Just like humans with dementia, dogs frequently show signs of cognitive decline or dysfunction (CCD) as they age. In fact, CCD is the canine equivalent of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). With both diseases, neurotoxic proteins accumulate in the brain and these plaques, along with cerebrovascular disease (compromised brain vasculature), contribute to the brain impairment that is a hallmark of these disorders.
Fortunately, dogs with CCD seldom show the severity of cognitive dysfunction seen in humans with Alzheimer’s disease; however, even mild or moderate changes can make living with affected pets difficult. When dogs have memory loss, they may urinate or defecate in the house because they don’t remember how to get outside, or they forget where the appropriate place to urinate or defecate is. They may exhibit anxiety and they may become less interactive with their owners.
Some affected dogs may develop sleep disturbances (they are active and may vocalize at night, but they sleep during the day). They may also develop a loss of motor function and forget how to do things that they were taught as a puppy (how to sit or stay). In a word, these pets show signs of becoming senile.
Although dogs with CCD are typically recognized as showing cognitive impairment by 8 years or older, there is considerable evidence that the processes leading to this clinical state begin earlier in life. Pet owners and veterinarians should therefore consider preventive measures against the development of CCD when dogs are middle aged. Dr. Fossum’s Pet Care, in conjunction with Dr. Curtis Dewey, has developed a proprietary formula to prevent and mitigate the effects of cognitive decline in dogs.
How common is CCD?
According to Dr. Curtis Dewey, a veterinary neurologist with extensive knowledge on this subject, estimates of the prevalence of CCD generally vary between 14% and 35% of the pet dog population, in dogs 11-12 years old 28% and in dogs 15-16 years old 68%; however, he notes that those percentages are likely an under estimation of how common the disorder is.
As with people with AD, the prevalence of CCD increases dramatically with age. Dogs may show evidence of brain changes as early as 6 years of age. Furthermore, many dogs with mild impairment will progress to moderate impairment and those with moderate disease often progress to severe impairment.
Is CCD treatable?
Fortunately, dogs with CCD are less likely to develop such severe impairment as occurs in people with AD. Affected dogs typically respond well to medical intervention, especially if instituted early in the disease process. There is also evidence in both AD and CCD that preventive measures such as dietary changes and environmental enrichment can both delay the onset and slow the progression of cognitive decline.
This information suggests that simple preventive measures against CCD including dietary supplements as provided in CogniCaps, a proprietary formula developed by Dr. Dewey in conjunction with Dr. Fossum’s Pet Care, may be generally advisable in pet dogs as they near middle age.
Your veterinarian will make the diagnosis of CCD based on your dog’s breed, age, sex, the history you provide (which is critical to the diagnosis), and some clinical features that are consistent with this disease. Occasionally, advanced imaging (MRI) may be considered to rule out other causes of abnormal behavior such as a brain tumor.
In both human AD and CCD of dogs, diet choices and dietary supplements have a substantial impact on both the development and progression of cognitive decline. Both dietary risk factors and preventive factors have been identified for AD in people, and these are suspected to be similar in CCD.
Diets enriched with carnitine, lipoic acid, long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, vegetable-based carotenoids, vitamin E, and vitamin C may be of benefit. Medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) may also be beneficial as a supplement for these dogs as they provide an alternative energy source for the brain in cognitively impaired patients. There are several commercial diets available that contain some of these dietary supplements.
Some naturally occurring phytochemicals such as curcumin appear to hold promise as treatment options for CCD. Oral S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe) was shown to be effective in improving clinical signs of mental decline in dogs with CCD in a randomized, placebo-controlled study. Phosphatidylserine, a membrane phospholipid, showed some efficacy in improving cognitive function in patients with CCD in several clinical trials.
Chinese Herbal Therapy
In recent years, Chinese herbal therapy has been investigated extensively in experimental (rodent) AD models, as well as in human AD clinical trials. There is evidence of efficacy for many single herbs, molecular compounds from such herbs, as well as herbal formulas. The list of individual Chinese herbs with evidence of efficacy for treating cognitive impairment is extensive. The most prominent such herbs in this category include Ginkgo biloba, Huperzia serrata, Curcuma longa, Ginseng, Polygala tenuifolia, Salvia miltiorrhiza, Epimedium, and Scutellaria baicalensis , amongst others.
Cognitive enrichment, such as regular exercise, social interactions, and introduction of new toys, has been shown to improve cognitive function in dogs with CCD and prevent or delay cognitive decline in dogs as they age.
Is there a working product for CCD treatment?
Because there are so many individual dietary supplements that have shown efficacy in treating cognitive decline, veterinarians and their clients are often faced with the prospect of prescribing multiple separate supplements to produce a positive clinical response.
In short, it often seems that there are too many potentially beneficial supplements to fit into one patient. It is also common practice to separate treatments for CCD into the categories of western and eastern medicine.
Again, this conceptualization leads to the necessity of prescribing multiple supplements-both western (conventional) and eastern (non-conventional, holistic, etc.). Although pet owners often will administer multiple supplements to their senior dogs, it can be challenging.
Also, it is unlikely that the average pet owner will administer multiple supplements to an asymptomatic middle-aged dog for preventive purposes. CogniCaps is a truly integrative supplement, combining a mixture of both western and eastern treatments in one small capsule.