Diagnosing Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS)

Canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome, also referred to as CDS, is a disease with similar symptoms to that of Alzheimer's disease. It may be termed "senility" or "old dog syndrome". It can seem like these symptoms are part of the normal aging process for a dog, but this is not so. Canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome is diagnosed when symptoms cannot be wholly attributed to another condition or disease such as cancer, kidney disease or other organ failure.

Recognizing Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome

The signs of canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome are usually quite easy to recognize. When cognitive behaviors are affected, it results in a disconnection between thoughts and action. In other words, a dog's behavior will begin to deteriorate and it may seem as though he is "absent-minded." He will begin to lose the ability to be functional in the home, or as a part of the family. There are many common symptoms of CDS ranging from mild to severe.

  • Disorientation - Dogs may wander aimlessly, or become stuck in corners of the house without the ability to figure out which way to turn. They may stare at walls or seem like they are daydreaming. They may lose the ability to find the door, recognize family members, or respond when called. Often, a dog will go outside for a normal routine and stop short, as though he's forgotten the reason for going out in the first place.
  • Lack of enthusiasm - Dogs that were once perky and full of joy may lose enthusiasm when experiencing canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome. They may no longer stand still for petting or attention, and will solicit your attention less frequently. Greetings at the door will become infrequent or will no longer take place at all. You may find the dog in another room, unaware that you've arrived home.
  • Abnormal sleep patterns - CDS causes dogs to adopt sleep patterns which are either irregular, or differ significantly from the norm. They may sleep more during the day and less at night, and this may be accompanied by an increase in pacing or a decrease in normal activity.
  • Loss of housetraining - one major sign of canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome is the loss of housetraining. This is a symptom of many other diseases or infections, so it's likely tests may be run to rule out other possible causes. 

Treatment of CDS

Treating canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome is possible with both traditional prescription medication and natural and homeopathic remedies. The exact cause of CDS is not known, but theories suggest that it's brought about by degenerative brain lesions that may come from long-term exposure to heavy metals, such as those contained in pollution and some foods. Prescription drugs are available to increase the amount of dopamine provided to the brain. Some dogs have experienced success in regaining cognitive function with this drug. Homeopathic and natural remedies are also available to flush toxins from the body that may be causing this disease. With homeopathy, changes in diet in environment are also recommended.