Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome. What is That?

Miss Molly and I went to the vet Friday and my fears were confirmed: she has Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome or CDS. Some call it Canine Cognitive Dysfunction or CCD. If you haven’t heard of it, well I hadn’t either until recently. But once I began to think Molly’s behavior wasn’t normal, I asked if dogs could suffer from dementia the same as humans and the answer I got was yes.

CDS is similar to Alzheimer’s. From what I’ve read, the earliest signs are changes in sleep patterns, toileting indoors and changes in interactions with humans. As CDS progresses one sees behaviors such as pacing, confusion, looking lost, getting stuck behind or beneath furniture such as tables or chairs, sleeping all day and staying awake at night. As it worsens there’s barking or howling at nothing, the inability to walk or even eat.

I now believe Molly had CDS when I adopted her, but because I didn’t know her, I didn’t know that’s what was happening. The toileting indoors. Her seeming hesitance to bond with me. Her inability to walk through the door of her kennel without my being there to assist her, even though my assistance usually only consisted of me touching her. Her stopping suddenly during a walk for no particular reason. Her acting traumatized after being groomed, even though the groomer is fantastic.

Molly and I walk the block a few times a day, and rarely vary from our path, yet she can easily get stuck and act like she doesn’t know where she is. Sometimes a verbal prompt is all that’s needed to get her moving again. Sometimes I have to bend down and look in her eyes and talk to her. A couple of times I’ve had to pick her up and take her home because she couldn’t snap out of it. She is easily startled and even frightened by the cats, other dogs, people, or sometimes me. Once the metal clasp of the leash clinked against the metal loop of her collar and she freaked out. She paces. She sleeps a lot during the day. She’s started barking for no apparent reason.

There are treatment options. Anipryl (Selegiline Hydrochloride) is a medication for use with CDS that can slow the progression and even temporarily reverse some symptoms in some dogs. It’s not cheap and doesn’t always work. There is a generic version of the drug but I was told that since it is no longer being used to treat humans, it’s not a less expensive option. Other treatment recommendations include dietary changes, vitamins and supplements, acupuncture, time spent outdoors to keep her aware of daylight and dark, and mental stimulation.

I have lots of feelings. I’m angry, because no living creature should suffer such a fate. I’m sad, because Molly seems to be going down quickly. I’m confused about what I should do. I’m fortunate in that my vet had a dog with CDS but no two dogs are the same and I am certainly at a disadvantage in not knowing what she was like in her earlier years. I’m also overwhelmed. I can’t afford a lot of the things I’m reading about or the additional time recommended I spend with her. My vet doesn’t recommend much of that anyway. He does recommend Anipryl so I’m going to try it. I hope it helps her.

I’m having to ask myself tough questions about how far I’m willing to take this with Molly. I have never been one to allow an animal to suffer needlessly, and quality of life is an important factor in my decision-making. But it’s not only her I have to consider. I’ve read some dogs with CDS can become aggressive, so the well-being of the cats is forefront. And then there’s my own well-being. At what point will I say I’ve done all I can reasonably do and enough is enough? Of course in the eyes of the Patriarchy no matter what I do it will never be enough. I’m still learning how not to absorb all that bullshit.

Nobody said life with depression in remission would be free of sorrows, and good thing they didn’t because if they had I’d probably punch them in the nose right about now.

Please keep Miss Molly in your thoughts.

18 thoughts on “Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome. What is That?

  1. I have had depression all my life. I did do the drugs and therapy and it did help. The thing I learned is that one is never cured. It comes at you in a different way. What you learn is how to cope with it. Give Mollie the best life that you can until it is no longer sustainable. Then let her fly free.

  2. I am so sorry to read this. We think Maggie may have had the beginnings of dementia on top of other things as she would get ‘lost’, forget what she’d gone outside to do, would stare at open doorways and seem confused. It does come down to quality of life, and hopefully the medication will help. You can only try and love her. My thoughts are with you.

      1. Maggie was almost 16 when we lost her in November. I’d heard of dementia in dogs, but not actually seen it. All we could do was reassure her and give her lots of love. She slept with me at night, putting herself to bed at 9pm, and would settle until around 6am, but there were some nights when she was restless and had us up all night, letting her out to do nothing, and just stand in the garden looking lost and confused.

  3. You will have the courage to make the right decision – whatever it is – for both of you when the time comes. Thank goodness your vet has had experience with this condition !

  4. As long as you do what you think is right for Molly and your crew, nothing else matters; don’t worry about what others think. Molly is lucky that her senior years are with someone who cares.

  5. The decisions that are our responsibility at times like this are tough ones. I know you’ll do the best you can for her and the cats, so enjoy whatever time you have left with her.

  6. Awww. This is heartbreaking news. These are tough decisions. I am in the same boat of sorts with my big orange boy, Winston Henry who is about 16 or 17 years old with bent back legs, kidney problems (he’s stopped eating the renal food so my husband feed him whatever he likes) and poopy accidents all over the place, and poor grooming. I have to stay at my mom’s to handle her dementia while my husband stays at home with the cat and his own illnesses. It’s not been easy. Then on HIS bad days, my husband will complain about Winston and his problems. If I could take him to my mom’s I would. Although I have been expecting Win to go OTR any minute, we suffered the loss of our big boy–our labpit mix Mr. Freedom back in November. There is this heart about you that I know has made the best life and the best decisions for all your furbabies. They know it and feel it and are blessed by the heart God gave you for them. They would not have their best lives without you.

  7. So sorry to hear about this diagnosis. My first Old English Sheepdog suffered from this condition in his later years. We love them and take care of them as best we can. Good luck with the medication and other decisions down the road.

  8. Sometimes i imagine its just important that someone is there to love them at the end. It takes a very special person to be there when it counts. Stay strong. Cheers,H

What would you like to add to the conversation? Bark at me in a comment!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s