Cognitive Dysfunction in Dogs

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CDS)

This is the term we use for senile change that we see in dogs. The changes that are seen in these canine patients are very similar to what we observe in people. If your pet has been diagnosed with CCD, they still can have a good quality of life for a long time.

Sophisticated testing (MRI) has revealed that this change can begin as early as 8 years of age. Approximately 15% of dogs have signs at 8 while 68% of the dogs at 15 years of age will have some signs of CCD. There is no preventative action known.

The signs of CDS vary from dog to dog. There may be one or more of the following:
1. Disorientation – loss of spatial awareness in familiar places.
2. Interactions – altered social interaction with people or other pets. This can include aggression.
3. Sleep-wake cycle changes. Pets may sleep more during the day and then be up at night.
4. House soiling
5. Activity and Anxiety – may see a decrease in activity and often anxiety signs e.g. increase in vocalization, pacing, or repetitive behavior like licking


Max working at 13.

How do we help these dogs have a good quality of life? Some treatments have been shown to help including:
1. Exercise has been shown to help in both dogs and people. So- get out the leash and walk. You may need to do short walks more frequently to avoid stressing your pet. Establish a regular schedule.
2. Diet – there are foods now specifically designed to help these patients. We can discuss this with you.
a. Hill’s prescription food b/d
b. Purina Pro Plan Bright Mind.
3. Nutritional supplements are available to help with some of the problems that occur with CCD.
a. SAMe – canine form Denosyl. Antioxidant.
b. Omega 3 fatty acids – antioxidant.
c. Neutriks – memory supplement
d. Solliquin – can be used for agitation problems
e. Melatonin – can be used to regulate sleep patterns.
4. Specific medications have been shown to help some of these dogs. We can discuss your options.
5. Behavior conditioning is thought to be very helpful. The old motto “use it or lose it” applies. Have your dog do the tricks he has been taught on a regular basis. Try to add some new tasks. Consider getting a food dish that requires your pet to solve getting into it. There is much more information on interacting with your dog on the website –

Enjoy your time with your senior pet. It is very important that we make them as comfortable and active as possible. If you have questions or concerns do not hesitate to contact us.

Most of the information gathered here was presented to the New Haven County Veterinary Medical Association by JP McCue, DVM DACVIM chief of neurology at Animal Medical Center in Manhattan.

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