Canine Cognitive Disease

7th Jun, 2022

Written by Dr Candice Cooper of Gardens Pet Clinic & Spa

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD) can be described as the dog form of Alzheimer’s disease where the brain gradually degenerates and abnormal or senile behaviours are seen. This disease is common in dogs nine years and older as it’s caused by age-related changes to the brain – the accumulation of beta-amyloid protein, reduced blood flow, and dysfunctional brain cells/neurons. These changes reduce the brain’s ability to remember, process information, and control bodily functions.

What are the signs that your dog may have CCD?

  • Aimless wandering

  • Anxiety and confusion

  • Accidents in the house

  • Pacing, particularly at night

  • Decreased interaction with loved ones

  • Not recognising familiar people/pets/commands

  • Reduced interest in food/playing/walking/socialising

  • Restlessness, waking up at night and sleeping more during the day

  • Reduced activity

  • Increased vocalisation, particularly at night

  • Going to unusual places or getting lost in the home and other familiar places

  • Inability to locate food that’s been dropped on the floor

How do you know if your dog has CCD?

Your veterinarian will diagnose CCD based on the information you give us, the signs mentioned above, and our findings on a physical exam.

Blood and urine tests may need to be run to make sure there aren’t other underlying diseases that could cause similar signs. An MRI may also be necessary to look for any abnormal changes in the brain.

How do you treat CCD?

CCD is a degenerative disease and, unfortunately, there’s no cure, BUT it can be managed and slowed down, particularly if caught early! This is done through a multi-modal approach:

  • A diet high in antioxidants and fatty acids to help protect healthy brain cells

  • Antioxidant and fatty acid supplements can also be given

  • Prescription medication to help neurons communicate and increase blood flow in the brain

  • Cognitive enrichment: exercise, social interaction, new toys and teaching new commands can help improve brain function

What to expect if your dog has CCD?

CCD is progressive and there’s no cure. However, if diagnosed early and a dedicated treatment plan is implemented, most dogs can live a full-quality lifespan. Dogs diagnosed in the advanced stages of the disease have a poorer prognosis, and most are euthanised within two years.

Prevention is better than cure (or treatment)!

I’m sure we can all agree that we’d much rather be able to prevent this incurable disease – and there is a lot we can do:

  • Feeding a balanced and nutritious diet from a young age to assist healthy brain development

  • Regular exercise and socialisation from a young age, frequently providing new toys and teaching your dog new commands or tricks all provide the enrichment that will help improve cognitive function

  • Regular, 6-12 monthly (depending on your dog’s age and health status) veterinary health checks – as mentioned, CCD is best managed when diagnosed early!

For any further advice or assistance, get in contact with Gardens Pet Clinic & Spa, call 021 461 4333, WhatsApp 072 722 5015 or email to You can follow them on Facebook or on Instagram @gardenspetclinicandspa.



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