Can my Senior Dog get Alzheimer’s?

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Unfortunately, the answer is yes, they can. The disorder, called Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD) in dogs is very similar to the human Alzheimer’s disease. A recent study at the University of Sydney showed that by age 15, over 40% of dogs display at least some of these symptoms.
 
Symptoms can include:

  • Getting lost in familiar places.
  • Being unable to find their way within the house or to the dog door.
  • No longer recognizing family members.
  • Not responding to their name or whistle.
  • Wandering in the house, pacing or getting stuck in corners.
  • Lose of control of bodily functions in the house.
  • Sleeps more often.
  • No longer seeks attention and does not interact with the family as before.
  • May become irritable.

 

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These symptoms are scary and upsetting to the dog and to the dog owner. Our dog Tino, by the time he was 14 years old was displaying almost all of these symptoms. He was also blind, so it was hard to tell which were related more the blindness and which to CCD. It’s very hard because the dogs are still health and eating well, but their mind is shutting down.
 
Just as there is no ‘cure’ for human Alzheimer’s, there is no cure for CCD either. But it may be possible to delay it and slow it down with a drug called Anipryl (selegiline), It has been used on dogs and found to dramatically improve CCD symptoms and their quality of life. (The drug is used in humans to treat Parkinson’s disease).
 
What can you do for your dog if you suspect CCD?
 
First and foremost, make a trip to the vet and rule out any other underlying physical condition that may be at the root of the new behaviors. Then make a plan for easing your dog’s life.  You may or may not decide on giving the drugs, but there are certainly other things you can do to help your senior dog live more comfortably:
 

  1. Try not to change any routines. The more familiar with the daily activities, people, places & things, the less there is for your dog to adjust to.
  2. Make sure they are getting proper nutrition, fluids and nutrients. While lack of appetite is not necessarily a symptom, your dog may just forget to eat or drink, so monitor their consumption.
  3. Exercise is still critical. Get your dog up and moving even if it’s for a short walk. Try to keep their brain active with mental exercises as well. Treat dispensing toys are great for this.
  4. There are many supplements available that claim to help boost brain activity – in humans as well as pets. Be sure and research them carefully before you decide to give it to your pet.
  5. Get to your vet regularly – probably 2X a year for check ups so that they can monitor your dogs condition and recommend any appropriate treatments.

 
We all hope our dogs will live forever even though we know that they won’t. You need to be prepared for the inevitable decline and adjust your expectations accordingly. Maggie and Jack are both 10 this year (at least we think they are that age). Jack recently developed some incontinence. The vet called it hormone-responsive-incontinence and he has been taking some medication for it and it has helped a great deal. And just today, Maggie’s arthritis started acting up after an especially long walk this morning, so she’ll be on rest and Rimadyl for a few days. The only other aging symptom I see in them is that they both sleep A LOT. But having had 3 seniors before them, I know what signs to watch for and how to adjust our living conditions so they can live happy and healthy for as long as possible.
 

Additional Resources:

Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome in Dogs (CDS) Or Dog Alzheimer’s
Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome in Dogs
Pet Alzheimer’s Disease – Is Your Dog or Cat Showing Signs?
Older Dogs, Aged Minds: Dealing With Dog Dementia
 

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38 Comments

  1. Oh, I hope Jack and Maggie aren’t feeling too bad. They are so sweet. I’m glad they seem to be doing really well overall. Ace sure sleeps a lot too. He’s always been laid back but these days even more so!
    Lindsay recently posted…Feeding your dog a raw diet – my interview with a vet and breederMy Profile

  2. Aww, I hope Maggie and Jack feel better. I had read once that dogs who are stimulated more tend to have a lower incidence of CCD. The article I was reading talked about constantly mixing is experiences and challenging the mind. Do you happen to know if that’s true?
    It’s Dog or Nothing recently posted…9 Reasons to Adopt a Senior PetMy Profile

    • Well, we’re no scientists, but it is recommended to keep their brain’s active – just like with humans, so it would make sense.
      mkob recently posted…Can my Senior Dog get Alzheimer’s?My Profile

      • I was going to ask the same thing. If you find any research on the subject I hope you’ll write about it.

