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The Art of Diagnosing Doggy Dementia

Show Notes

Lynn Sehnert of Lance and Lili Photography covering the Washington, D.C., area takes the mic today and interviews Jessey Scheip, a licensed veterinary technician with a specialty in behavior.

Jessey also has training certification from the Karen Pryor Academy and has worked with Dr. Amy Pike of the Animal Behavior Wellness Center in Fairfax, Virginia.

That’s where Lynn met Jessey, looking for help with her sweet boy Lance.

Jessey enjoys teaching pet guardians how to understand their pets and how to use behavior principles to ensure they grow together and live their best lives together.

Today, Lynn and Jessey have an in-depth discussion about canine cognitive disorder.

What to listen for

  • How Jessey fills a void between veterinary behaviorists and standard trainers
  • What symptoms should pet guardians watch for to notice CCD
  • Why pet guardians should track their pets’ health changes
  • Treatment options for canine cognitive dysfunction
  • When to decide it’s time to say goodbye

Where to find Jessey

Mindful Mentor Behavior Consulting

Facebook

Other episodes you may find interesting

The Art of Balancing Behavior Issues, part 1, with Dr. Kyle Bohland

The Art of Balancing Behavior Issues, part 2, with Dr. Kyle Bohland

The Art of Aging Gracefully with Dr. Dennis Wormald

Transcript

Lynn 

We all know my Lance has a few behavior issues. And Jessey is, Jessey worked with his vet issues for many years. And Lance loves Jessey, you know, we call her his girlfriend. And she is one of the few people that Lance likes when he goes into a vet setting and he will, you know, go and practically go and Jesse’s lap and be like, okay, lady, I love you. You’re awesome. And so that’s how we became acquainted with Jessey. And she is, you know, part of our family and part of Lancie’s team. So Jessey recently opened Mindful Mentor Behavior Counseling. And so Jessey, could you tell me about your business and the services you offer to your patients?

Jessey 

Definitely. So you know, as you mentioned, I spent several years working in behavior specialty as sort of the number two for a board of veterinary behaviorists. So in specialty, you tend to see like the most intense cases that you know, have not responded appropriately to treatment, or their general practitioners don’t feel equipped to help them with that. So it’s sort of like the top tier, if if someone who’s a veterinary behaviorist can’t help you, you’re kind of stuck. And so for a long time, I absolutely loved working with those critters. But the more I sort of got involved in the behavior community, the more I realized there was, there was sort of a void in the middle ground when it comes to behavior cases. So in the Northern Virginia area, we’re really lucky to have let’s see, to bordered veterinary behaviorists and at least two or three residents, some who have moved on to open their own practices. So we do have a lot of resources for those upper tiers. But then also, we have a lot of great trainers, and, you know, group classes and stuff that are available for some of those more introductory preventative like, I just want to teach my dog how to do fun training stuff. But that area in the middle, where they’re not really intense enough that they maybe need to go to the veterinary behaviorist, but they’re more advanced for sort of your standard preventative trainer to help. You know, so my role with the company is to coordinate with veterinary practices around the area. So their veterinarian is still in charge of diagnosing and testing and prescribing for the behavior problem. But then I take over a lot of the Educational Counseling and emotional support side of things, because that’s where it’s really time consuming. And you need a lot of practice and education to be successful with that. You know, and so a lot of general practitioners, they sort of shy away from behavior cases, because that’s 90% of it, as I’m sure you can attest to over the years. It’s, yeah, we can throw medication, and we can do tests, but I need somebody who can talk to you about these problems and help point me in the right direction. And what are some things that I can do on a day to day basis to make living easier for both of us. And that’s the part of behavior that I really, really enjoy is the counseling and the education. So I tried to build a company around being able to serve that to the local community.

Lynn 

That’s great. Yeah, no, I know, we needed, we were total naive parents. And then, you know, having a dog like Lancie come into your life, we really needed a lot of education, and probably still do, but you know, it’s been, it’s been great. And we’ve had, you know, wonderful resources, and you’ve been a great resource for us throughout the year. So we thank you for that.

