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We can all relate: sometimes it’s just hell getting older, no matter what age we are. Gradually we learn to accept the slightly stiffer joints, forgetting where we left our phone, and having to hold that restaurant menu just a little bit further out in front to read it.
Of course our dogs also experience physical changes as they age. But oftentimes we chalk up any mental or behavioral changes to simply “getting older”, or the slow onset of senility.
But what if there was a physical reason for these changes? One that, if caught in time, could be slowed down, enabling our senior dogs to enjoy a better quality of life?
There is. It’s a disorder called “Canine Cognitive Dysfunction”, and what we’re learning about it now can help us take better care of our dogs well into their golden years.
What Is Canine Cognitive Dysfunction?
Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD), also known as “dog dementia”, is most commonly found in older dogs. It’s a cognitive disorder, which means it’s related to the brain’s mental processes of learning, attention,and memory. CCD causes many of the same symptoms as Alzheimer’s disease in humans, and is thought to share a similar cause – proteins called “beta-amyloids” that form deposits and plaque build-up in the brain.
These beta-amyloid plaques (which start to show up in the brains of dogs affected with CCD around the average age of 9 years) interfere with the brain’s transmission of electrical signals. Over time, they also begin to destroy specialized nerves in the brain.
In humans with Alzheimer’s disease, beta-amyloid plaques form clusters called “neurofibrillary tangles” that can easily be seen on an MRI. However, these “tangles” have not been identified in dogs and cats, making it much more difficult to diagnose CCD in pets.
Beta-amyloid plaques are not the only cause of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction. The root cause is actually the numerous changes that occur in the brain as it ages. Dog’s brains age in a similar fashion to ours, undergoing atrophy (shrinkage and deterioration), loss of neurons, and cellular damage – all of which contribute to the development of CCD.
A study by the Animal Behavior Clinic at University of California, Davis showed that the risk of CCD increases with age: 28 percent of dogs aged 11-12 years and 68 percent of dogs aged 15-16 years showed one or more signs of cognitive impairment.
All dogs are at risk for developing CCD – a dog’s gender or breed doesn’t matter. The only common factor seems to be age.
Symptoms of CCD
Some of the signs of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction are similar to other conditions commonly seen in old age, including loss of hearing and vision. Since only a veterinarian will be able to distinguish the difference, it’s best to seek veterinary advice as soon as you notice anything unusual with your dog.
Signs of CCD may include the following (not all dogs will exhibit all of these symptoms):
- Confusion or disorientation
- Not recognizing (or becoming startled by) familiar people or places
- Forgetfulness, including inability to remember tricks previously learned
- Wandering through the house
- Not responding to name being called
- Staring into space or at walls, getting lost in corners
- Problems with learning
- Lack of awareness of surroundings
- Having accidents in the house
- Decreased attention
- Less interest in play
- Whining and barking for no apparent reason
- Pacing, restlessness, walking in circles
- Excessive panting
- Lack of interest in food (some dogs may even “forget” to eat)
- Changes in sleep/wake cycles (sleeping all day and wandering through the house at night)
- Withdrawing from interactions with family members
- Anxiety or irritability
- Uncharacteristic aggression towards people or other pets in the household
- Personality changes
Diagnosing Canine Cognitive Dysfunction
Diagnosis of CCD is a diagnosis of exclusion, which means that other causes are ruled out first through process of elimination. Many medical disorders can cause the same symptoms seen with CCD, including epilepsy, diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, bladder problems, thyroid disorders, cancer, heart disease, even chronic pain.
Some behavioral problems, such as separation anxiety, phobias, fear-related aggression, and compulsive disorders, can also mimic CCD.
Preliminary medical testing may include:
- Blood tests, including a basic chemistry panel and/or more specialized tests to evaluate thyroid function and check for other medical disorders
- X-rays to look for evidence of arthritis, cancer, heart disease, or other organ disease
- Urinalysis to check kidney function and rule out bladder infection
- Ultrasound if x-rays are inconclusive
If these tests are normal, your veterinarian will then make a diagnosis of CCD based on the presence of one or more of the following “DISHA” signs (as presented by The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine) :
- “D”isorientation – changes in spatial awareness, loss of ability to navigate around familiar obstacles, wandering behavior.