        I read, write, do crossword puzzles and sudoku because I enjoy it. But I also hope it will keep my mind flexible. I’m always wondering what the comparable activities are for dogs.

        I’m guessing nose work, food toys, agility and other sports, and walks in novel places.
        Pamela recently posted…Dogs Don’t Cure DepressionMy Profile

        • That’s my thinking too – anything that stimulates their brain. I’ll do a little research and see what else might be out their specifically on mental exercise for dogs.
          mkob recently posted…Can my Senior Dog get Alzheimer’s?My Profile

  3. All my previous dogs lived long – to just one side or the other of 16, and none of them had any issues like this. However, my Suki is 13-1/2 and starting to show signs like some of these. She was diagnosed with vestibular disease a while back, too, so I know that may have something to do with some of her behavior. Also, she has lost most of her hearing with old age. Again, not something I’ve ever had to deal with, with any of my previous dogs. That in and of itself isn’t an issue, and since another of my dogs was born deaf, we are used to dealing with deaf dogs.

    • Thanks for sharing your experiences. Sorry that Suki is having some issues. I think the symptoms are easy to manage if you recognize them and adjust accordingly. Certainly adapting to deafness takes patience and perseverance.
      mkob recently posted…Can my Senior Dog get Alzheimer’s?My Profile

  4. I wonder if having senior dogs do some sort of “thinking” activity helps to delay symptoms? I know they recommend humans do things to keep their minds sharp. I wonder if it is the same for dogs?
    2 brown dawgs recently posted…Thursday Barks And Bytes–Training With FriendsMy Profile

  5. Hope Jack and Maggie are feeling better soon. Great post. I’m sure that years ago my dog Benji had alzheimers. The vet suspected it and we do have some funny stories about him. At the time he was 14 and battling liver cancer, so we never went further with tests and treatment.
    Sue recently posted…We Have Winners! Saved by Gracie Dog Book GiveawayMy Profile

  6. My Kissy had mid-stage CCD, as well as her renal failure, when I let her go to the bridge at 15-1/2. Poor girl had to be on a leash in the yard because we didn’t have a fence — when she was younger, she would just stay with me or keep an eye on where I was, but as she got older, her eyesight and hearing got worse. Luckily, now we have a fence for the dogs and I always watch them in the yard anyway. Hope Jack & Maggie are feeling better soon!
    Callie, Shadow, and Ducky\’s Mom recently posted…Perfect Rainy DayMy Profile

  7. Thanks for this post. With my mom still battling dementia I am fully aware of how this disease looks. The thought of this happening to dogs frightens me because now Harley is all I have left. He’ll be six this fall, and I watch him like a hawk 🙂 Please continue to take excellent care of both Jack and Maggie, I feel as if we all have this special bond with each other’s dogs through our blogging world, and I don’t want anything to happen to anyones pet. Have a great weekend Slim and as always “thanks for being you!”

    • That’s so true about the bond we share. And it helps to know others care and look out for our special family members. Please continue to watch Harley like a hawk…I would be too.
      mkob recently posted…Can my Senior Dog get Alzheimer’s?My Profile

  8. Thanks for a great post, even when it is not easy to read about such topics. Information is important to be prepared for all cases. The sad thing is that ccd is not easy to discover and I wish we will find a cure to help people and pets.
    easy rider recently posted…Will You Help Me Network for Tigger?: Thursday PurrsdayMy Profile

  9. I hope all of us have many more good years ahead!

  10. Thank you for this. 🙂 Mine, as you know, are seniors. Who knows what the future holds?
    Flea recently posted…Bedtime StoryMy Profile

  11. Really interesting and important read. Thanks for sharing this info, I was not aware of CCD before this.

  12. What a great post, thank you for sharing it on the blog hop!!

    Sampson just turned 10 and Delilah will be 9 in December (we guess.) It’s good to know what to be aware of as our pets age, especially since they can’t tell us what is going on.

