4 Signs of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

Managing CDS

Consider switching your dog to a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids and other antioxidants. Some good studies have demonstrated that antioxidants may enhance brain health.

Your veterinarian may prescribe a medication that affects attentiveness and the sleep-wake cycle. The drug can alter concentrations of brain chemicals, changing behavior for the better. If you are alert to changes in behavior and get your dog started on medication early, he may respond better to it than if it is started after the changes are established.

Give medication time to work. You may not see results until your dog has been on it for five or six weeks. If you don’t see any changes after two months, however, it’s probably not helping. My colleague Nicholas Dodman, a board-certified veterinary behaviorist and professor of animal behavior at Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in North Grafton, Mass., says that one-third of dogs respond extremely well to selegiline, one-third respond usefully well, and one-third don’t show any improvement.

Ask your veterinarian about pain relief if your dog has arthritis.

Exercise your old dog’s brain with play and training. One study has shown that CDS progresses more slowly in dogs who receive obedience training in combination with a diet fortified with antioxidants than it does in dogs who receive neither.

Maintain a routine so your dog eats or goes for walks at the same times every day. Create a new, interactive routine by giving him a treat at specific times of the day so he learns to anticipate it.

Quality of Life

As your dog ages, your relationship with him will change, and you may even find that caring for him in his golden years strengthens the bond between you. When you understand the changes that accompany aging and work with your veterinarian to manage them, your dog’s senior years can be rewarding for both of you.

Your dog can have good quality of life with CDS, but it is a progressive disease. Until you start seeing signs that your dog is simply existing and no longer interacting or responding, no longer recognizes you or other family members, loses his appetite, or is so confused that his well-being is at risk, treasure your time together.


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