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.