As your dog ages, he/she will start to exhibit “senior moments” that are all part and parcel of the natural aging process. You may notice decrease in energy levels, greying of muzzle, amongst other changes. However, a change in your dog’s personality wherein your dog starts to forget familiar places, often gets confused, doesn’t respond to basic commands and seems distant; might all be symptoms of a degenerative brain disease known as Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD).

What is Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD)?

Dogs who are diagnosed with CCD exhibit symptoms of Alzheimer’s or dementia just like humans. They will show signs of brain degeneration. CCD is caused by physical changes in brain functioning, one of them being an abnormal accumulation of abnormal proteins in the brain. This process damages brain nerves and loss in brain functioning that affects your dog’s memory, motor functioning and learned behavior.

What are the possible signs of CCD?

When your senior dog starts to exhibit a majority of the below symptoms, he/she could be suffering from CCD:

  • Your dog starts to get confused and disoriented in familiar places.
  • Feels trapped behind known surroundings such as furniture or in the corners of the room.
  • Stops responding to commands, calls or when the doorbell rings.
  • Experiences abnormal sleeping patterns.
  • Withdrawn and doesn’t play, refuses to go on walks and frequently soils the house.
  • Unable to recall known commands learnt during puppy training years.
  • Frequently trembles or shakes while standing or lying down.
  • Spends long periods of time in one area.
  • Experiences abnormal sleeping patterns.

Treatment and How to Cope with CCD

Unfortunately, there is no cure for CCD. There are medicines available that increase the amount of dopamine in your dog’s brain to stimulate normal brain functioning and can mask the symptoms to a certain degree. Alternate methods such as cognitive therapy, increase in exercise, introducing interactive toys, learning new commands, a diet rich in antioxidants, etc., call all help to stimulate your dog’s memory. Here are some of the ways to cope with this disease and make life easier for your senior dog:

  • Try to make your dog’s daily routine as stress-free as possible and ensure his/her meals are fed on time.
  • Keep your dog’s surrounding as familiar as possible and avoid any change of furniture arrangement to ensure that your dog is not confused.
  • Engage your dog in short and friendly play sessions.
  • Eliminate clutter around the house to prevent obstacles and make it easier for your dog to move.
  • Keep commands short and crisp to avoid confusion.

And most importantly, keep your patience and compassion at all times. Your dog has changed physically and mentally and needs all your love and respect to have a calm and stress-free life.