So the reason for our discussion today is we’re going to talk about canine cognitive disorder otherwise known as doggy dementia or CCD. So can you explain to everybody what canine cognitive disorder is? And what are some of the symptoms of canine cognitive disorder or doggy dementia?

Jessey 

Definitely. So the easiest way to explain CCD is basically calling it doggy all framers So it’s a degenerative disorder where your brain function just sort of starts declining. And there’s a lot of different symptoms depending on your severity and you know, the age of the animal. Some of the earliest signs that we’ll see are going to be what we call sundowner syndrome, where the dog sleeps all day, but then they’d be come more agitated or animated in the evening or throughout the night. They might have episodes of house soiling, whereas for the longest time they had impeccable, you know, soiling habits where they always go outside, but now they you know, occasionally have an accident in the house. Some other symptoms might be just increased agitation and just can’t seem to settle, get comfortable changes in social interactions, where maybe before they were very pro social, and now they’re kind of isolating themselves or vice versa.

Purina has a really awesome sort of, like grading checklist for a lot of the major symptoms because we use the abbreviation DISHA when we’re trying to diagnose cognitive dysfunction.

DISHA is an acronym that we use as part of the diagnostic criteria for cognitive dysfunction. So the D stands for disorientation because they might get kind of lost. Some people will describe finding their dog in a random room of the house sort of staring at a wall. They might go outside and for, you know, kind of forget where they are, and then come back to the owner a little confused. So disorientation that we’ve got interaction, so changes in social interactions, where, you know, historically, I might have an animal who’s very pro social, but then they start isolating themselves or vice versa, will have sleep wake cycle changes. So that’s your s and we talked a little bit about The sundowners already where they’re restless at night, but sleeping heavily during the daytime. The age then is how soiling, were, you know, they’ll start having accidents in the house. And I think sometimes part of this is they either forget that they had to go to the bathroom when they were outside and then they come back in and go, oh, boy, you have to go to the bathroom and go to bathroom. Or they just aren’t as in tune with their body’s needs. And so they wait till the very last minute before asking and then it’s like well, it’s too late. And then there’s two A’s at the end of DISHA. So the first one is activity, the level changes, where I might have increased agitation or lethargy, you can have either or. And then the last one is anxiety where we might develop some new fears and phobias. For example, I might have an older dog who develops distress with thunderstorms, whereas before they’d actually been okay with those. So again, DISHA is just an acronym that we use to help kind of identify some of the symptoms that we’re seeing with these pets.

Lynn 

Okay, yeah. I know, Lancie already has the, you know, sensitive to sensitivity to noises down, but, you know, hopefully, it doesn’t progress beyond that. Now, are there other related cognitive disorders? Along the same lines? Or could these signs also be signs of other diseases in dogs? Are any? Are they related to any neurological diseases in dogs?

Jessey 

Yeah, definitely. So cognitive dysfunction is sort of a broad term for probably a lot of smaller disorders that we maybe haven’t had the opportunity or the funding to, like, really pinpoint what these different ones are. From the symptomatic standpoint, honestly, I find cognitive dysfunction as a lot of similarities with chronic pain, which is also very common in older dogs. So one of the things that we’ll always want to check for is do we have a pain component here? And is that what is really driving a lot of these things versus I just have a stability problem?

Lynn 

But how do you determine whether it’s a pain issue, or a senility issue?

