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How to Delay the Onset of Doggy Dementia

As our beloved pets get older they can become more inclined to numerous health issues, including doggy dementia - otherwise known as Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD).

CCD is a type of dementia that is 52% more likely to develop in our pets every year after their tenth birthday.[1]

To learn more about this heartbreaking health condition and how to delay its onset, we enlisted the help of PETstock VET Dr Tara Morris.

Not all ageing dogs will develop CCD, but it is important to take some simple steps throughout their earlier years to delay the onset. Just like with human dementia, the symptoms can affect your pet's quality of life so being able to recognize symptoms when they present themselves is just as important as providing a little extra love and support if they are struggling.

Keeping your dog mentally active:

One of the best ways to support the prevention of dementia in our much-loved pets is to introduce some daily activities to activate and challenge their brain.

Enrichment-based activities like slow-release food dispensing toys and snuffle mats, help to build up cognitive skills by allowing your pet to think in a fun and positive way.

✔️ Problem-solving tasks are key here - think food puzzles and introducing or rotating their existing toys rather than having them all available, otherwise they will get bored. An exciting game for both yourself and your pooch, try hiding treats throughout the house and backyard and then encourage the search to begin!

✔️ Another helpful tool to prompt the mental stimulation of our dogs of all ages is ensuring that they are regularly socialised with other pets. Just like their human counterparts, sometimes meeting new people or furry friends can be a little tiring. Because of all the effort and excitement exerted in social interactions, it is a sure way to keep the mind active, particularly for our elderly pets.

Although socialisation can be pivotal to helping to delay the onset of CCD, do avoid placing your pets in any overly stressful social settings that could result in your pet being mentally exhausted and traumatised due to a stressful interaction.

Keeping your dog physically active:

Exercise is closely linked to brain function and mental well-being for both pets and their owners. Although this is common knowledge amongst pet owners, it’s important that physical activity is implemented as a daily activity in the household.

In his sunset years, Conner's walks became
increasingly shorter with multiple pitstops
Whether it be going for a walk in the great outdoors, playing fetch in the backyard or even throwing a frisbee for your pooch to collect - it can all be beneficial to delaying the onset of CCD.

Once your elderly pet has already been diagnosed with CCD, gentle to moderate exercise will allow the blood to flow freely, ensuring more oxygen runs to the brain. 

Remember to take it slowly, and give your senior pet plenty of time to sniff and take in nature at their own light pace.

Equally as valuable as regular exercise is feeding your pet a balanced and nutritious diet, which means refraining from giving them one too many leftovers from the dinner table! 

Consulting with your vet about the recommended diet for your dog's specific breed and characteristics can be incredibly helpful to gain insight into not only what your pet needs on a nutritional level, but which foods to avoid going forwards.

At 13 years old, it also came difficult for Conner to chew in addition to all the symptoms listed below...

Signs and symptoms of CCD:

Keep an eye out for behaviours such as disrupted sleep, increased confusion (forgetting usual routines), a sudden surge of ‘accidents’ at home, decreased desire to play and also increasing levels of irritability

If you are growing concerned, it is always best to visit your local vet for expert advice. It is also important that your pet regularly visits the vet for check-ups from a young age, so that any abnormal behaviours or conditions can be analysed and diagnosed accordingly.

What to do once your pet has been diagnosed with CCD:

As there is sadly no cure currently for CCD, the best thing for pet parents to do is to make sure that their senior pet is comfortable and showered with love and affection

Whether this means ensuring that they are surrounded by their own comfort items such as toys and blankets, or adjusting items within the home, including drink and food bowls and beds, so that they are easily accessible for a potentially confused and tired furry friend. 

As the disease progresses, allow for an appropriate amount of help from each family member so that your pet can complete tasks that may have once been easy, but are now becoming more difficult.

Current treatments for doggy dementia:

There are a number of ways to treat your pet’s diagnosis of CCD, including:

1. various vet-prescribed medications
2. dietary changes
3. modifications to daily behaviours and 
4. making adaptations to the surrounding environment

The best way forward is often combining multiple treatments which can work to ensure your dog can enjoy the rest of its days at ease. 

An example of combining treatment methods may include daily medication prescribed by your vet, consuming specialty food to hopefully slow the progression and developing an easy-going everyday routine so that your pet feels comfortable and at ease.

As of 2022, biotechnology company Skin2Neuron has conducted a study that aims to rebuild and replace lost brain cells in our CCD-ridden pets. 

So far, over half of the dogs within the study have had their CCD reversed, and more than 80% have seen clinically meaningful change.[2] Despite these improvements only lasting for two years currently, such studies are welcome in a space where there are few effective treatments available to our senior pets.


[1] Yarborough, S., Fitzpatrick, A., Schwartz, S.M. et al. Evaluation of cognitive function in the Dog Aging Project: associations with baseline canine characteristics. Sci Rep 12,13316 (2022).

[2] Rachel Arthur, 27 June 2022. ‘A new Alzheimer’s treatment is on the horizon: Cell therapy reverses dementia-like syndrome in dogs’, Bio Pharma Reporter,

About Dr Tara Morris:

PETstock VET
Head Veterinarian, Dr. Tara Morris started her career in 2012 and has since obtained further certification in emergency medicine. 

Tara is dedicated to helping sick and injured pets and has spent much of her career working nights and weekends.

This experience has helped her gain valuable skills, particularly with complex medicine cases and ultrasound.

To find your local PETstock VET, visit

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