As a dog grows older, their risk of developing cognitive dysfunction increases. Canine cognitive disorder, or CDS, affects a dog’s brain and its ability to function normally.
CDS is typically seen in dogs aged 12 and above. 23% of dogs between 12 and 14 years of age and 41% of dogs older than that develop symptoms of CDS. Though similar in description to a human’s Alzheimer’s, there are some medical differences.
When a dog develops CDS, amyloid plaques build up over their neurons throughout the frontal lobe, which is responsible for controlling learning, memory, and focus. The sticky plaque slowly spread until it affects multiple other areas of the brain, resulting in confusion and spatial awareness decrease. It may also affect the senses, such as hearing and vision.
CDS is diagnosed through exclusion, meaning that a vet has to rule out all other probably causes of symptoms before CDS can be determined. Vets will test for:
- Diabetes mellitus
- Loss of vision
- Loss of hearing
You will also likely have to rule out behavioral issues, such as pain-caused aggression, separation anxiety, and lack of effective housetraining. Once those issues are ruled out, vets will use a DISHAA questionnaire to determine cognitive function.
There is no cure for CDS and the condition is progressive. Management in the form of environmental enrichment, therapy, behavioral support, and medication can help lengthen a dog’s lifespan and slow the progression.
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