Caring for a Dog with Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome

Caring for a dog with CDS is different every day.

I started Molly on Selegiline 5 mg on the 10th. I was told it could take a month for changes to become apparent. I thought the meds weren’t helping until she happened to spit out her pill one day and I didn’t notice right away. That night she was in full-blown Sundowner’s, awake, pacing and agitated. I now make a point of watching to ensure she actually takes the pill.

What I had hoped the Selegiline would do that it hasn’t is help with her periods of disorientation. The other morning it was raining when we got up and went outside and Molly didn’t know what to do. She kept walking from the porch to the carport looking for a place where it wasn’t raining. Eventually we went back inside, but she remained restless so back outside we went, where the scene repeated itself. The third time we went out I picked her up and plopped her in the yard. I know it sounds cruel, but she peed and then seemed less upset.

Walks are always an adventure. Sometimes she barks at every person she sees; other times she hardly notices them. Sometimes other dogs don’t phase her; other times they scare her and she will turn around to avoid them even though they’re in a fenced yard. Like any other dog, Molly likes to stop and take in the smells. The difference is she sometimes will sniff for a very long time, which makes me think she forgets what she’s doing.

Molly wasn’t afraid of the cats when she first came to live here, but now she avoids them and hides either in my bedroom or bathroom if she’s not in her room. She has never been fond of Biddy and/or Leroy joining us when we walk, but lately she acts terrified of them. I try to make it so they don’t tag along.

It’s hardest for me to deal with her zoning out. We can be walking at a nice clip and she’ll suddenly stop and look around like she has no clue what she’s doing. Sometimes I can reorient her with a familiar word or a whistle. It may do the trick or simply get her moving for a few steps and then we’re back to her zoned out. I understand what is happening but in all honesty it frustrates the hell out of me. A few times she was so lost that I picked her up and carried her home. I prefer not to do that because I hope the familiarity of walking the same route several times a day will help her, even though I know it really doesn’t.

You can see in the first photo I waited far too long to groom her. It was avoidance on my part, I know. Her last grooming appointment was terrifying for her, so I kept putting off scheduling another. Finally I bought some trimmers and did it myself. Not a professional job, but at least she doesn’t look like a runaway tumbleweed.

I am constantly questioning myself as to Molly’s quality of life. Today Molly is eating, toileting, and sleeping OK. Most of her walks, while stressful, are manageable. But the fear I see in her face hurts my heart. I tell myself that as long as she sees me as a refuge, that’s enough. But I wonder if it truly is. And what about the day when she no longer recognizes me? What will I do then?

I am in a Facebook group of people with dogs who have CDS. I read how far some of the dogs have progressed and I don’t think I could go that far with Molly, but others might say the same of what I’m doing now. Truthfully, if I wasn’t working from home I don’t think I could manage her in her current state.

All I know is I’m taking it one day at a time, and today is not the day.


25 thoughts on “Caring for a Dog with Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome

  1. My heart goes out to you, CDS isn’t easy to manage. My old dog Millie suffered from it for over a year before her quality of life became so poor that I had to let her go, and I well remember the endless discussions with myself and others about when was the right time.

  2. Know where you’re coming from Jen. Maggie had several of these zone outs, staring into space, restlessness, and forgetting what she was supposed to do. CDS wasn’t diagnosed though, but at almost 16, we knew the days were running out and there were several other things going on.
    I so wanted to wake up one morning and she didn’t, but we had to make the call. That was four months ago and we miss her terribly. IMO it does come down to quality of life, and we loved her so much, we let her go. It doesn’t make it easier, doesn’t take the pain away, and we are still second guessing ourselves. Our vet let us stay, and she was held, stroked and loved to the last second.

    1. I’ve been fortunate that I’ve always been with my furry family members in the end. I’m grateful for vets who will give us that space and time and not get overwhelmed with my tears and my runny nose.

      1. Hubby asked our vet if he could tranq me as I was so anxious when Maggie was going in for her mammary strip in 2015. We have been lucky with our vets as they have put our baby first, but happy to deal with me as well.

  3. Our Lucy is on Selegiline. Honestly, I have no idea if it helps either. She is more engaged than not but I feel similarly when it is clear she is anxious and lost. But food remains a motivator and when I see that spring in her step or sparkle in her eye, I feel selfishly better. But I worry that I don’t know how to really read the signs.


    1. Does anyone? I know it’s hard to read a human’s dementia, much less a dog’s. But today I gave Molly a bath and she didn’t freak out. She’s a bit of a diva so I know this is a good day for her.

  4. We wish there was something we could do or say to make things better, Jen. Please just know that we care, and that we are grateful for you, and for your love and care for Molly.

  5. If Molly keeps spitting out her pills, try inserting them into a hotdog or at least part of a hotdog. If they’re large pills, cut or crush them up before inserting them into the meat. I had to do that with my last dog when the vet put him on heart medication. Either way, Jen, please keep us updated.

    1. I’ll keep that in mind. I’ve been using Pill Pockets; I had some left over from when Buddy was taking meds and she seemed to like them so I’ve kept it up. If she one day decides they’re not good anymore, she’ll get a hotdog. Thanks!

  6. This is a tough condition to manage. It’s harder for you than it is for her. Quality of life is subjective but I’m sure you’ll see when it’s not part of her day to day. Good luck.
    P.S. Nice grooming job. It gets easier with experience. 🙂

  7. Sounds like doggy dementia. Sounds like you are doing a great job. Adding value & comfort to her life while she is still here. You are a saint. The world needs more like you. 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