Jessey 

Very carefully. Unfortunately, sometimes for both of these problems, they’re kind of rule out diagnoses. And so a rule out diagnosis basically means I have to kind of run the gamut of the test and say, well, it’s not this, that or the other thing. So it’s probably cognitive dysfunction, or probably a pain problem. So in my mind, I feel like senility is more of a rollout. Because technically, to diagnose that definitively, you have to do an MRI. Whereas with pain issues, it’s, you know, we can do things like a gait analysis, which is basically where the owner takes video of the animal moving home, and then bringing it to the clinic with them is, as a lot of pet owners can attest to, they might be three legged lame at home, but they walk into the vet clinic, and they’re like, No, everything’s fine, this doesn’t hurt, blah, blah. So honestly, I feel like trying to assess pain in the veterinary clinic is very, very difficult, especially when you have a chronic pain versus an acute pain problem. So the big difference between those two types of pain issues is when you’ve got acute pain, the difference in sensation between how it was five seconds ago, and how I’m feeling right now is very fast. So it’s much more obvious. It’s kind of like, if you’re thinking about the brightness of a light bulb, if I was already getting, I don’t know, 50% light from my from my light source, and then I tweaked it to 50, I’m probably not going to notice that very much. Whereas if it’s 10 to 90, that’s a huge difference. And I can tell that it’s much brighter than it was before. And the same is true when we’ve got pain sensation. So if I was totally fine, and then I broke my leg, obviously, that’s going to hurt a lot. And so my behavior is going to reflect that level of pain. And I’m going to be very agitated and uncomfortable and not going to use that leg regardless of where I am and who I’m interacting with. Whereas chronic pain, on the other hand, it has more of an insidious onset. So for one month, you’re at 10%. And then a couple months later, you’re at 20%, and then 30. And then finally, maybe a 40%, you’re like, Okay, now I’m going to start slowing down. I don’t want to play as much as I used to, I’m not going to use the stairs like I did. And so with chronic pain, the animal has time to adjust its behavior to their pain in order to manage it better, which also means the pet owner has time to acclimate to those slow changes in behavior as well. So if I bring a 12 year old dog who has been experiencing chronic pain for two years to the vet, and I say, How’s he doing? You’re gonna say, no, he’s totally fine. You know, he’s still running around and playing. But if I’m like, well, here’s your dog. Now, here’s your dog from two years ago, there’s a huge difference there. But because we have so much time between those two points, it’s much less obvious for the pet, the owner and then the clinician who’s trying to do the diagnosing here. So chronic pain can be extremely difficult to pinpoint. So we might rely a little bit on again, those videos from home where they’re going to be more honest with their owners. And in that case, I might ask them to get a video of their dog going from a stand to a sit and I can see there’s a very slow hen ingen, then we’re sitting, whereas a totally comfortable dog, if you ask them to sit there like, sitting Good, awesome moving on with life. But again, the pet owner might not see that. And they’re certainly not going to demonstrate that to me in a veterinary clinic, because I’m stranger danger. And I might do mean things to them. And so sort of go ahead.

Lynn 

But basically, what you’re saying is, all those videos that parents put on Instagram can be useful in diagnosing cognitive or pain issues in their battle. Yes.

Jessey 

Very much. So.

Lynn 

Yeah. And their Instagram account, you there’s all the evidence you need right there.

Jessey 

Right, just go ahead and send it on over. So I mean, kind of circling back around to the original question of, you know, how do we tell the difference between cognitive decline and a potential pain problem is, you know, again, video history, you know, because the history of a chronic pain problem, or excuse me, the medical and behavioral history is what I mean by that of a chronic pain problem is going to be slightly different from cognitive decline. So, for example, if it’s a cognitive decline issue, I’ll probably have some of that confusion first, or getting the kind of getting lost in your own house, maybe I’ll have those changes in social interactions. But for the most part, they’re still running around, they want to go for walks, they’re playing, they’re doing their normal thing. It’s just, if every now and then you have just kind of this weird thing that comes up, and you sort of like brush it off, like, whatever, it’s weird. Whereas with chronic pain, you will have that gradual like, No, I don’t want to run as much, or I don’t want to run as long. Or maybe I’m just not going to stand up to go investigate that thing as quickly as I would have before. So we don’t have a lot of the confusion side of things. But there’s a lot of decrease in activity, or even sometimes an increase in activity. Because I do certainly have dogs with osteoarthritis who demonstrate what looks like sundowners syndrome, because they’re able to sleep most of the day, but in the evening, they start to get really antsy. You know, and so that symptom by itself can be really hard to pinpoint down and say, Is this pain versus is this ability? And so you have to kind of take it as a big picture in order to appeal those pieces of art.

Lynn 

And do you also think this is where pet guardians really need to step up? And advocate for their dogs? Because, you know, some vets will be like, oh, yeah, this is just part of the normal aging process and whatnot, and you’re like, No, no, I, you know, obviously, I’m gonna know my pet in a more deeper way than the vet ever will. So for pet parents who have that’s who are kind of dismissing it just as old age, what would you recommend to them? Either, I mean, find a different vet or what but how would you? How would you recommend to them that they really advocate for their pet to say, No, I know something is wrong?

