Can my Senior Dog get Alzheimer’s?
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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