Dog owners are usually the first to notice that something is wrong or different with their dogs. Common symptoms to watch for include pacing, turning in circles, staring into space, or seeming lost and confused. In many cases, the dog’s temperament changes. Dogs who have been generally friendly may begin to show aggression – and typically aggressive dogs may become unusually friendly!
Dogs experiencing an onset of CCD may also start to have difficulty navigating stairs or seem confused about how to get around furniture. CCD may also lead to dogs isolating and seeking out less attention, or generally become more fearful or anxious.
Veterinarians use the acronym DISHAA to describe typical symptoms of CCD. This stands for:
- Desorientation – Examples include getting lost in familiar places, doing things ike standing at the hinge side of the door waiting for it to open, or getting “stuck” behind furniture.
- Interactions – Changes in how or even whether the dog interacts with his people. He may withdraw from his family, and become more irritable, fearful, or aggressive with visitors. In contrast, the dog may become overdependant and “clingy,” in need of constant contact.
- Sleep – Changes in sleep patterns (such as being wakeful or restless in the middle of the night), vocalization at night.
- Housetraining – Increased house-soiling and/or a decrease in signaling to go out are common. Or a dog goes outside for a while and then eliminates in the house right after coming inside, or soils his crate or bed.
- Activity level – Decrease in exploration or play with toys or family members, and/or an increase in aimless pacing or wandering.
- Anxiety – Increased anxiety when separated from owners, more reactive or fearful to visual or auditory stimuli, increased fear or new places.
Recently, the letter “L” was added to the end o9f the acronym:
- Learning/memory – Decreased ability to perfom learned tasks, decreased responsiveness to familiar cues, inability/slow to learn new tasks.
Dylan Fry, DVM, Diplomate American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (DACVIM), a neurologist at NorthStar VETS, also notes that it’s important to watch for new compulsive behaviors (such as pacing) from your senior dog, as these, too, could be symptoms of CCD. If your dog is exhibiting any of the above symptoms or has developed a behavior or personality change, it’s a good idea for your dog to be seen by a veterinarian so you can discuss your concerns about CCD and rule out any other conditions like arthritis or other pain, vision, or hearing changes that may cause similar symptoms.
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