Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome.
Source: Dog World, Meredith Wargo, Journalist
Did you know that dogs get what is like human Alzheimer's? It is true. CDS, Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome, is common in older dogs. Some just cast it off as "old age." When in truth, they are suffering from this syndrome. It is caused by chemical and physiological changes in the brain, just like in humans. Sometimes a cluster of symptoms may be noted such as confusion, memory loss and personality changes, just like in humans.
The signs are progressive and gradual, just like the stages in Alzheimer's. Many dogs with CDS will forget which side of the door to go out of and stand at the hinge side, waiting for you to open the door. Other signs are sleeping abnormalities, such as sleeping more in the day and being restless at night. Some will become "lost" in their own yards, or get "stuck" in a corner. And, sometimes the symptoms seem contradictory, such as a dog with hearing loss being more sensitive to strange sounds.
And, before any medical signs are apparent, these types of behavioral changes may indicate that something is changing in the older dog. Melissa Bain, DVM, Dipl. ACVB, M.S., of the Companion Animal Behavior Service at UC Davis says, " CDS is a diagnosis of exclusion in which all other diseases and medical conditions are ruled out."
First and second level problems are things like noise phobias and separation anxiety, need to be ruled out before diagnosing CDS. If you suspect that your older pet is suffering from this condition, tell your vet. He/she will typically ask you to complete a form that details the history of their dog's behavior and routines. This collects info on appetite, potty patterns, cognition, recognition, social relationships, sleep-wake patterns and anxiety.
The available treatments are a combination of drug therapy, dietary changes and environmental stimulation to help a dog maintain an optimal quality of life. Some symptoms are: Disorientation (not knowing their surroundings that were previously familiar, becoming stuck in a corner and forgets to stop or respond to its name) Interaction with others. (seeks attention less often, grows less tolerant of being petted, wanders away, displays lack of interest in surrounding. Sleep and activity: (sleeps more throughout the day and less at night, reduced activity in a 24 hr. day and increases wandering and pacing. House training: (loss of bladder/bowel indoors, house training habits seem to just be forgotten, signals less to go outside to potty and appears to forget reason for wanting out.)
This disease is as devastating as Alzheimer's is to humans. Personally, I think losing ones memory is the worst thing that can happen to someone or an animal. If your older pet is exhibiting any of these traits, take them to your vet and talk to him or her. Early detection is the key in giving your pet a chance at a better quality of life and maybe a few more years with you as your companion.