Ageing is a natural process that affects every cell of the body, including neurons. Advances in human and veterinary medicine have prolonged the life of people and pets and the subsequent development of diseases related to ageing, such as Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD) Syndrome, is becoming more frequent in dogs. This illness, widely reviewed in the paper “Recent developments in Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome” (Pet Behaviour Science, 2016, 1, pp 47-59), is very similar to Alzheimer disease in humans.
The clinical signs produce behavioural changes and can appear from seven years of age. However, they are more frequent in older dogs. Clinical signs vary and can include disorientation, aggressive behaviour towards humans and other animals and a decline in play behaviour. Effected dogs may also experience sleeping problems, urinary and faecal incontinence, hearing loss and anxiety. Behavioural changes are often an indicator of the disease and may include cessation of jumping up behaviour when greeting people, avoidance of the owner, unusual vocalisations, excessive panting, yawning and nose licking. Symptoms may be highly variable between individual dogs with the same illness.
Difficulties in recognizing CCD are associated with dog owners assuming the changes are symptomatic of normal ageing. Therefore vets use questionnaires, for owners to complete, to assess the mental abilities of their dogs.
Upon diagnosis, vets must advise the dog’s owner that although CCD cannot be cured, it is possible to delay its progression and improve the dog’s quality of life. However, the advancement of the illness depends on the individual. Current trends in treatment use specific diets, environmental enrichment and drugs. An antioxidant diet together with dietary supplements appear to be the most effective therapy. In addition, it has been demonstrated that physical exercise, social interactions and brain training help to prevent neuronal loss in the dog´s brain. Finally, the aim of the drug therapy is to restore normal brain function and slow the progression of the illness.
By Alejandro Seisdedos and Alba Galán
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