Jessey 

It’s a hard question. Because there are definitely veterinarians out there who are still very, sort of set in their ways. We’ll call it you know, so for example, even within the last couple months, I’ve had a case where, you know, the dog, what was he doing? So he would be really gimpy and kind of funny at home, it was a little Westie. That was, so a little West Highland terrier. So he’d been kind of funny and a little snarky at home, too, especially in the evenings. And, you know, I remember there’s his technician commented as he was walking into the building, and they’re like, you know, I think he was slumping on one of his back legs. But then the doctor does their examination. They’re like, I don’t see anything, he seems fine. You know, so even among different professionals in the veterinary community, there’s a, there’s a disconnect about how how much our clinical examination should be feeding into our assessment for pain versus, you know, things outside of that, just like general behavior. But anyway, so if we’re trying to advocate for our pet, and the our veterinarian doesn’t think that there’s a pain problem, you can always go back and say, look, here’s some video that I took at home, see how he’s limping on that left hind, even if he’s not limping here and telling you I’m seeing this at home. And you can also insist on having some diagnostics done. So in behavioral worlds, you know, when you’re in behavior, specialty, a lot of the times we’re diagnosing and treating based off of symptoms and not necessarily getting the really in depth diagnostics, one because a lot of our patients won’t let you get those they say no, you can’t touch me, or, you know, to Lance, most of behavior is I’m trying to figure out what makes the most sense, given what you’re telling me. And so I’ve had plenty of cases and behavior specialty where we like, Well, look, she’s 10, she has a history of like, 20 orthopedic procedures, and she’s suddenly getting aggressive with the owners, which has never happened before. That’s probably a pain problem. You know, so I really, really believe that the history from the family and the pet Guardians is incredibly important, regardless of what medical condition we’re concerned about. So having data from home about energy levels and sociability and activity, and that video of how they’re moving around, that can be really compelling evidence, you can bring that to the veterinarian, instead of just saying, Well, I think he’s uncomfortable, maybe, you know, because maybe isn’t, technically it’s not a diagnosis. And a lot of veterinarians aren’t comfortable treating a maybe. But if we have some preliminary data, and then we move forward with some, maybe x rays, you know, or even going to a physical therapist could be a great idea to not shift gears in your thought, but you know, physical therapists on the human side comment all the time about like, Oh, I see that you’re walking a little funny what’s going on? Like, oh, I’ve been to a million doctors, and no one can figure out what’s going on. And your physical therapist is like, well, your shoulders or whatever, adult blindman Here you go. And then you’re done. And the same is true in veterinary medicine is, you know, physical therapists, and those in rehabilitation are much better trained at looking for those subtle signs of pain, but they’re also much better trained at treatment modalities for pain. So if ever in doubt, you’re like, you know, I’d love a referral to a physical therapist, just to cover all of our bases, and you don’t have to be confrontational about it just be like, you know, I just want to get some more information. If nothing else, physical therapy is great for old age animals, because it helps you keep you limber. So, you know, it’s two birds one stone, I want to get a definitive eyeball on this and tell me like, yes, this definitely pain or No, it’s not. And then I can get some fun physical activity exercise to to help keep my older dog in shape to.

Lynn 

So would you also recommend pet parents keep a journal, a daily log of their dogs and their cats so that they can kind of start seeing some of the shifts over time.

Jessey 

Yeah, that can definitely be helpful. When we’re looking at a several year timeframe, though, I do worry that a daily log can be a lot to stay on top of and it can be hard to see the data as it changes. So maybe even just every couple of weeks, you know, ranking his activity and, you know, play drive and that sort of thing, scale of one to five, like how have we been doing? Because that’s a little bit more of a digestible amount of information to be looking at over time.

Lynn 

Okay. So what are so typically what are some of the first signs that will show up in a dog who has CCD?

Jessey 

So really depends on the dog, I find the two most common symptoms are either going to be that change in activity level, so the sundowners again, where we’re more agitated in the evening, or more active rather, versus during the daytime? Or you’re going to have some of those confusion episodes. So those are probably the two big ones.