- “I”nteraction changes – decreased interest in social interactions, petting, greetings; dependent or “clingy” behaviors.
- “S”leep/Wake cycle changes – restlessness or frequent waking during the night, increased sleep during daytime hours.
- “H”ousesoiling – incontinence, indoor elimination, pet no longer lets owner know when it needs to go outside.
- “A”ctivity level changes – decreased exploration and response to people or activity around the house; decreased appetite; increased anxiety, including restlessness, agitation, and/or separation distress.
Since your veterinarian only sees your dog in the clinic and isn’t able to observe him at home, it’s important to let your vet know of any changes in your dog’s behavior. A disconnect can occur when veterinarians rely on us to tell them when our older pets are displaying behavioral changes, while we might assume these changes are just a natural part of the aging process.
Treatment Options for CCD
Although there’s no single medication that will help all dogs with Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, if your dog is diagnosed with CCD, there are several options available for treatment.
This is the only drug approved by the FDA for use in dogs with CCD. Anipryl® is a psychoactive drug that increases the level of dopamine (an essential neurotransmitter) in the brain. This medication is considered the best drug currently available for treating CCD, with approximately 75% of treated dogs showing improvement in their symptoms within 30 to 60 days. Some researchers believe this drug can actually help reverse the changes associated with CCD.
Like any medication, Anipryl® can have side effects, including vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, or loss of appetite.
There are now prescription diets available for dogs with CCD. Hill’s Prescription Diet b/d contains Vitamins E and C, beta carotene (an antioxidant), L-carnitine (which enhances function of the brain cells’ mitochondria), and omega-3 fatty acids (which promotes cell membrane health).
According to The Ohio State University, in clinical trials, this diet alone significantly improved learning in dogs with CCD. The results were even greater when combined with other treatment methods.
These include the nutritional supplements Senilife™, Proneurozone™, and Denosyl®. Cholodin®, a vitamin B choline supplement, has also been shown to be effective in improving symptoms of CCD. Your veterinarian will be able to recommend the best supplement for your dog.
Providing dogs with physical exercise, new and interactive toys, and learning new tasks and tricks have all been shown to improve learning and memory in dogs with CCD.
Living With Canine Cognitive Dysfunction
If your dog is diagnosed with CCD, there are several things you can do to help.
Adhering to a strict schedule can help alleviate anxiety. Routine activities around feeding, walking outside, and playtime are calming to dogs with CCD and makes them feel more secure. Try not to make any drastic changes in your home (such as rearranging furniture), as this can be upsetting to your dog. Also try to keep your home free of clutter to provide wider pathways if your dog has trouble getting around or is unsteady on his feet.
Remember that your dog may need more frequent trips outside to go to the bathroom, as he may not always be aware of the fact that he has to go. You can also offer him daily mental stimulation by re-training him on tasks or tricks using positive reinforcement training involving lots of treats and praise – just like when he was a puppy.
Can Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Be Prevented?
Unfortunately, there are no proven methods for preventing CCD, since it’s a function of brain aging and most of the time is inevitable.
However, researchers believe you can slow the onset of CCD by practicing the following:
- Keep your dog active with regular physical exercise appropriate for his age and medical condition.
- Provide lots of interactive toys, like puzzle feeders, bubble machines, tug toys, and treat dispensing toys.
- Allow your dog to interact and play (safely) with other dogs and with people.
- Continuously teach your dog new tricks, especially those that are more complicated and require more than one step in a sequence.
- Provide your dog with a healthy, high-quality diet rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids.
- Keep your dog at a healthy weight.
- As your dog gets older, consider twice-yearly veterinary exams instead of just one annual exam. Be sure to mention any changes to your veterinarian.
We Don’t Have to Take CCD Lying Down!
Canine Cognitive Dysfunction is rarely life-threatening. However, it can drastically affect both your dog’s quality of life and the bond between you and your dog. Just because your dog is getting older doesn’t mean you can’t intervene and attempt to slow down the onset of CCD. Early recognition of symptoms allows for early intervention.
