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Canine Cognitive Dysfunction – Dogs and Dementia

02/14/2012 by Colleen Williams
February 14th, 2012 by Colleen Williams

As your dog ages, you may notice he or she starts to move around a little slower. Many health conditions – hip dysplasia, cancer, arthritis – are associated with aging pets. Canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD), or dementia, is fairly common in senior dogs. Could your pet be developing this condition? Read on to find out.



As in humans, dementia is a geriatric condition – it typically affects only “senior” dogs. Larger dogs are considered seniors when they reach around 7 or 8 years old, while smaller breeds aren’t seniors until they’re 10 or 11 years old. Use a dog age calculator to determine how old your pet is in human years; a 6 year old large mixed breed dog is 47 in human years, and considered a senior. Some breeds are thought to be more genetically predisposed to developing dementia, but this has not been scientifically proven yet.


Disorientation and confusion are the main indicators of CCD. Your dog may not follow the years old boundaries and rules you have set and not go about his or her old routine, including changes in the sleep cycle. Lack of grooming, loss of appetite, and fecal or urinary incontinence are also signs of dementia. Increased irritability and anxiety may also arise.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Your vet will need a thorough description of your pet’s symptoms, including when they began. Routine tests, such as ultrasounds, x-rays, and a blood count profile will be completed to rule out other potential diseases. There is no cure for canine cognitive dysfunction, but with the proper management your dog can life a long, healthy life. Treatment is mainly focused on reducing the speed of mental decline by imposing a strict daily regimen of feeding, exercise, and bathroom breaks. Vitamin-rich foods may also help your pet; your veterinarian may recommend a specific type or brand of food for your pet.


Make sure to stick to your vet-approved daily routine and diet; any changes may confuse your pet further. Try to keep your dog’s environment virtually the same – bed, food, and water in the same place, and if possible avoid moving furniture around. Checkups twice a year will help your veterinarian monitor your pet’s condition and note if the disease is progressing or has stabilized. Keep a close eye on your dog’s behavior and schedule an appointment with your vet if you notice any sudden changes.


Canine cognitive dysfunction can be a hard illness for a pet parent to come to terms with. There is no cure, but dietary changes and a stable routine can prevent CCD from progressing. Keep loving and enjoying the company of your pet; with the proper care, you have many long years left.


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