Canine Cognitive Dysfunction / Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s is a progressive loss of cognitive abilities and memory function, which can occur in humans and animals. In dogs, Alzheimer’s is known as
Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD).

How the brain works

The brain and central nervous system are made up of hundreds of billions of neurons. These specialized cells use chemical signals and electrical impulses to receive and transmit information from the brain to other parts of the body.

Neurons and synapses

In order to submit a signal neurons release a chemical called a neurotransmitter. These neurotransmitters act as messengers sending signals between brain cells (neurons) though a synapse.

A synapse is a tiny gap between neurons. It helps the neurotransmitters to carry the impulse from one cell to another.

If these synapses are damaged, neurotransmitters are unable able to transmit messages. Scientists believe that both Alzheimer’s (the loss of cognitive function) and Parkinson’s (the loss of motor function) occur as a result of damaged synapses.

Science Picture Co / Collection Mix: Subjects / Getty Images

How do synapses become damaged?

Plaques and tangles, are two abnormal proteins that are the main culprits when it comes to damaged synapses. Plaques build up around neurons, and tangles build up inside neurons, damaging the synapses and causing the cells to die.

What causes Canine Cognitive Dysfunction/Alzheimer’s?

Plague normally begins to build up as we age, but in cases of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction and Alzheimer’s, patients have been found to have an abnormally high amount of plaque build-up.

In the case of Alzheimer’s these proteins build up in the neocortex and hippocampus, the parts of the brain that control memory. When the cells in this part of the brain die, memory function and the ability to remember how to do everyday tasks diminishes.

Scientists believe that if the cause of the disease is due to damaged synapses, then keeping the synapses healthy could be the answer to slowing down or even finding a cure for Alzheimer’s.

Signs of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

It can be heartbreaking to watch your beloved pet struggle with signs of dementia. Early intervention is crucial though, so don’t ignore the signs.

  • Disrupted sleep cycle – sleeping all day and wandering around the house at night
  • constant barking or whining for no reason
  • anxiety
  • appearing confused and disoriented in familiar places
  • getting stuck behind or under furniture and not be able to figure out how to get out
  • not wanting to socialize and play
  • having accidents in the house / forgetting to go out
  • not recognizing you
  • not answering to his name (rule out any hearing problems first)

Natural Remedies

Turmeric (Curcumin)

Turmeric has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years due to the myriad of health benefits it offers.

Turmeric gets its vibrant golden color from a compound called curcumin. Curcumin is well known for its potent anti-inflammatory and pain relieving properties, and is often used to naturally treat arthritis symptoms.

Curcumin is a powerful antioxidant, is good for the heart, memory and digestion, has been used in the treatment of cancer, Alzheimer’s and more.

Studies have shown that curcumin may help with Alzheimer’s by slowing down the build up of plaque that destroys the synapses in the brain.

Even though curcumin has poor bioavailability, meaning it is not very easily absorbed by the body, there are few tricks to help it absorb better:

  1. Black pepper contains a compound called peperine, that can enhance curcumin absorbtion by 2,000%. You don’t need much – even just a couple of grinds of black pepper are enough.
  2. Boiling turmeric for 10 minutes has been shown to increase absorbtion of curcumin 12-fold.
  3. Because curcumin is fat soluble it is much better absorbed by the body if taken with a bit of fat.

Coconut Oil

Some studies have shown a possible connection between dementia and how glucose is broken down. In cases where the system is not breaking down glucose properly there is a much higher level of plaques and tangles in the brain.

What are ketones?

The body normally uses insulin to break down glucose for energy. If there is not enough glucose, the liver releases chemicals, called ketones, that break down fat for energy instead.

Coconut oil contains a high amount of MCTs (medium chain triglycerides). MCTs are broken down in the body as ketones. Scientists believe that these ketones can be used in place of glucose, which might help to keep plaques and tangles from forming in the brain and damaging cells.

Curcumin may not only help with CCD, it is also a great anti-inflammatory … in case your pup is also dealing with stiff and achy joints.
An excellent way to add beneficial turmeric plus MCT’s to your dog’s diet is with this homemade Golden Paste from Dogs Naturally that you can just add to his/her food.


Resveratol is a compound produced by certain plants. It can be found in the skin of red grapes and many berries like blueberries, mulberries, bilberries and raspberries. Resveratol may keep proteins from building up in the brain.

Grapes are toxic to dogs, but resveratol does not contain the toxic compound.

Omega-3 fatty acids

You’ve probably heard about the many health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, which range from heart health to asthma, ADHD and Alzheimer’s, just to name a few.

There are three types of omega-3s:

  • ALA (alpha-linolenic) acid is found in seeds nuts and oils such as walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds/flax oil or hemp seeds/hemp oil.
  • DHA (docosahexaenoic) acid is found primarily in fatty fish and fish oils
  • EPA (eicosapentaenoic) acid is also found in fatty fish and fish oils

According to the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease there is a “…significant correlation between higher blood flow and higher Omega-3 Index.” Omega-3’s have shown great promise in preventing protein built up, as well as reducing inflammation in the brain.

Reduce Anxiety


CCD and Alzheimer’s cause a significant drop in the amount of melatonin naturally produced by the body, causing a disruption in sleep and the sleep cycle. Melatonin significantly improves sleep patterns and lowers cortisol levels (also known as the stress hormone) which can help reduce anxiety.


CBD (Cannabidiol), is a non-psychoactive compound extracted from the hemp plant.

Never give THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) the psychoactive compound found in marijuana to your pets.

CBD can be very helpful in reducing anxiety, agitation and aggression.

Although more research still needs to be done, CBD has been shown to reduce inflammation and slow brain cell decline in Alzheimer’s patients.

Premium pet CBD oil

A few more suggestions for dogs with CCD

Leave a light on

If your dog’s sleep cycle is disrupted, stumbling around in the dark can only aggravate the situation. It might be very comforting if you leave a light on for him.

Skip the redecorating

When your dog is already confused the last thing she needs is change. Don’t move furniture around. Always put things away at night – don’t leave toys, laundry, power cords, shoes in the middle of the room.

Be consistent and always leave her water and food bowl, bed, toys, etc. in the same spot. Knowing where everything is will make her less anxious.

Keep a regular schedule

Life is busy and sometimes it’s hard to keep to a strict schedule. If your dog is disoriented, having a set routine could really help to re-orient her. As much as possible try to have regular feeding times, walks, bedtime, etc.

Stay active

Staying active, both physically and mentally, is just as crucial for dogs as it is for humans. If your dog loves socializing with other dogs, make sure you give him plenty of playtime. Exercise will do him good so take him for easy walks.

Dogs collect a ton of information by sniffing, it stimulates their brain and keeps them interested in their surroundings. I once read a book on dog behavior, which said that sniffing is to dogs what reading a newspaper is to humans.
So be sure to let him take his time and sniff around. Don’t rush him.

Puzzle toys and games can also be a fantastic way to help keep his brain active.

I am not a veterinarian and every situation is different, so please talk to your vet/doctor and do your own research before adding any supplement to your dog’s, or your own, diet.


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