A recent study cited by The Ohio State University showed that 48 percent of dogs aged 11-14 years who showed signs of impairment in one behavioral category went on to develop impairment in 2 or more categories within 6-18 months if treatment was not provided. Clinical trials have shown that signs of CCD can be improved (and the onset of additional signs delayed) with appropriate treatment.
Veterinary behaviorists are also starting to speak out about the need in veterinary medicine to monitor not only body systems, but also behavior in older pets. Some veterinary clinics are beginning to offer behavioral questionnaires to their clients when they bring their pets in for an exam. This can help spark conversation between pet parents and veterinarians regarding any recent changes in behavior.
Canine Cognitive Dysfunction may be a progressive, incurable disease, but early diagnosis and treatment can slow your dog’s mental decline and give him a good quality of life well into his senior years.
Have you ever cared for a dog with Canine Cognitive Dysfunction? Please tell us about it in the comments below!
Seville at Nerissa's Life says
Peep #1 says they once lived with a cat who developed this, too. Peep #1 says that Boswell sometimes had the very same ‘lost’ look she had seen on her grandmother’s face when she was in her late nineties. But he wasn’t confused all the time and he had a really happy life, filled with lots of love.
Camille Schake says
Hi Seville, you are exactly right… sadly, cats can also develop cognitive dysfunction. Even more sad is that there is no medication available yet to treat it in cats like there is for dogs. I hope they will develop a feline medication soon! In the meantime, I’m trying to use the steps in the article for my 3 kitties to try to help keep their minds sharp and keep them happy.
I’m very glad that Boswell only experienced that confused feeling sometimes and that he had a great life!
Jen Jelly says
I haven’t had to care for a dog with CCD but I’m glad it’s being widely recognized. We lost our cat last year after 23 years and for the last year of her life she was showing a lot of signs of cognitive impairment. I wasn’t able to see her every day ( she continued to live with my dad after I moved out ) but it was quite apparent that it was progressing with each visit. It’s so hard to watch our pets age – I’m glad to know there are options available for the treatment of CCD that seem able to slow it down.
Camille Schake says
I’m really happy too that more veterinarians and veterinary behaviorists seem to be focused on this issue, and the Anipryl results seem very promising! I also heard from a friend of mine whose dog is on the Hill’s b/d diet that it seems to be helping as well. It’s really encouraging to know there are things we can do to try to help now instead of helplessly watching our dogs decline as they get older.
Unfortunately there’s no approved medication or prescription diets for cognitive dysfunction in cats yet, but hopefully those are coming. Jasper is 14, so I’m trying to keep him mentally stimulated and engaged as much as I can!
JaneA and the Paws and Effect Gang says
This happens to older cats, too. I’m glad people are learning about the signs of cognitive dysfunction in our beloved pets because it’ll help all of us to be better “pet parents.” There are lots of things that happen to dogs and cats as they get older that we don’t have to take lying down, as you put it — our pets can live healthy lives even when they’re older, and diet and nutrition as well as environmental enrichment are key to that. Purrs!
Camille Schake says
Hi JaneA, I totally agree! I remember when I was a kid, it seemed like there were so many conditions and disorders in our dogs and cats that people just put off to “he’s/she’s just old.” There wasn’t much trying to fix them. It’s really encouraging now to see the progress being made in geriatric veterinary medicine! 🙂
Thank you for sharing this very informative article. I haven’t met any dogs with CCD but it deeply saddens me to read that this can happen to our pups when they age. It is bad enough that this happens to our human family members and friends. I can’t wait for the day when there is a drug or treatment to stop this from happening in both humans and pets.
Camille Schake says
So true…it’s heartbreaking. Although the medications they have for Alzheimer’s disease in humans and CCD in dogs can slow down the progression of the disease, so far there isn’t anything available that can reverse the damage. I read that there are millions of dollars being spent in research in this area, so hopefully a treatment is coming that will not only stop the disease, but reverse it! With all my heart, I’m hoping for that in our lifetime.
What a fascinating article. Even though we all have seen older dogs with a variety of these symptoms, I didn’t realize it could be a specific diagnosis. Diet and exercise are important factors, but mental stimulation is something a lot of people probably don’t think about. Thanks for sharing this valuable topic.
