Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

21st Jun, 2017  

More older dogs are seen in practice than ever before.  A proportion of these are likely to have some age related cognitive impairment.  The symptoms of canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD) are largely behavioural and roughly fall into the categories below:

•    Orientation
•    Social interaction
•    House training
•    Sleep wake disturbance
•    Altered activity levels

Ultimately a dog might have several symptoms in several of these categories; however the condition tends to have a gradual onset with perhaps a single symptom in a single category.  In most dogs the condition will progress over a 12 to 18 month period.

The condition is easy to miss in the early stages especially as acuity of the senses (sight, hearing, taste and smell) are likely to be blunted by age and symptoms of CCD can be confused with this deterioration of sensory function.  It is important to include a behavioural questionnaire in a geriatric dog consultation to help in the diagnosis of canine cognitive dysfunction.

There is obviously a need to eliminate other medical conditions that may be causing symptom, for example, altered activity levels might be caused by arthritis, endocrine disease, pain or cardio vascular disease as well as CCD.

Once diagnosed as well as drug therapies diet and behavioural intervention can be extremely effective in dealing with this disease. Dietary interventions and supplementation that have proved useful include:

•    Maintaining a dog at its optimal body weight by restricting it’s calorific intake works to combat CCD.  It is believed that this is due to a reduction in tissue oxidative stress. activate
•    Anti oxidants are known to reduce neuropathology and promote recovery of neurones exhibiting signs of neuropathology.  They also combat free radicals and reduce oxidative stress.
•    Supplementation with fatty acids in the form of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) is effective in cases of CCD by providing increased energy for brain.

MCTs also ameliorate the effects of compromised glucose metabolism in the brain resulting in improved memory, increased attention span and ability to learn.  Increased interaction both with the environment and the owner have also been recorded.

Dogs with CCD benefit hugely from mental stimulation and behavioural support.  The behavioural effects of this condition can be very disturbing for both dog and client and often include a breakdown in house training.  The client is often at a low ebb because of disturbed nights sleep.  A fully trained behaviourist will be able to help affected dogs and their owners by:

•    Working on routine and predictability.  
•    Structuring in consistent, simple and clear rewards.  
•    Ideas for introducing short bursts of training and stimulation appropriate for a limited concentration span.

Best results are likely when the client, vet and behaviourist work together in cases of CCD.






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