Lynn 

Okay. Is there does there tend to be like a typical age when you start seeing CCD more in dogs? Is there …

Jessey 

Excuse me? So there were some studies that were conducted a few years ago. I think the youngest dog someone has documented CCD in was five. But by the time most dogs are about 12 years old, the majority of them are going to have signs of senility. And you have to keep in mind that when we’re doing these studies, that these are basically surveys. And so if the owner doesn’t necessarily know what they’re looking at, their answer could technically be incorrect, just because they don’t know what the symptoms are, or they’re recognizing it in there. So I honestly think that by 12, or 13, you know, more than they were able to statistically report have some signs of senility. Same with people, though, you know, like we all start losing our minds by the time we’re, you know, in our 40s.

Lynn 

I’ve only lost a little bit of my mind. Now, does it, does CCD affect certain breeds more than others? And is it something you’re gonna see more in males versus females? Dogs who have been spayed and neutered versus dogs who have not been spayed or neutered?

Jessey 

I’m sitting here thinking about this question, and I can’t think of the answer. I don’t think there’s a gender correlation, spay and neuter status, I don’t think has a direct correlation. I’m sure there are, you know, breeds that might be predisposed to neurologic problems in the first place. So, for example, Dobermans, German Shepherds, dogs that already have seizure disorders, you know, because their brain function is just not quite 100% normal anyway, they’re going to be predisposed to having some other type of neurologic issue as well.

Lynn 

Okay. Okay, so you’ve, you’ve taken the dog in, and, you know, through observation and stuff, and your vet says, Okay, we think it’s, you know, CCD. Now, what are treatment options? And what can we do? I know, it can’t be cured correctly. You know, everything I was reading was wrong. I know, there’s cures, but what can pet parents do to help keep their dogs active to kind of slow? I mean, I don’t know if you can slow down the progress, or how much you can. So what treatments are available, and what should pet parents be doing? To help? Slow down, I guess, so to speak, slow down the pro-, the, the process a little bit.

Jessey 

 So, you know, like we explored earlier, cognitive dysfunction is a degenerative disorder, so there isn’t really a cure for it. But there are things that you can definitely do to either stave it off. So prevent it from starting in, in your older dog, or to slow the progression of it. So there are a lot of really nice over the counter products that they’re essentially antioxidants. So, you know, when you’re metabolizing things, you get these free radicals that sort of accelerate the aging process. So products like Senilife, and you know, some of the fatty acids, supplements, those sorts of things are designed to help get rid of those aging chemicals, so that things slow down. Plus, to be honest, a lot of those supplements are great for just like general health and you know, good for bone, brain, scan, all that good stuff. So those are really helpful. And again, a lot of them are over the counter. So you don’t necessarily have to get your doctor’s permission to have those. They can be a little pricey, but you know, they you know, in the nutraceutical world, usually the higher the price tag, the more research has gone into the product, though, you get what you pay for at least other things are, you know, again, similar with Alzheimer’s, if we do brain games, keeping their brain exercising and thinking and active. And so in the dog world are essentially doggy Sudoku is things like feeder toys, nosework training like a teacher, I mean, old dogs can learn new tricks. So if you want to teach your dog how to like, go fetch their toy, and you always want to learn how to do it, now’s a great time to really focus on that. Because not only is it sort of on your bucket list for this pup, but it’s also going to help sort of slow down that, again, a degenerative process. So keeping them thinking, keeping them active, staying on a good, healthy, well balanced diet with lots of omegas and fatty acids. That’s, that’s a great jumping off point for most of these guys.

Lynn 

So are there are there any supplements that you would recommend? And should these dogs kind of be kept on a routine? sort of help them as well?