Camille Schake says
Thanks so much, Elaine… I learned a lot while I was researching it. When I was in Vet Tech school, there wasn’t much information available about CCD, but it’s very encouraging now to see so much attention being given to this topic!
Daisy The French Bulldog says
Great article! It is so sad to see our friends age, but it is encouraging to at least know what is causing it and that they can still enjoy the later years of life. We have learned that a hug or a cuddle goes a long way – for the dog AND the human.
Camille Schake says
That’s a wonderful philosophy, and I wholeheartedly agree! 🙂
I’ve been researching CCD on the web and came across your excellent article. Our 10-year-old german shepherd, Heidi, has many of the classic symptoms mentioned above (sleeping all day, up all night wandering around the house, getting stuck in small spaces, panting, and most of all, very very frightened and agitated. I feel so terrible that she is going through this and am worried to death that it’s just going to get worse and worse. Physically, she is in great shape, but at night, she turns into a nervous wreck who is confused, disoriented, and can’t calm down.
I’ve given her cholodin in the past, which helped for a while but then I stopped giving it to her regularly and now, she’s having problems again and going back on cholodin isn’t helping yet. I think the next thing is to try some of the other supplements, diets, and maybe eventually the Anipryl. I haven’t lost hope, but almost every night for the past week, she and my husband and I are getting about 3-4 hours of sleep and it’s really difficult.
I wish they would have some trials at some of the vet schools to study this problem that seems to be really on the rise. I would definitely volunteer
Thanks again for providing useful information on this very heartbreaking disorder.
Camille Schake says
Thank you for your feedback on the article, Karin..I hope it offered something to help. I’m so very sorry to hear about what you’re going through with Heidi. Reading your response really struck a chord with me because I’m now going through the early stages of feline cognitive disorder with my cat Jasper. It’s heartbreaking to see them on the days they are nervous and agitated, and you feel like there’s nothing you can do to help. Jasper is also in good shape physically for his age (he’s almost 15), and other than the “episodes” (which unfortunately are becoming more frequent), he is happy and eating well. I think so much of how we deal with CD is based on trial-and-error as we try to find what makes them feel better. For Heidi, I would definitely encourage you to talk with your vet about the Anipryl…based on the research I’ve read, it’s shown some real promise in alleviating symptoms, and I just read this week that some researchers believe it may help actually reverse some of the damage (which was once believed to be irreversible), which would be incredible if that turns out to be true! Since Heidi is otherwise healthy, hopefully any side effects from the medication would be minimal. Also, I have a friend who put his dog with CD on the Hill’s b/d diet and he said it seemed to help her somewhat, so that might also be worth a try.
And I totally agree, I wish there were more clinical trials available to help study CD. It’s ironic how we pay a price sometimes for our pets living longer, healthier lives. 🙁 If I may ask, would you please let me know if you put Heidi on the Anipryl and how she’s doing? I would love to know if it helps her. In the meantime, I wish you the very best with your treatment and care for Heidi, I know full well how challenging it can be and my heart truly goes out to you. At the end of the day, we just love them with our whole hearts and do the best we can, each and every day – and hope that the love we are able to give them is even a fraction of the joy they bring to us.
My 16 year old Yorkie, Buddy, is in what appears full blown CCD. He has been on the medication for 4 months and has not shown any changes. He has ALL the symptoms, the worst of which is serious separation anxiety.
We live close to the University of Tennessee Vet School. Do you know if there are currently any studies going on that we might participate in?
Buddy has always been the absolute best, friendliest, most playful. For the past two years his entire demeanor has been on a downward spiral. He is still otherwise quite strong and healthy.
Camille Schake says
Hi Peggy, I’m so sorry to hear about Buddy. My in-laws had a Yorkie years ago who lived to the age of 19, and he had CCD as well. It was very hard to see the degenerative changes happening in his brain while his body was still strong, and not be able to prevent them. 🙁 Regarding current veterinary studies on CCD, I would suggest contacting your local veterinary colleges directly and asking them if they are conducting any, or if they know of any other schools that are. I was able to find this list of accredited veterinary schools in Tennessee. There may also be other schools in adjacent states that are worth considering…hopefully someone at one of these institutions can help! Wishing you luck!
