and is more similar to Alzheimer’s disease with multifaceted pathophysiology.

Several histopathologic similarities exist between dog brains affected by CCD and human brains affected by Alzheimer’s disease.

The brains reveal several similar anatomic and physiologic changes. Anatomic changes include degeneration of white matter, reduction in the number of neurons, generalized gliosis, neuroaxonal degeneration, demyelination, meningeal fibrosis and calcification, increases in ventricular size, the presence of β-amyloid (Aβ) plaques, and reduction in overall brain mass (including atrophy of cerebral cortex and basal ganglia).

Functional changes include a decline in the cholinergic system, depletion of catecholamine neurotransmitters (dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin), a reduction of endogenous antioxidants, and an increase in monoamine oxidase B (MAO-B) activity.

Most commonly associated risk factors include:

  • Age - 10 to 12-year-old dogs are 28%, >12 year old dogs are 68%.
  • Epilepsy - epileptic dogs have a higher risk of developing CCD at an early age and dogs with recurrent seizures or a history of cluster seizures are at the highest risk.
  • Activity level - More active dogs were less likely to develop CCD.

When To See A Vet For Canine Cognitive Dysfunction?

Senior dogs should be examined for signs of CCD by using the diagnostic tools available and an appropriate diagnosis of this disease is always best left to your vet to make sure that it is not progressing into a serious form.

Food Suggestions For Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

Antioxidants: Blueberries, Strawberries, Raspberries, Cranberries, Red cabbage, Cooked yellow squash, steamed broccoli, spinach, kale, and green beans.

L-Carnitine: Red meat - Ground beef, chicken breast, fish and shellfish, avocados, and peanut butter.

Alpha-lipoic acid: Broccoli, tomatoes, spinach, Brussels sprout, red meat, and organ meats.

Omega-3 fatty acids: Mackerel, Salmon, cod, herring, oysters, Sardines, Anchovies, etc.,

B Vitamins: Salmon, Liver and organ meats, Leafy greens, legumes, beef, oysters, clam, mussels, etc.,

Vitamin E: Salmon; Avocado, Trout, Eggs, Spinach, Safflower Oil, Sunflower Oil, etc.,

Medium-Chain Triglycerides: Milk, butter, yogurt, cheese, etc.,

Arginine: Steak, turkey, chicken, Tofu, Pork chops, tuna.

Phosphatidylserine: Chicken liver, beef liver, Atlantic mackerel, white beans, egg yolks, cabbage.

EPA and DHA: Caviar, trout, anchovies, tuna, salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring, oysters, clams, and mussels.


The good news About CCD is it is not life-threatening and it typically progresses slowly.

Now the bad news is there is no cure for CCD.

However, if it is diagnosed early and treated effectively, the dog could live a complete, quality lifespan.

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