Updated 01 August 2013

Canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome

Like humans, as they age dogs slow down and so do their mental functions. But with some dogs this takes the form of a more serious condition, similar to human Alzheimer’s.


Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CCDS) or canine dementia, is an age-related neurodegenerative disease that impairs memory and learning.

·         The symptoms resemble forms of dementia seen in human Alzheimer patients

·         The condition is due to an age-related accumulation of beta amyloid deposits in the brain, which are neurotoxic and impair neurological function by decreasing neurotransmitter concentration.

·         There is no breed or sex predisposition – any older dog can potentially get CCDS.

·         It is usually seen in older dogs – in small breeds, it becomes more likely between 10 to 12 years of age; in large breeds between seven to nine years.

·         The disease is progressive. 

Signs your dog may have CCDS

·         Disorientation: he becomes unfamiliar with a familiar environment.

·         Depression: a loss of interest in activities that the dog previously enjoyed.

·         Loss of house training: previously house-trained dogs may urinate and defecate inside the house.

·         Changes in interaction. For example, a previously exuberant greeting behaviour is reduced, or there may be poor response to commands.

·         Changes in sleep-wake cycles – for example, he sleeps mostly during the day and is active at night. 

Note that the changes observed will depend on the progression of the condition. It’s possible that the above signs may indicate several other conditions apart from canine dementia, so be sure to make an appointment with your vet to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment for CCDS           

·         Environmental management – avoid changes to the home environment and routine, keep to a strict regime, create a secure bed area, use lead control in unfamiliar areas, encourage interaction.

·         Nutrition – discuss the best diet for your dog with your vet. Foods that contain antioxidant supplements, such as Hills D/D.

·         Treatment of any underlying medical problems.

·         Medications that have shown some promise in treating human neurodegenerative conditions , such as the drug seligilline, may be suggested by your vet. Nicergoline and propentofylline are other drugs that may be prescribed for elderly dogs.

·         Pheromone therapy is recommended by some vets.           

CCDS Prognosis

This condition is progressive but it can be slowed and some mental functions may well return to a certain degree with effective treatment and management. Early intervention is the best way to delay the progression. 


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