My 17 year old maltese has severe loss of appetite due to dementia., Is there any drug that can cure this change of give him his appetite back. What can I do??
Only wants to eat some red meat but no dog food or boiled chicken
Camille Schake says
Hi Zurien, I’m very sorry to hear about your dog’s dementia and loss of appetite. 🙁 Yes, there are some drugs that can be prescribed by your veterinarian to help stimulate appetite, so I would definitely call your veterinarian and ask about those options. It’s important that your dog get a balanced diet and enough calories so that he doesn’t become ill.
Also, I wrote an article a few months ago with tips on how to get dogs or cats to eat when they don’t want to. You can find that article here: Hope it helps, and that your dog is eating better soon!
Gisela Kindorf says
My 9 year old Shitzu has been changing behavior ever since my husband passed 2 1/2 yrs ago, but lately I realized it more and he was diagnosed with Dementia. He had always anxiety when I would leave the house and later he had it when my husband left also. So I am not sure how long it’s actually been. He is a very sweet quiet loveable dog and still is. Now he sleeps to much. I am putting him on Proneurozone and than I want to put him on Selegiline if this not helps. Can I keep him on both the meds? I would appreciate any help and input . Also I read there are 1.25mg of Selegiline are they for dogs too? My Vet told me to start with the lowest dose and 5mg isn’t low when 1.25mg are available. I’m very upset about this and really don’t know what to expect or do. He has a brother same age but a Maltese same litter. They’re called Malshi’s. I have not seen anything different with him. Thanks.
Camille Schake says
Hi Gisela. First, please accept my deepest condolences on the loss of your husband. I know that must have been very difficult for both you and your dogs.
Regarding your Shih Tzu, you said he was diagnosed with dementia, so I’m assuming your vet also tested him for any other medical conditions that could cause him to be less active and sleeping more? If all his other tests came back normal, it’s possible that dementia could indeed be contributing to his behavioral changes. Selegiline is the generic name for Anipryl, and the veterinary tablets for dogs come in 2mg, 5mg, 10mg, 15mg, and 30mg dosages. I agree with your vet in starting with a low dose, since it’s always best to start with the lowest effective dose and increase it from there.
Since this drug is also used to treat Cushing’s Disease, the dose for dogs with dementia is usually lower than the dose for dogs with Cushing’s. Your vet would have based the dosage on your dog’s body weight and the severity of his symptoms, so if you’re concerned about the 5mg dose vs. the 2mg dose, I would suggest talking through it with your vet so you’re both on the same page regarding the recommended dosage. Selegiline/Anipryl has shown great promise for dogs with dementia, so it is definitely worth considering, especially if your dog tolerates it well and he doesn’t appear to have any side effects while he’s on it.
Regarding ProNeurozone, this is an over-the-counter supplement that contains antioxidants, vitamins, and Omega-3 fatty acids that have been shown to help with brain health. To be safe, I would definitely call your veterinarian to confirm if your vet feels it’s okay to use with Selegiline/Anipryl. And always keep in mind that if you have any concerns about prescribed treatment for your dogs, sometimes a second opinion can be very helpful and put your mind at ease.
You can also try some of the other things suggested in the article, like encouraging him to get more physical exercise (through walking or playing), teaching him new tricks to keep his mind engaged, or considering a change to a prescription diet for dogs with dementia. You never know what he will respond to, so keep trying until you find the combination of things that work best for him! I hope this helps, and I wish you the best of luck!
I just wanted to provide an update to my story above. I had been giving Cholodin to my 10-year-old german shepherd for doggie dementia for several years and it worked very well. In fact, it worked so well that I got complacent and slacked off in giving her the regular daily dosage like I normally did. In June 2015, she relapsed big time and had the classic symptoms of dementia: getting stuck in corners, becoming very frightened at night and jumping up on the bed, shaking, looking confused, etc. Every night was heartbreaking and frustrating because she was so out of it and so terrified, and totally inconsolable.
