First Walk is on Us!

✓ GPS tracked walks
✓ Activity reports
✓ On-demand walkers
Book FREE Walk

Jump to Section

What is Canine Cognitive Dysfunction?

Your dog may be forgetting who you are or maybe he cannot seem to find the door to go outside so he accidentally soils the rug. Medical professionals have done studies to compare canine cognitive dysfunction with dementia in humans, and found that they both they have similar symptoms. It is relatively normal for your older dog to act strangely once in awhile, but if your pet seems to be getting more forgetful every day, starts to act abnormally aggressive, and is having frequent housetraining accidents, you need to have him checked out by a veterinary professional.

Canine cognitive dysfunction is a neurological disorder that develops as your dog ages, similar to what we see in humans. This condition affects memory, learning, behavior, and even bodily functions. It is very common in older dogs and in fact, over 50% of dogs over 10 have at least one of these symptoms. When your dog gets older, the nerve cells start to die and the spinal fluid starts to take the place of the nerve cells that are gone. One theory is that beta-amyloid (protein) starts to accumulate in the brain and causes plaques. In addition, cerebral amyloid angiopathy (CAA) and ubiquitin-positive granules (UBQ) have been found. Veterinary professionals use a checklist to evaluate dogs, which include disorientation (D), interaction (I), sleep patterns (S), housetraining (H), activity levels (A), or DISHA.

Book First Walk Free!

Symptoms of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction in Dogs

The symptoms of canine cognitive disease usually come on slowly and take a while to notice because the signs are so vague and intermittent. One day he may be really alert and normal and the next day he may not even know who you are. It is more difficult to notice this in dogs because they cannot speak to say they do not know who you are or where they are so you have to be particularly attentive when you start noticing abnormal behavior in your dog. However, some of the most often reported signs of canine cognitive dysfunction are:

  • Irritability
  • Disorientation
  • Strange behavior such as becoming overly attentive or scared
  • Abnormal sleeping habits such as sleeping more during the day or staying awake at night
  • Having accidents in the house
  • Depression
  • Anxiousness
  • Licking but not grooming himself
  • Appetite loss
  • Seems lost
  • Staring into space

Types

Canine cognitive dysfunction can be either age related or it may also be a symptom of another condition or an accident.

Causes of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction in Dogs

There are several brain lesions that are believed to be a factor in canine cognitive dysfunction. Some of these include:

  • Amyloid β protein (Aβ)
  • Cerebral amyloid angiopathy (CAA)
  • Ubiquitin-positive granules (UBQ)

Diagnosis of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction in Dogs

The veterinarian will need to know as much detail as possible about your dog’s behavioral and medical history. You should also provide your pet’s immunization records if you have them and be sure to tell the veterinarian if you have given your dog any medications, whether prescription or not. Diagnosing canine cognitive dysfunction is usually difficult because there is no visible evidence and no test to find it. Instead, the veterinarian will mainly have to rely on your observations of the symptoms.

In addition, the veterinarian will perform a battery of tests to rule out other conditions that can cause similar symptoms such as liver disease, thyroid disorders, hypertension, brain tumors, and Cushing’s disease. A complete blood count (CBC), chemical panel, blood cultures, and urinalysis will likely be performed to rule out most of these issues and a CT scan or MRI of the brain is used to determine if your dog has a brain tumor.

Treatment of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction in Dogs

There is no miracle cure for canine cognitive dysfunction but there are quite a few medications and supplements that have been shown to have promising results. A special diet and mental exercises are also being used with some success.

Medications

N-acetyl-D-mannosamine (ManNAc) is a compound that appears to alleviate many of the cognitive symptoms that have declined with age. This has been used in humans as well as dogs with a great deal of success. Phosphatidylserine is a fatty acid that has been used in humans for years to treat ADHD and is having some success in treating canine cognitive dysfunction.

Supplements

Ginkgo biloba, resveratrol, coconut oil, and SAMe are all natural supplements that are known to be beneficial in stopping the progression of canine cognitive dysfunction.

Special Diets and Exercises

Veterinary professionals claim that a diet high in antioxidants is good for preventing canine cognitive dysfunction. Also, mental stimulation such as toys with treats hidden inside and just teaching your dog new tricks (or old ones) is an excellent way to keep his mind sharp. Physical exercise is also good for your dog so playing a game of fetch is a pastime that can be helpful and fun for both of you.

Recovery of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction in Dogs

Fortunately, this condition is not a fatal one, but it can be dangerous if your dog does something that can harm him in some way. Keep working with your dog on a daily basis to help keep him mentally stimulated and do not give up on him just because he seems like he does not know what is going on. Regular veterinary visits are essential to keeping tabs on your dog’s mental condition.