EmmaLee: A Happy Healthy Senior with Canine Cognitive Disorder

by Wenda
(St. Catharines, Ontario Canada)

EmmaLee was 16 in June 2013 and although she sleeps a lot she is also quite perky when she is up. She will still chase squirrels and runs up and down stairs. Her hearing is not good at all but her sight is still there.

She is so loving and has never caused me any problems.
She was diagnosed with Canine Cognitive disorder (Alzheimer’s) in September 2012 but she is on meds and vitamins and rebounded at least 95%.
She is my best friend.

Our Answer

Wenda, even though you didn’t really ask a question you gave us such a great opportunity to talk about older dogs and Canine Cognitive Disorder. First, I hope anyone who’s considering adopting a rescue dog will read your lovely tribute to EmmaLee. Too many senior dogs go without homes because people are understandably hesitant to take on the potential health problems of a senior. Sharing how EmmaLee is still enjoying her life and still contributing to the quality of yours is inspiring. And yes, older Shih Tzus may have a few problems like hearing or sight loss and they may move a little slower than they once did but these little cuddlebugs still have a lot of love to share and make great pets for an adult home.

Remember, Shih Tzus are generally a healthy breed with few hereditary problems, but a dog can develop health problems at any age. At least with an older dog there probably won’t be too many surprises!

Cognitive Canine Disorder

The Pet Health Network compares Cognitive Canine Disorder to Alzheimer’s disease in humans. It typically affects older dogs and starts gradually. It’s easy to dismiss some of the early symptoms of CCD as “just getting older,” but diagnosis is important. If your senior dog is experiencing any of the following symptoms, get her to the vet:

  • Aimless wandering
  • Difficulty finding her way around in a new environment
  • Anxious behaviors (panting, barking, whining, destructive chewing, obsessive licking)
  • Accidents in the house
  • Appearing confused or disoriented
  • Doesn’t seem to hear or see well
  • Loss of appetite
  • Doesn’t seem to recognize people or objects that should be familiar

What Can You Do?

As Wenda mentioned, medication vastly improved her dog’s life and relieved many of her CCD symptoms. Just accepting your dog’s behavioral changes as an inevitable part of aging may be robbing them of happy, healthy golden years. Your dog’s veterinarian can run a series of non-invasive tests to learn exactly what’s going on with her. If CCD is diagnosed, drug therapy, antioxidant treatments, lifestyle modifications and exercises for mental stimulation may alleviate many of her cognitive problems.

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