Is Your Dog Suffering From Canine Cognitive Dysfunction?

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD) is the degeneration of mental function and physical activity with age and is comparable to Alzheimer’s disease in humans.

Nearly all species are affected by age, both physically and mentally, although for reasons still not entirely apparent, some individuals are affected more than others.

If you have a young dog, it is highly unlikely they will be suffering from CCD, but over the age of 8, the risk of CCD increases greatly. If you are worried about whether your dog may be suffering from CCD, you can check out our CCD questionnaire (based on work by Salvin et al, which has a 98.9% diagnostic accuracy).

What is Canine Cognitive Dysfunction?

As mentioned earlier, CCD is similar to Alzheimer’s disease in humans. The mental stability of a dog suffering from CCD is reduced over time and can be both confusing for the dog and stressful for the owner.

It is believed that CCD is a result of damage caused to the brain by free radicals. Young dogs are able to produce free radical-neutralising antioxidants, however, with age, the ability to produce beneficial antioxidants decreases. Because older dogs aren’t as capable of producing antioxidants, the brain is more susceptible to the damaging effects of antioxidants.

It is important to remember that CCD is not a life threatening disease and with certain lifestyle changes, it is possible for your dog to continue living a long and happy life.

What are the Symptoms of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction?

There are certain giveaway signs that can help you identify CCD early. We’ve made it easy for you to identify these signals with our canine cognitive dysfunction questionnaire.

The distinctive symptoms of CCD include:

  • Increased restlessness and wandering with an apparent lack of purpose
  • Decreased ability to recognise familiar people and objects
  • Behavioural alterations, such as reduced willingness to play
  • Interrupted sleep and restlessness during normal sleeping hours
  • Increased house-soiling despite previous house training

It is nearly impossible to diagnose CCD before symptoms develop and as such, the main method of diagnosis is the presence of the above symptoms.

Can I Treat Canine Cognitive Dysfunction?

If caught early, it is possible to slow down the damaging effect ageing has on the brain. Because a major cause of CCD is believed to be the lack of natural antioxidant production, a quality antioxidant supplement can help to combat damaging free radicals.

Most owners are unaware of CCD and put any behavioural changes in their dog down to ageing – which is essentially the primary cause. However it is not as well known that with preventative treatment the progress of CCD can be greatly reduced.

The most effective treatment against CCD is a preventative treatment, given before the signs of CCD become obvious.

Therefore the greatest treatment against CCD is knowledge. Owners must learn to recognise the symptoms.

What Can I Do to Help?

If your dog is older, typically 7/8 years and above – be sure to make regular check up appointments with your vet. Also, take the time to fill out a canine cognitive dysfunction questionnaire, such as ours – these questionnaires will give you a score from 1 to 50 or above. A higher score indicates an increased likelihood of CCD onset.

Scores of less than 25 are normal, whilst scores of 50 or above indicate the onset of CCD. An intermediate score of 25-50 is considered a ‘high normal score’ and indicates a good time to start preventative treatment. These scores are worked out automatically by our questionnaire.

Your Thoughts

Were you aware of CCD? Have you ever had to deal with it? Have you tried any preventative treatments or did you just stick with lifestyle changes?

Let us know if you try our questionnaire – we think you’ll find it a useful tool to arm you with the knowledge you need to identify CCD early. Please share this article on Facebook and Twitter and let’s help make dog owners around the globe aware of CCD.

If you are worried about CCD or are looking for further advice, feel free to get in touch or leave a comment below.

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Questionnaire adapted from: Salvin HE, McGreevy PD, Sachdev PS, Valenzuela MJ. The canine cognitive dysfunction rating scale (CCDR): a data-driven and ecologically relevant assessment tool. (2010) Vet J. 2011 Jun;188(3):331-6. Epub 2010 Jun 12.

About James Watts

BSc Bioveterinary Science. Editor of PetSci. When I'm not writing, learning, discussing, or reading about animals, you know it's the weekend! Currently developing PetSci HealthTrak, the fast and easy way to monitor your pet's weight and calorie intake. HealthTrak offers a simple way to track your pet's progress, helping them achieve a healthy weight and a long, happy life.

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  1. Thank you for this article! It was very practical and useful. I like how you explained that antioxidants can be a solution for prevention. I will pass this post along to friends who have aging dogs.

  2. Good article, especially with the inclusion of the 2 questionnaires. I don’t think a lot of people think about cognitive function, and its decline, in dogs.

  3. Cherie K. Miller (@Impeeved)

    Thank you for sharing this in depth information on a little known dog disease.

    I’m stopping by on the blog hop today – cheers!

  4. Great post! I’d never heard of CCD before.

  5. Lots of great information, thanks!

  6. I’ve had one old terrier mix who presented with most of the symptoms listed above after I had had him about a year. I finally sent him to heaven when he seemed hopelessly lost in this world. Thanks for a most informative article. Found you through the Saturday Blog Hop and glad I did.

  7. This condition makes me so sad! Ank you for covering it! It is true like you say that it can be managed, and it is not a fatal condition, but it can be heartbreaking to see your pet go through it.

  8. Hi my vet has stated my dog has CCD but looking at the questionnaire he is only suffering from the restlessness and paces mostly at night. He is a 10.5yr old American Bulldog very physically fit and his bloods were perfect. However I have noticed he can be fast asleep and suddenly wake with a cry/yelp and he actually looks like he is suffering some type of cramp and he seems to have to walk it off. After an episode he is very anxious and will continue to pace. He will then settle for a while then get up and pace again. He has been very restless for over a week now and I have seen two different vets. One gave him an anti inflammatory and the other said he had CCD and prescribed Vitofyllin. He has been taking this since Sunday and no changes at the moment. I am very distressed seeing my dog acting this way and not being able to help him or know exactly what is going on. Do I need to get another opinion? Do more tests?

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