    I do hope Maggie is feeling better after a few days rest. Have you considered Adequan injections? I’ve heard they are quite helpful for arthritis, it may be something we pursue with Sampson if the acupuncture becomes ineffective.
    Jodi recently posted…Sampson’s First MuttgaritaMy Profile

    • Maggie is much better today. We gave Adequan to both Sally and Becca and it did help. I don’t think Maggie is there yet.
      mkob recently posted…Can my Senior Dog get Alzheimer’s?My Profile

  13. I love the quote in that photo. SO true!
    It would be so hard to see your beloved senior pet with this 🙁
    I haven’t had any experience on the subject, but I can only imagine.
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!
    Jenna,Mark “HuskyCrazed” Drady recently posted…4 MUST HAVE dog commands!My Profile

    • Only Tino has suffered from it – and since he was blind, many of the behaviors we were already familiar with. The good thing is they don’t seem to care.
      mkob recently posted…Can my Senior Dog get Alzheimer’s?My Profile

  14. That is scary. Hopefully, Bentley and I will grow old and incontinent together. We will just buy diapers in bulk! LOL! Rimadyl cannot be given to certain breeds. I had a horrible experience with the drug and one of my dogs. I am not a fan, but I know it helps most breeds.
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…School Supply Dangers ~ Blogville Safety WeekMy Profile

    • Yes, they usually watch their kidney and liver values pretty closely when on it. My dogs have done okay, although I’ve used Deramax too.
      mkob recently posted…Can my Senior Dog get Alzheimer’s?My Profile

  15. Aw, hugs to Maggie and Jack. Old dogs are special indeed. Thanks for this article. My sister has a cat that is 18 and she has exhibited signs of dementia for a few years now. Bless her.
    Rama’s Mama recently posted…Obedience Time–Equipment & Watch CommandMy Profile

  16. It’s tough watching them get old! But it’s still preferable to losing them at a young age, which happened with our first two dogs. Kobi was our first that lived long enough to show aging. He at least seemed pretty good mentally up to the end (he slept A LOT, and VERY soundly). Both girls will be 10 soon as well but other than Sheba’s arthritis, which has been good this summer, neither is really showing their age much. Knock wood….I know it’s only a matter of time, and I’m glad to have the knowledge of CCD, so we know what to watch for.
    Jan K recently posted…#WOOF Support – Working Towards TravelingMy Profile

    • BOL…Maggie sleeps so soundly – I literally have to shake her awake for a few seconds sometimes. Jack is usually up like a shot, but not Maggie.
      mkob recently posted…Can my Senior Dog get Alzheimer’s?My Profile

      • One time Kobi was sleeping so soundly, my hubby couldn’t even rouse him. He yelled to me…we thought he was really gone, but he finally responded to me!
        Jan K recently posted…#WOOF Support – Working Towards TravelingMy Profile

  17. Interesting article, SlimDoggy!
    Rachele Baker, DVM recently posted…A Fun and Relaxing Day in California’s Napa ValleyMy Profile

  18. On the bright side, Katie doesn’t get the car keys, so she can’t lose those if she starts having issues. We’ve had a few neighbor dogs whose minds were gone and they would wander aimlessly not knowing where they belonged. So sad to see. So far Katie is real alert and seems to have her mind in order, but we do keep a close eye on her.
    Emma recently posted…A game of Rope Tug Anyone?My Profile

  19. This was a very informational post which isn’t talked about much. Thank you for sharing.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…Thursday Barks And Bytes~Are Chesapeakes MeanMy Profile

  20. I didn’t know dogs could get it, it’s a devastating disease to deal with. Your dogs are doing amazingly well for being 10; as stated above I think the mental stimulation probably helps with brain activity and functionality. I know there’s a lot of evidence of it in humans it could very well be true for our canine friends.

    It is rough knowing they aren’t going to live forever, even though we hope they will. Preparing is tough but we can’t beat the inevitable. Thank you for sharing.
    Jen Jelly recently posted…Dogs To Detect Breast Cancer In New Research TrialMy Profile

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