Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD)

CCD is Alzheimer's disease in dogs. It affects mostly older dogs. This page looks at the signs and symptoms, prevention, and conventional treatment of CCD. It also looks at how to use natural remedies such as herbs and supplements to prevent and alleviate the symptoms.

Labrador Retriever

Just like Alzheimer's disease in people, canine cognitive dysfunction affects mostly older dogs. It is the age-related deterioration of cognitive abilities characterized by behavioral changes in dogs not caused by a particular physical health problem or reaction to medication.

The exact cause of this syndrome is not clearly known. However, it appears that physical and chemical changes in the dog's body affect the brain function of the dog. Microscopically, it has been found that dogs with cognitive dysfunction have abnormal protein accumulations in their brain, and blood vessels of the brain become visible. Ultimately, these abnormal brain conditions interfere with proper nerve transmission, resulting in behavioral changes in the older dogs.

In a pet owner study, nearly half of all dogs aged 8 years and older showed at least one sign of canine cognitive dysfuntion syndrome. Other studies showed that 48% of dogs 8 years and older, 62% of dogs 11-16 years old, and 100% of dogs 16 years of age and older showed at least one sign of CCD.

Information on Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

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Symptoms of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

The top most common signs and symptoms of CCD include:

  • Sleeping a lot, especially during daytime.
  • Showing a loss of appetite - the dog may even lose interest in his favorite foods or treats.
  • Becoming lethargic and unwilling to socialize, play, or go outside.
  • Having problems regarding elimination - though fully house-trained, the dog frequently eliminates in inappropriate places in the house.
  • Staring at the wall or into space and is easily startled by sounds (e.g. from TV, or children playing).
  • Showing signs of restlessness, e.g. pacing, wandering around aimlessly.
  • Showing signs of aggression even towards family members and friends because the dog cannot recognize them anymore.
  • Showing signs of disorientation - the dog may appear lost or confused in familiar places such as own house or yard; may get stuck in corners or under/behind furniture
  • The dog may appear deaf because he does not respond to his own name or learned commands. He may also have difficulty learning new commands and tricks.

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Conventional Treatment for Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

The drug Anipryl has now been approved by the FDA for treating canine cognitive dysfunction. Most dogs are prescribed one tablet per day. While effective in some dog patients, the drug can cause some side effects in others, including appetite loss, increased water intake, vomiting, anemia, as well as signs of confusion, disorientation and restlessness - symptoms that we want to get rid of in the first time!

If no side effects are shown, the dog has to keep taking this medication for the rest of his life.

As this drug Anipryl is rather expensive and may cause side effects, if your older dog is showing signs of CCD, you may want to consider natural alternative remedies.

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Natural Remedies for Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

Quite a few herbs and nutritional supplements can be used to help prevent and improve CCD. They include:

  • Choline: Choline is an organic compound, classified as a water-soluble essential nutrient and is usually grouped within the Vitamin B complex. Choline is a "building block" needed to produce the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, responsible for mediating brain functions such as memory, intelligence and mood. A deficiency in acetylcholine is believed to be a contributing factor in senility in general and Alzheimer's disease in particular. A clinical study has found that choline supplementation was effective for reversing signs of cognitive dysfunction in both dogs and cats. Recommended dosage is 50 to 100 mg daily for a 50-pound dog.
  • Ginkgo: The herb ginkgo is widely considered as an "antiaging herb". It has proved effective in treating Alzheimer's disease in both people and canine. Ginkgo enhances both long-term and short-term memory in puppies and senior dogs alike.
  • Rosemary: Rosemary is another effective herb that can help prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine in the brain. In addition, rosemary is an important antioxidant.
  • Bacopa: Commonly known as Waterhyssop, bacopa is an Ayurvedic herb and has been used for a long time in India as a brain tonic to enhance memory and concentration.
  • Gotu Kola: This is a traditional herb of both Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, and has antioxidant properties that can protect the body from damage by free radicals. It is particularly useful for memory problems and stress-related disorders.
  • Vitamin B6: Vitamin B6 has antioxidant properties because it inhibits free radical production.
  • Resveratrol: Resveratrol is a type of polyphenol. Polyphenols are antioxidants that protect cells against damage from free radicals and therefore have anti-aging properties.
  • Flaxseed Oil: Flaxseed oil is beneficial for older dogs as it is an excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acids, the "good fats" that have anti-inflammatory properties and can reduce cholesterol and prevent blood clots.

Puppies

Natural Products to Manage CCD

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Preventing Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

If you are the parent of an older dog (7 years or older), and are concerned about the possibility of your dog developing canine cognitive dysfunction, please take action now! Prevention is better than cure. One of the most important thing to do is to minimize inflammation in older dogs (minimizing inflammation may prevent or decrease the incidence of CCD as well as many other disorders, including cancer).

Take these steps now to minimize inflammation and prevent CCD:

  • Begin giving your dog choline and other anti-aging supplements as suggested in the previous section.
  • Begin giving your dog anti-inflammatory supplements (flaxseed oil, antioxidants).
  • Switch to a natural diet if you have not already done so.
  • Minimize vaccinations.
  • Minimize or stop using chemical flea and tick products. Switch to natural flea and tick products instead.

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