Jessey 

Sure, I mean, routine is great for any dog no matter what. But yes, when you’ve got a senility problem, having a predictable regular schedule can definitely help take some of the confusion and anxiety out of day to day life. Because it comes a bit more predictable. They still might have those confusion episodes, but you can rein them back in a little bit more easily be like No, no, it’s 10 o’clock time for us to go do X, Y and Z activity. They’re like okay, yes, got it. I can go focus on this. And then as far as specific products are concerned, I mentioned Senilife already, Denamarin Advanced is another good one. So den America was originally developed as a liver supplement for when you had some sort of, you know, elevated liver values. But the Denamarin advance is a bit more targeted towards brain function. So Sammy is the active ingredient and that’s also something that you can get in sort of your fatty acid supplements as well. Another one that doesn’t get talked about a whole lot are probiotics. So there’s been a lot of research on the human sector for the gut brain axis where your your gut health the type of vector theory that, hey, that you have populating your intestines can directly influence your mood and emotional stability and therefore brain function in general. So probiotics and other one of those things that can be really beneficial for a lot of different disorders, but definitely for stability.

Lynn 

Okay, and some of these can be used as a, I guess, like a little bit of a preventive tip as well. Okay. Okay. So, so once a dog is diagnosed with CCD, typically, what is how long will they have to live? Or is that part of it dependent on? How well they manage? You know, pet parents manage this? And? Yeah, I guess what is the life expectancy of dogs with CCD?

Jessey 

Sure, I think it’s really variable, you know, because there, there’s very rarely a dog that just has a senility problem, they tend to have a lot of other health issues that they collect as they age. So, as I’m sitting here, I can’t think of a scenario where a pet just ended up needing to cross the Rainbow Bridge because of senility, it’s usually a combination of, they’re confused, they’re uncomfortable. They’re not sleeping very well, they’re anxious. And so at the end of the day, we decide like, quality life is not great for this path, because of all these things, not just the civility. And so we make that decision for euthanasia. So, I think it depends on a lot of factors, one, how quickly we recognize it as being a problem to the age of onset. So the younger you are, when you get a disease, you know, the more likely it is to enter life early. And unfortunately, you know, and then how committed the family is to implementing some of these strategies to sort of slow the progression. But, you know, just like with a lot of other medical conditions, though, sometimes no matter what you do, you do everything perfectly, right. And at the end of the six month period, your pet is still significantly declining. And, you know, it’s, it’s a bit of a bit of a gamble, I suppose, kind of trying to figure out where your individual pet is going to land in that timeframe.

Lynn 

Okay, now, because we know, you know, especially if your dog is up at night, and everything and with, you know, the sundowners syndrome and things like that, what are some tips you can give to pet guardians who are living with a dog with CCD? And what kind of self-care things should be, should they be doing as well? And what kind of role would you play in helping pet parents with dogs who have CCD?

Jessey 

So I think before we get to the meat of your question, we’ve talked a little bit about sort of the lower end of the spectrum where it’s just been diagnosed, it’s not horrible at this point. But eventually, it’ll get to a scenario where the sundowner syndrome is bad enough that the dog is literally up all night, and no one is sleeping. And I’ve certainly had my share of those cases. You know, so in that scenario, we ended up coming at it not just from the slowing the progression standpoint, but also the true symptomatic treatment. And so that’s where we’re getting into things like anti-anxiety products, because it is an IT does contribute to your anxiety, I mean, part of that dish acronym at the very end is anxiety. And so we might use sleeping aids to help these guys shift off of that, sleeping during the day and being awake at night. So instead, you get your thing. You know, we still do all of our enrichment during the day, and we’ve got our really good schedule that we’ve talked about. But then in the evening, after dinner, like okay, and you just start simmering down, here’s some medicine to help calm your brain so that you can sleep at night. You know, and a lot of us that are intimately acquainted with pets that have behavior problems also have our own collection of them. So it’s not unusual for many of these pet owners to recognize, like, oh, Trazodone, I take Trazodone to go to sleep at night, where my husband does or my roommates cousin, or whatever, you know, so these products that most of us are familiar with. And you know, I don’t want it to come across as we’re trying to just knock your dog out. It’s really truly like their brains just can’t turn off the way they’re supposed to. And so we’re using these products to help them function more normally, so that they can rest and feel refreshed in the morning. And so that we as their caregivers can sleep and feel rested in the morning. You know, because a lot of the times when we’re talking about caring for the caregiver, it’s you have to take care of yourself or you cannot take care of anyone else. And so it is never the wrong answer to approach it. From we all need to sleep, here’s something for you to sleep, and then I can sleep by proxy. But even from a larger standpoint of, are we having confusion during the daytime? You know, if you’ve ever had a family member go through Alzheimer’s, that confusion can be really distressing. Like, I know, I should know what I’m doing. But I don’t. And it’s frustrating and makes me anxious. And so some of these dogs, they do benefit from the addition of a daily anti-anxiety products like Prozac or Zoloft, for example, just to help them cope with those changes that are happening with them. Because it’s not like I can sit my dog down and say, Hey, buddy, this is why this is happening, you’re gonna have these episodes of confusion, they don’t get it. So instead, I’m gonna say, All right, here’s a little thing to take the edge off. So you’re not so upset when these episodes happen. But that also sort of indirectly helps your sleep wake cycles, too. But anyway, going back to the original question, which once again, I have forgotten, because I went on a tangent, what was your question? Lynn?