It took about three weeks, but she finally got back to normal and is still doing very well in January of 2016. No more wandering all night or getting stuck in corners. Every once in a while, she’ll get scared about something at night, but she’ll calm down pretty quickly. You’d better believe that I am diligent in making sure she gets her daily dosage (2 tablets in the morning with her breakfast and 2 tablets in the evening with her dinner). I started with 1 tablet with breakfast and 1 with dinner, but worked up to twice that, which seems to be the magical dosage for her.
My heart goes out to anyone whose dog is experiencing this disorder. Cholodin doesn’t work for every dog but it sure worked with ours. You can read about others’ experiences with it on websites like Amazon and Entirely Pets.
Camille Schake says
Thank you so much for the update, Karin! It’s very interesting to hear how dramatic your dog’s relapse was after not receiving the Cholodin regularly. I’m so glad to hear that after she went back on the regular dose she was able to stabilize again. You make a very critical point about how different things work for different dogs…that’s why it’s so important to keep trying if the initial treatment doesn’t provide results. Wishing you much health and continued success with her treatment!
Karin Arrigoni says
Hi Camile, I just wanted to give an update on Heidi and pass along some information to those who read your blog.
As I wrote above, our 11-year-old german shepherd has been taking Cholodin since 2014. She had the classic CCD symptoms (extreme fear/anxiety, staring at corners, trying to squeeze into small spaces, etc.) for a while and finally it got so bad that I knew I needed to do something about it, so in my research, I found out about Cholodin. It took a while (around 10-14 days), but it helped her IMMENSELY!
It helped her so much that at one point, I stopped giving it to her regularly last June. She had a terrible relapse and it took a very long time to get her back to normal. It took such a long time that I decided to add another supplement to her daily schedule: Senilife (also a supplement). I didn’t keep her on the Senilife for very long, because her symptoms greatly increased while she was on it, so I stopped it after a couple of days. Back on the Cholodin by itself, she finally got back to normal again.
In my research, I recently discovered that Senilife has similar ingredients to Cholodin, so maybe she was overdosing by taking both supplements simultaneously (Phosphatidylserine in Senilife and Phosphatidylcholine in Cholodin). So, don’t give your dog both of these supplements simultaneously. Pick one or the other. I think they’re both good. But using them together can result in an overdose like it did with my dog. I haven’t seen this documented anywhere, so I want to spread the word wherever I can. And remember that once they’re on this, and if it works, it seems as though they need to be on it for the rest of their lives.
Also, when people start their dogs on Cholodin, if you want to be on the safe side, be sure to start with the half dose of the one stated on the bottle. Some dogs have had bad reactions to Cholodin and it’s good to start slowly.
Heidi is doing pretty well, but she’s starting to get some of her symptoms back again. I’d like to add something else but am not sure what. I tried Neutricks and it made her more anxious, so I’m debating between the Hawthorne Senior supplement and the SAM-e supplement. I’ll post again if we get any more good results for her.
Camille Schake says
Hi Karin, thank you so much for the update! Sharing your experience is very important because it highlights something that I’ve seen over and over in clinical practice and with my own pets – every pet is different, so being able to try different treatment options is so important. If you start your pet on a drug or supplement and don’t get good results, keep trying – don’t give up! Sometimes it takes time and experimentation to find the perfect treatment protocol. I’m glad the Cholodin has been so helpful for Heidi!
And you are correct in that most dogs with CCD will need supplementation for the rest of their lives. If Heidi’s symptoms begin to return, I think I would do exactly what you’re considering – trying other options and documenting the results. As long as you’re working with your veterinarian and keeping him or her in the loop, at the end of the day it’s about what works best for Heidi and gives her the very best quality of life. Thank you again for the update, and please keep us posted!
Jeani Thomson says
I have a 15-year-old long-haired piebald dachshund, Stewart. He’s been diabetic for 5 years; (now up to 16 units of Insulin 2x a day); has had fairly successful cataract surgery 4 years ago; and has maintained very well up until recently. He has been having trouble walking well for about 6-8 months, partially due to a large fatty tumor under his right “armpit,”and arthritis. I started him on Dr. Busby’s Toe Grips about 3 months ago, with some improvement. For the last month, he has started pacing, panting more, walking around confused, getting lost in corners, etc. This is very new and happening quickly. My vet, whom I trust implicitly, suggested Selegiline, but not really enthusiastically. I was shocked at the price at Wal-Mart, Walgreens, but would never let that be a deterrent, although I would like to know if there is a cheaper generic. I would be nervous to change his dog food (he eats Science Diet Adult Light Dry and Canned), but am wondering if that and the drug are worth a try. Is his diabetes likely to compromise the success of the medication? He does still like his food and enjoys a chewy now and then. I take him for walks with my other dogs in a dog stroller, and he enjoys getting out and walking a little. But, the latest cognitive problems are affecting us all. Would appreciate input. Thank you for this helpful article.
