Cognitive Dysfunction in Dogs and Cats

When a dog or cats brain ages, it can show similar signs to an aging human brain. According to Landsburg and Roudebush (2004) the changes include “cortical atrophy and ventricular widening, myelin degeneration in the white matter, accumulation of degraded proteins, DNA damage and reduction of endogenous antioxidants.” The accumulations of degraded proteins, specifically beta-amyloid (seen in humans as well) form a plaque that sticks to the neurons in the brain lessening how efficient they can communicate (Frank, n.d; Overall, 2010). Oxidative damage from free radicals also causes changes in the conductivity and efficiency of the neurons. It affects how well the neurochemicals in the brain allow the different neurons to talk one and other (Overall, 2010). When these structures and neurons are compromised, the things that occur normally on an every day basis become more foreign and more difficult because they brain cannot produce the correct message to guide the body and mind in what to do.

Some of the clinical signs of Cognitive Dysfunction syndrome are; getting lost, wandering and getting stuck in corners, loss of potty training, more sleep then normal, or a change in sleeping patterns, less interaction with the family, not recognizing familiar things, and sometimes aggression (, n.d.). Cats show similar signs that include disorientation, irritability, excessive licking, less desire to play, lack of self grooming, and loss of appetite (“Dementia..”, n.d.). Frank (n.d.) breaks them into four categories: Loss of recognition and cognition, loss of house training, disorientation, and nocturnal activity. Families can find themselves with a dog that wants and needs their constant attention, or one that would rather be left alone. It can be heartbreaking and frustrating especially when an owner has had the dog 10+ years and begins to notice these signs. At age 10, 25% of dogs will show at least one sign of brain aging, and by the time they are 15, 60% of dogs will be affected at some level (Overall, 2010).

Supplements that can be used to treat CCDS include vitamins and foods that are high in antioxidants, medium-chain triglycerides, and things that will support neural integrity, and make energy readily available to the brain (Overall, 2010). Examples of such items include: L-carnitine, alpha lipoic acid, fish oil, vitamin e and c, fruits and vegetables, flavonoids, and carotenoids (“Dementia..”, n.d.)..

Hills Brain Diet is effective in treating CCDS because it contains a special blend of antioxidants, vitamins, and fatty acids that promote brain and neuron health, and can protect healthy cells from environmental and natural metabolic damage, as well as support a healthy immune system (, n.d.). A 60-day trial was performed on dogs, average age 12, where half were fed Hills B/D and the other a control diet. It was shown that 88% of the dogs eating B/D had significant improvement in their behavior as compared to 25% in the control group (Landsburg and Roudebush, 2004). Dogs on the enriched diet were more agile, showed improvement in compulsive behaviors, and were better able to recognize family members and other animals (Landsburg and Roudebush, 2004). This study also added environmental enrichment as another component to half the dogs in each group. According to Landsburg and Roudebush (2004), “At the end of two years, the dogs with the combination of enriched environment and enriched food scored statistically better in the learning tasks than those dogs given an enriched environment or enriched food alone”.

Helping dogs and cats age well is very similar to helping people age well. The longer they live the more chances there are for these changes to occur. Providing the type of diet needed to support these aging structures as well as enriching their environment will help keep them and sharp as possible in their golden years. (2008). Senior dog CDS checklist. Pfizer Animal Health. Retrieved from

-Dementia (Geriatric) in Cats. (.n.d.). Retrieved from

-Frank, D. (n.d.). Cognitive dysfunction in dogs. Retrieved from

-Hills Science Diet. (n.d.). Hills prescription diet b/d canine healthy aging and alertness: Key benefits. Retrieved from

-Landsburg, G., & Roudebush, P.R. (2004). Nutritional management of canine brain aging. Retrieved from

-Overall, K. (2010). Successful brain aging in dogs: Contributions, causes of age-related cognitive changes in dogs. Retrieved from