Lynn 

I just, I guess what tips can you give to pet guardians who are living with a dog with CCD?

Jessey 

Okay, so a little bit more on the schedule in the routine type of thing, having a very specific going to bed ritual can help these guys, because it’s not just the physical body that needs to turn off. Again, it’s that brain that needs to as well. So having sort of our moments of busy frenetic, intense interactions, whether that’s play, or we’re doing a lot of training in the evening, whatever the case may be, try and get that out of the way by about six or seven o’clock at night. And that way, you’ve got this high, and you have plenty of time to get everybody to simmer down before we go to bed at 10 or 11 o’clock at night. So we have our goofy fun time, we might have our dinner and a huge fan of feeder toys and puzzle toys knows working activities for when it comes to feeding dogs like this. Because, you know, the dog has a huge part of their brain dedicated to their sense of smell, and they’re seeking and exploring. And, you know, we talked earlier about making sure that we’re exercising that brain using their meals is a great way to do that. So if we have our dinners at about seven o’clock at night, make it a game, make them go look for it, find no you know, go hide it under a pillow. So they have to use their nose to get it, that’s a great way to get them shifted from busy body to calm body thinking mind. And so as their you know, we’ve gotten some of that physical activity out, we’re using our feeder toys to get our mental activity out. And then typically, after they finished with that meal, they are already sort of regulating and turning off. But there are also some other products and things that you can do. So if you know when you’re probably familiar with this, but through a dog’s ear is a specific type of music that’s been designed to help calm dogs down. And so you can play that as part of your going to bed ritual. It’s those of us that are parents are going to see a lot of parallels between our kids and our dogs in this scenario. But this is what I had to do with my us five at the time, my son with ADHD is we had to have a very structured way of going to bed. And we always listen to this same little things long story. You know, and that’s kind of what the through dogs you’re supposed to be is it’s that that auditory stimulation that calms you down. Massage is always good too, because a lot of our older dogs sort of like have kinks in tight muscles and stuff and having that deep long like cuddles and like stroking their back in their body that can be very relaxing and soothing. Because again, it’s all about finding ways to take them from this heightened physical, mental state and bringing it down to a point where they can turn off and go to sleep for the night.

Lynn 

Hey, so at what point should we start considering euthanasia for these dogs? You know, and at what point is it better to euthanize these dogs? I know reading different groups and stuff, this can be a very difficult decision for pet owners.

