These are some of the commonly agreed upon symptoms of canine cognitive dysfunction. Many of them can be singly attributed to other conditions, but if your dog has a multitude of these, it’s probably time to go to the vet.
- Pacing back and forth
- Turning in circles
- Getting lost in known places
- Staring into space or walls
- Suffering from disturbed sleep: wandering and/or crying at night
- Walking into corners or other tight spaces and staying there
- Appearing lost or confused
- Waiting at the “hinge” side of the door to go out
- Failing to get out of the way when you open a door she is on the other side of
- Failing to remember routines, or starts them and gets only partway through
- Barking for no reason
- Forgetting cues and trained behaviors she once knew
- Having motor difficulties like difficulty backing up (aside from physical problems)
- Startling easily
- Being less enthusiastic about toys or stopping playing altogether
- Performing repetitive behaviors
- Having trouble with eating or drinking (finding the bowls, aiming the mouth, keeping food in mouth)
- Stopping responding to her name
- Having difficulty getting all the way into her bed
- Trembling for seemingly no reason
- Getting trapped under or behind furniture
- Sleeping during the day
- Sleeping less at night
- Forgetting about house training
- Having difficulty learning anything new
- Withdrawing from other family members
- Seeking attention less
- Being frightened of people she once knew
- Having trouble with stairs
- Getting generally more fearful and anxious
Prevention and Treatment
Selegiline (brand name Anipryl) has been shown to slow the progression of canine cognitive dysfunction. It is a drug that is used to treat Parkinson’s in humans. It is available now for dogs in tablets and chewables. If your vet prescribes it, try to shop around. Its price really varies. The doses for dogs that you can buy on cards are quite expensive. But it can also be purchased in generic tablets quite cheaply.
There is also evidence that a diet rich in anti-oxidents can reduce canine cognitive dysfunction, especially if coupled with enrichment for the dog. Enrichment can consist of positive reinforcement based training, food puzzle toys, nose work, and anything that helps keep your dog using her mind.
The supplement SAMe has recently been tested for treatment of cognitive dysfunction in dogs with promising results. The original French study is here, and a subsequent Canadian study involving both dogs and cats is here.
Please pass the word about canine cognitive dysfunction. Many people only find out about the condition when their dog has a very advanced case. If caught earlier, medication and other interventions are more effective.