Camille Schake says
Hi Jeani, I’m so sorry to hear that Stewart is experiencing what sounds like symptoms of CCD. Selegiline is actually the generic name for the drug (the branded name is Anipryl), but it may also be listed under another name, Deprenyl (which is used to treat Parkinson’s Disease in humans). I would recommend going online and looking for a better deal than the pricing you’re seeing in pharmacies…there are several good online pet pharmacies that may be less expensive.
Regarding changing Stewart’s diet, I would definitely ask your veterinarian about that because of his diabetes. If your vet doesn’t see an issue with changing foods, it might be worth a try to switch to the Hill’s diet for Canine Cognitive Dysfunction. One of my friends saw a marked improvement in his dog with CCD after switching to this diet, but of course every dog is different. But to me, as long as it doesn’t interfere with Stewart’s diabetes, it might be worth trying!
And regarding his diabetes compromising the success of the medication, that’s probably a better question for your veterinarian. I know there are some drugs that interact with Selegiline, but I’m not sure how fluctuating blood glucose levels might affect things. I did find out, however, that aged cheese interacts with Selegiline and causes a dangerous spike in blood pressure. So if you do start Stewart on Selegiline, be aware that aged cheeses are off limits!
I hope this helps. Thank you so much for writing, and please let me know if you decide to start Stewart on Selegiline and if it improves things!
Sarah Lajevardi says
After coming home from being on vacation for three nights, our dog Mason was in a terrible state. He had never been an anxious dog unless there was a thunder/lightning storm or fireworks. He was a completely different dog. He could not settle at night. He would jump on and off the couch and would repeatedly want to be outside. His tail would be behind his legs and his eyes looked scared. Many had asked maybe something had happened while we were away, but this was not the case. He was at our home and our long term dog walker was staying the nights with him and walking him three times a day. Turns out he was suffering from Sundowners Syndrome and Cognitive Dysfunction. We realized he had been presenting symptoms of these for a couple of years prior but our vet always shrugged it off as being a senior dog. He is 13 years and 3 months old. Once we determined what was happening we immediately ordered Anipryl and started him on supplements such as Denosyl and Senilife. Thankfully Mason responded to the Anipryk and it brought our baby back to us. We continue to sleep with the lights on and have yet to leave him in the evening when it is dark. We have been doing this for 5 months now. We are just so terrified for him to revert back to the way he was. It was horrible. It was no way for him to live. He is at his max dose of Anipryl so it is not like we can increase his medication should he have an episode. We keep a very regular schedule with him to make him feel comfortable. While the medicine definitely helped him, he is still a little rough around the edges in the evening. Shows some signs of anxiety until he has had several walks and his small doses of xanax. He is usually finally asleep by 10:30 or so and sleeps through the night. Thank goodness!! My question is, are we doing him more harm than good by not leaving him at night. We are willing to sacrifice vacations and nights out if it means keeping him sane. Especially considering that he is 13 and we know his time is limited. On the other hand he could live for a couple of years this way couldn’t he? We would be so happy if that were the case. He is an otherwise very happy, healthy, active and spoiled, well loved dog. Any suggestions or similar experiences that you could share would be welcome. Basically should we attempt to leave him in the evening? Or do we run the risk of triggering his sundowners?
Camille Schake says
Sarah, I’m so sorry to hear about the struggles Mason is having with Sundowner Syndrome. This can be a very stressful situation for both dog and dog parent. It’s great that Mason is responding to the Anipryl and sleeping through the night! However, this situation definitely makes it difficult for you to have what most people would consider a normal schedule, as you are essentially a full-time caregiver for an aging dog with dementia. That can be a very tough role. It requires what feels like full-time vigilance, and you may feel guilty for wanting to do “normal” things like take vacations and go out to dinner in the evenings. I deeply sympathize with your situation.
