Jun 212012

Although research is increasing, knowledge of canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD) outside of the laboratory is limited. Currently, diagnosis in the laboratory is through comprehensive cognitive testing over several months, something that is beyond the reach of your average pet owner. In community dogs, diagnosis is often based on an individual veterinarian’s assessment of the dog’s behaviour after excluding all other possible diseases. We aimed to create a behavioural assessment tool that would allow owners to quantify their dog’s behavioural changes and assist veterinarians in making a diagnosis.

We conducted a worldwide survey of owners of older dogs (8+ years). We collected over 1000 responses from 11 countries on a 100 different dog breeds and a multitude of cross breeds. From this data we identified the behaviours performed by older dogs that are most indicative of CCD with an accuracy of approximately 80%. These 13 behaviours make up the canine cognitive dysfunction rating (CCDR) scale. Based on this scale, we identified that overall, 12% of the older dogs surveyed had behavioural symptoms consistent with CCD. The risk of having CCD also increased with age with 31% of dogs over the age of 14 years estimated to be affected.

Unfortunately a large proportion of dogs with CCD go undiagnosed as their behavioural changes are dismissed as a normal part of “getting old”. It is hoped that the CCDR scale will make owners and veterinarians more aware of behavioural changes in their older pets and assist in identifying which dogs are “just getting old” from those with CCD.

If you have an older dog and wish to complete the CCDR, it can be found at maturedogs.com. However, it is important to remember that this is only a tool and a consultation with a veterinarian is required to rule out other possible causes of behavioural change.