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Canine Cognitive Dysfunction/Disorder

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  • Canine Cognitive Dysfunction/Disorder

    Hi everyone - I'm not a regular poster, lost my horse to an accident last year and subsequent life issues have kept me from riding altogether, so I lurk and live vicariously through other horse people. Thank God for dogs though, right?

    Anyway, I have a JRT that is nearly 16. He lost his hearing last year and his vision is now limited. Recently I've noticed more odd behavior - relentless pacing if I'm not actually holding him, accidents in the house, staring at walls, getting "stuck" in corners - things like that. Some googling turned up this canine cognitive dysfunction, doggie Alzheimer's it seems. Does anyone have experience with this?

    I've also started questioning the whole quality of life thing with him. I don't think he gets much joy out of life; he eats fine, is excited still about food and treats but that's it. Walks stress him out, and generally if he's not touching me in some way his anxiety gets pretty intense. How do you gauge quality of life with a disease like this? Any words of wisdom?

    Thanks in advance. It's almost one year to the day of losing my horse, so I'm feeling extra verklempt at watching my guy decline so.

  • #2
    It may be canine cognitive disorder, but I'd have a vet do a full good neurologic exam on him as well. Sometimes there are obvious signs on a neuro exam to a vet that you won't pick up on that can detect an actual problem/condition. Blindness can be a sign, for instance. If he's not blind from cataracts, he shouldn't just "go blind" without another reason -- retinal degeneration, etc. is all detectable on a physical exam. I think much of the anxiety you describe is from losing his eyesight.


    • #3
      Staring at the walls can also be cushings, which is a little different in dogs than in horses. Your dog could actually have dementia, it does happen, but it could be something else.

      My dog is currently at the vet being tested for cushings -- she actually had old dog vestibular, which is an inner ear thing (I fell down and I can't get up, is basicallly what happened), but the workup for that showed she has a tumor on her adrenal gland. Although my dog has not had any staring issues, that is one of the symptoms of cushings, and sometimes it is that subtle.

      The total workups on an old dog are really expensive BUT they will give you a very good idea if you have something treatable or not. I went to the vet teaching hospital for my workup, because they have very sophisticated diagnostics.

      Good luck.


      • Original Poster

        He does have cataracts, which has limited his vision, but he's definitely not totally blind yet. He can still tell when I'm carrying a treat. Totally deaf, apparently, but still some vision.

        He had a full workup done earlier this year in prep for some surgery and everything tested out just fine, but there wasn't a neurological exam. My other dogs need some work done (bloodwork, dental, etc.) so I guess I'll try to squeeze some work on him in between all that. So expensive to have two senior dogs and one on the cusp of being a senior! All part of that lifetime commitment though.