Jessey 

Definitely, you know, and especially in the scenario where they don’t have a lot of obvious physical ailments. You know, while it’s certainly common, that we have senility and this whole like group of other things going on over here, there are absolutely going to be animals where the chunk of their problem is that civility and then maybe we just have a little bit of arthritis sort of underneath all of that. So at the end of the day, it’s always a very personal choice when the time comes to help your pet’s passing. And you know, one of the things that we did with my last dog, when we first got her as a puppy was, what are three things that she absolutely loves to do. And then as she got older, we slowly started taking those things off. So for her, it was morning, snuggles playing ball, and eating. So she passed when she was 12 and a half. So the first thing that we had to get rid of was her bowl, because she had back problems. She couldn’t play ball, she couldn’t do the high intensity stuff anymore. But she still loved her morning Cuddles, and she loved her food. But then as she started to get older, she was diagnosed with lymphoma and she just didn’t feel good. She didn’t really want cuddles anymore, she would be with me all the time. And she would still walk with me to and hang out with me in different parts of the house. But one of our rituals in the morning had always been, I get my 20 minutes of like, really big, intense snuggles, and then she’s done with me for the day. No more touchy. So we lost her ball, we lost our Cardinals. And then finally, when she started to really go downhill, she didn’t want her treats in her feet anymore. And so it was at that point, like, yeah, she was still getting around, she was going outside, but she wasn’t enthusiastic anymore. And I knew it was time to let her go. And so I find that that tends to be a really helpful way for people to put perspective on it. Because we’re kind of going back to what’s normal for your dog, and how have those things changed at these age. And if you see those things that they used to enjoy, go away one by one. What what fun is life anymore? You know, again, it’s not like I can say to my dog, like, I’m sorry, you don’t feel good. Maybe tomorrow will be better. But dogs don’t know what tomorrow is they know that right now, I don’t feel good. And I’m not happy. And you know, and miserable. So looking at it more from our day to day perspective can be helpful too. You know, and then the last tactic that I’ve heard some people really enjoy is, you know, not even having that like journal per se, but having two jars. And each day, you’re gonna put a marble in the jar of good day, or bad day, and we’re not having neutral days, it wasn’t fine or okay, it was good, or it was bad in that sense. And then as the days or the couple of weeks go on, you’ll see one is going to fill up faster than the other. And that can sometimes again, put a perspective on it. Because it is really hard to see the forest for the trees when you’re excuse me when you’re in the trenches with these dogs, because maybe the last two or three days have been awful to so awful. But you know what, the two weeks prior to this were actually really good. But it could also be the opposite, where the last two weeks have been awful in the last two or three days have been really good. And having that visual to help remind you of like, this has been the last two weeks. Are we high in the bad day? Are we hot in the good day? And if we’re really high on the bad day, then we have a tough decision.

Lynn 

Okay, yeah, thank you. Yeah, cuz I know that. At that point, that’s, you find a lot of pet parents who, you know, anticipatory grief? And am I doing the right thing for the dog? That’s always, you know, one of the most difficult decisions as a pet parent, you have to make, you know, when is what is the best in what is in the best interest of the dog as opposed to what is in the best interest of the pet parent? Because if we could, we would never let go of them, right.

Jessey 

Yeah, yeah. So I mean, the other thing that I think about is because we don’t have a one to one perception of how our animals are actually feeling. I usually try and make myself put a slightly worse spin on it. Because dogs and cats for that matter, they’re, they’re always going to try and put a brave face on, right. So you know, if the kind of going back to pain again, because I feel like pain and anxiety and civility. They’re all very closely related, right? So if I can see an animal is uncomfortable, and I can tell they’re uncomfortable. They’re probably at least 10 to 20% Worse than what I think they are. And I try and keep that in mind when I’m assessing quality of life as well. Because if I can tell they’re struggling, it’s probably worse in her mind than I think is.

Lynn 

Okay, well, thank you. Now is there any resources you would recommend for pet parents to learn more about CCD, and how can they find support from other pet parents? Whose dogs have CCD?

Jessey 

Definitely. So I mean, social media has definitely blasted off in the last 10 to 20 years. So there are a lot of Facebook groups out there. I’ll be honest, I’m not on Instagram or Twitter. So I don’t know that fancy things over there. But I know on Facebook, there’s definitely several groups. You know, senility survivors, I think is one of them. You know, old dog support group that kind of stuff. And even within your own community, a lot of us are going to have those older dogs. So making sure you’re networking with people who live in your neighborhood. But my favorite book, if you’re an avid reader is called remember me. And it’s by Aileen Anderson who’s actually a veterinary behaviorist. And it goes into a lot about, you know, what does it look like? And what are some things we can do to help and sort of going through that process of living with a dog like this, as well as getting to that? End of Life, thought process and conversation with the family.

Lynn 

Okay. Well, thank you so much for your time. And I appreciate you educating us more on canine cognitive dysfunction. Yeah, so much, Jesse. This has been wonderful. Yeah.

Jessey 

Thanks for having me. I really appreciate it.

Lynn 

Thank you.

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