Regarding your question as to whether you’re doing more harm than good by not leaving him at night, I think your presence is probably very helpful in making him feel secure, so I would say you’re definitely not doing harm. That’s precisely what makes it a tough situation. He is older, but you’re right, he could live for several more years if his physical health is good. Although I’m not a veterinary expert, I would say that the only way you will know for sure if the Anipryl is enough to keep him stable if you leave is to experiment and try it. Perhaps you could leave him with a dogsitter or a trusted family member so that he wouldn’t be all alone? Or you could leave for a very short period of time and set up a video recorder or webcam to see how he reacts when you’re not there. If he becomes very stressed when you’re gone, you’ll have your answer and will need to make some decisions as to the best way to proceed in caring for him. I doubt that him becoming stressed one time will cause him to permanently revert to the state he was in before, but I suppose anything is possible. We know so little about the brain (both our own and our dogs’)!
You are already doing great things by keeping him on a regular schedule and giving him multiple walks each day, which is extremely helpful for dogs with Sundowner Syndrome. I think you may just have to take things one day at a time and hope that he remains stable on his medications for as long as possible. In the meantime, please be kind to yourself! I would encourage you to try to find creative solutions (i.e. perhaps leaving him for short periods with a trusted friend or family member) that will enable you both to have the best quality of life.
Thank you so much for writing, and please let me know if you find solutions that work well for Mason! Wishing you all the best of health.
Melissa Rondeau says
My dog has had CCD for quite some time.. probably 2 years. The changes were so subtle that its easier to look back and see the progression. She is on neutricks, cholodin, hawthornes apawthocary and now will be adding selegeline. She is just vacant. Does not ask to go outside, or to play or for food or water. Does not ask for attention, nothing, in her own little world. She does sometime pace in circles that has gotten better with supplements. She spends her time walking around and most often sleeps well but we have had a few nights of severe whining and pacing. The biggest struggle is how long do we continue to let her go on living in her own little world. She is not in pain, her health is good other than her CCD. She is 17. I don’t want to do wrong by my dog and be fair to her. I wish there was more definitive advice out there to keep going and support the senior years and to send her over the bridge.
Camille Schake says
Hi, Melissa. First, my deepest condolences for what you’re going through with your dog. In many ways illnesses like CCD are the hardest to deal with because the answers on when it’s “time” are not so black and white. If your girl were suffering, it would be a much easier choice to make, but you are put in the position of having to determine quality of life, and that’s so very difficult when it involves your dog, whom you love so much.
I’m not sure if this will help, but I wrote an article on knowing when it’s the right time to let go – you can read it here. It contains information on a “quality of life” index that’s used by many animal hospice groups for guidance on knowing when it’s time to start considering euthanasia. Hopefully it can help give you some insight. In the meantime, just know that whatever you decide, at 17 years your baby has had a long and wonderful life with someone who obviously loves her very much. Sometimes, just remembering that can mean everything.
My sweetheart Sammi (Havanese) is just turning 13 and for the last 6 months has shown severe signs of CCD. The changes in her over these last 6 months have been terrible. Because her brother died of a brain tumor when he was 9, I insisted that she have an MRI and it showed severe brain atrophy. We tried her on the selegiline but that only made her lethargic so we took her off. Her appetite seems to have improved over these last months, as she was never a big eater, but eats twice a day now. She will still ask to go outside to go pee but has started going in the house. She only seems to have a “good day” every week or so, and the rest of the time she seems to wander in a very confused state or just sleep. Her worst time is between 6 p.m. and bedtime, where she just wanders lost and confused. She is continually getting stuck in corners or in furniture. She still recognizes all of us and very happy to see us when we come home. We don’t leave her alone very often however. With her downward spiral happening so fast, I don’t know how much time we have left with her. We love her so much and hate to see her like this.
Camille Schake says
Hi Vicki, I’m so very sorry to hear about Sammi. I’m glad she still recognizes you, so you can give her lots of love and attention…this disease is so hard. 🙁