Similar to Alzheimer’s Disease in humans, older dogs can also suffer from Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD). The symptoms are similar: forgetfulness, difficulty recognizing family, disorientation, trouble sleeping, and other general behavioral changes. If you notice these symptoms in your pup, it’s always a good idea to speak with your vet.
Studies have shown that there are some factors that make your dog more susceptible to the mental decline associated with CCD:
- Of course aging is a big factor and increases the likelihood of developing CCD.
- Overall poor health can contribute to mental deterioration. Dogs with certain conditions and diseases, particularly with a history of neurological disorders are at higher risk.
- Genetics do come into play as well. Dogs in the AKC groups classified as terrier, toys or non-sporting groups are at a higher risk.
- Individual lifestyle is an important factor in avoiding mental decline. Dogs who stay mentally and physically active, like people, keep their brains strengthened which offsets the effects of aging, and deterioration can be slowed or reversed.
The good news is there is much you can do to help slow or prevent the development of mental decline in your dogs. Because we know that dogs who stay physically active keep their brains active as well, the supervised play groups that are included in a daycare or lodging stay are a fantastic resource. Your dog will receive plenty of mental stimulation, an appropriate amount of physical activity for their age, and interaction with caring staff.
If daycare is not a suitable option for your older pet, getting into a walking routine is a simple way to get your pup moving and can provide plenty of mental stimulation too by encouraging them to explore and sniff around on your walk and changing up the location or route you take often. Dog puzzle toys are also a great way to keep your dog’s brain moving and working right from your home. In addition, Brain games, teaching new tricks, introducing nose work games, and even rotating their toys are all effective methods.