6 Tips for Caring for Dogs With Canine Cognitive Dysfunction
Often when we think of cognitive dysfunction, we do not imagine our cute pets at home. However, our furry friends may suffer from canine cognitive dysfunction, or CCD, similar to dementia. Similar to dementia, there is no known cure; but there are ways to improve the quality of life for your dog. Here are six great tips to give your dog more happiness through their suffering.
Follow a daily routine
Dogs are similar to humans in many ways, especially regarding the benefits of a consistent routine. While it is important for all dogs to stick to a routine, it can really go a long way with dogs that suffer from CCD. Creating a pattern lets them know when you will be home, when they get fed, go out, etc. When a dog suffers from CCD, it can often raise anxiety in the animal, especially when their routine is not stable. To help reduce night-time confusion, it is important to stick to a schedule for your dogs walking and sleeping time. Even scheduled potty breaks are essential. When you cannot follow a schedule perfectly, make sure potty breaks are around the same time if possible. This will reduce the number of incidents made inside by your dog and help them stay calm. We recommend coming up with a schedule that everyone in the family knows to follow.
Avoid home changes
Along with anxiety comes lots of confusion from CCD and even the likelihood to suffer from blindness. With added vision loss, it becomes difficult for dogs to get around the home safely. Keeping furniture and floor layouts the same will help your pup feel comfortable getting around without more risk of accidents. Aside from furniture, you should avoid lots of clutter in the home to minimize trip hazards. When decorating the house, especially around the holidays, ensure that you are keeping items off of the floor. Another way to help your dog feel comfortable is to keep their food, water, and bed in a spot they find easily accessible. At a certain point, your dog might become unstable walking. To help with this problem, keep non-slip mats on slippery floors and surfaces. The more ways you can help your dog stay safe, the better!
Sadly, even with keeping a consistent schedule and avoiding home changes, accidents are inevitable. Oftentimes this can become very frustrating, but it is important to remember this is not your dog’s fault. Their accidents or outbreaks are not due to bad behavior but due to a cognitive decline. Due to CCD, a lot of dogs begin to forget people or get nervous around new people. Remind your guests about the situation your dog is facing and try to keep everyone calm. Always allow your dog to get comfortable enough to greet your guests instead of having guests crowd around them. Patience can go a long way with your CCD dog. Remember, they are struggling and in pain.
Discuss your dog’s health with your veterinarian
There is no cure for CCD, but there are certainly treatment plans that are worth speaking to your veterinarian about. Taking medication or supplements will not make your dog brand new again, but it can certainly help their comfort levels. Adding medication, supplements, and diet changes will certainly help your dog stay happier in their senior years. Most veterinarians recommend adding antioxidant-rich supplements to your dogs diet to provide “brain energy” to your pup. When a dog suffers from CCD, they are less able to use their glucose for energy, so helping boost levels through medication can work wonders. As for diet, it can significantly help after around 90 days, shows some studies. Certain dog foods are available, such as Hill’s Prescription Diet b/d and Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets NC NeuroCare that are known to help dogs with CCD.
Use gentle exercise
Even though your dog’s physical abilities certainly will not be at their peak when suffering CCD, it is still important to ensure they get exercise. Similar to humans, physical activity can reduce anxiety and help slow cognitive decline. One easy way to keep your dog in shape is by taking slow, short walks. This allows your dog to move at a comfortable pace, while still keeping moving. Practice your patience while they take time to sniff around, which provides brain stimulation—walking your dog during the day instead of early morning or late night, helping them soak up sunlight and reduce nocturnal barking or daytime sleepiness. Any and all exercise will help your dog with their CCD.
Stimulate their brains
You certainly can teach an old dog new tricks, which is great for helping CCD. Without being about to do strenuous exercise, it is time for your old dog to practice mental stimulation in different ways. It is easy to still have fun with your dog by hiding treats, stuffing snuffle mats, or playing with squeaky toys! All of these games can help stimulate your dog’s brain, in turn helping them relax. Even when games are short and less intense, they are still important. Not only will you be helping your dog, but it is a chance to keep the strong bond between you and your pet in their final years. Keep your own happiness drawn to your pet, as well as their own.
By making these gradual changes, your pet will become much more comfortable during their years with CCD. Start to keep things simple like a simple home, a simple routine, and simple toys. Most importantly, take time to keep your bond with your loved pet. If you are concerned that your pet might be suffering from CCD, call your veterinarian to consult your next steps. Although it comes with emotional distress and sadness, do everything you can to improve your pet’s quality of life in their “twilight years.”