Part 2 in our series on senior pets focuses on Canine Cognitive Disorder, a frustrating and sometimes devastating affliction of our older dogs.
She is stiff getting out of bed and stumbles down the hall to grab a drink of water. She’s not quite sure why she got out of bed when it’s still dark out but goes to pee anyway. Forgets where she is for a moment and cries out " Hey, anyone there?!". She hears John's voice saying "Come back to bed!", then realizes where she is and goes back to bed. Is this John's wife who has dementia or his dog Lucy who has Canine Cognitive Disorder? It could be either!
When a dog has CCD, they exhibit changes in the brain both structurally and behaviorally. A protein in the brain called beta-amyloid accumulates and causes plaques to form; a process very similar to human dementia and Alzheimer's disease. When these plaques form, they cause cells in the brain to die. This can result in “empty” spaces in the brain which fill with cerebral spinal fluid. So, what does this mean for a dog's behaviour? Symptoms can include loss of memory and some motor function. Often, they will forget training that occurred earlier in life such as house training. It can be comparable to living with a young puppy again. Some dogs will develop incontinence with urine or bowel movements as well.
Think of these old dogs as reverting to the puppy stage again. If we change our expectations of them, it can improve life with our senior companions. Be patient with possible “accidents” on the floor and be prepared for getting up in the middle of the night again just like when Rover was a puppy. Also be aware that your senior dog may start to roam if they get disorientated so having Rover close by you is also important. The senses like vision and hearing also may be deteriorating so your doggo may need help getting around, especially at night, and just having someone closer by in general sometimes for reassurance. She may also need you to be next to her when using the stairs.
A predictable routine, proper exercise and cognitive stimulation can also help slow the progression of CCD. Exposing dogs to new smells is an excellent way to stimulate their brain as it can allow them to learn more effectively.
Dogs with CCD can get disoriented and wander off, eliminate on the floor, and vocalize like puppies would. If we can start to see dogs with CCD as puppies again, I think we would have more patience and understanding as we do with puppies.
So, Lucy's owner John treats her with the understanding he does his wife who has a similar set of behaviours. With knowledge comes understanding and patience which is exactly what Lucy needs right now.
The eggs begin to hatch into larvae or tiny worm like creatures that feed off their own egg shells, organic debris, flea excrement (poop), or other larvae. The larvae like to develop in cool, undisturbed environments such as under the couch or in the baseboards. In ideal conditions, eggs will begin to hatch after 2 days; but can take up to 3 months to hatch!
Once these larvae start forming cocoons, or pupae, they will emerge from this state as adult fleas. A female flea can lay up to 50 eggs a day. The entire lifecycle can be completed within 2 to 3 weeks in the summer or in ideal conditions. Once the colder weather comes, fleas look to go inside our warm home environments and that's when we as veterinary staff try to help clients understand flea infestations. I remember when both of my indoor cats had fleas from neighboring apartment cats!
Pets can be so uncomfortable that pet-parents have often described their pet as having seizure like activity when in fact they were so itchy it looked like a seizure.
The best thing for these pets is year-round flea prevention as it is less expensive than treating the problem and better for the pet too! Fleas can also be vectors for disease, which means they can carry certain pathogens or bugs that may cause illness in our pets. They may seem like small annoyances, but they can be much more!
Dr. Juanita Ashton, BSc, DVM, ACDBC-IAABC is a certified Canine Behavioural Consultant, and one of the owners of the Elmsdale Animal Hospital