a chihuahua sits by the book, Remember Me?

We were very impressed by the book, “Remember me? Loving and Caring for a Dog with Canine Cognitive Dysfunction.” We loved it so much, we asked Eileen Anderson, the author, if she’d answer a few questions for us.

Here are our interview questions, and her answers.

QUESTION 1 This book was written in 2016. Has anything changed in our understanding of Canine Cognitive Disorder since you wrote your book?

Yes. Many new details are building our understanding of canine cognitive dysfunction. But we still don’t have the things we want the most: a cure or a complete prevention.

This is a good time for me to answer this question, because I am currently preparing the second edition of my book. I have buried myself in all the research.

There’s a lot of new information. Scientists have tested many new supplements. Some of them have been shown in studies to help some dogs a little bit, but I haven’t seen anything that was dramatically effective. But remember, I’m not a veterinarian and people should take whatever measures their vets recommend.

A lot of foods have been tested as well. There’s a lot of work on antioxidants. But again, the results aren’t as big as we’d like to see.

Then there is research on different factors like breed and size that might correlate with a higher risk of CCD. There have been several studies in the last few years that gave contradictory results, so we still don’t know for sure how all that works.

One study found that breeds with long skulls and slender noses, such as collies, have a higher risk of CCD than those with shorter snouts.

Some other interesting information found recently is about possible correlations between CCD and both Cushing’s disease and epilepsy.

Some new information that has personal importance to me is that there may be a correlation between CCD and hearing loss in dogs. 

Another important finding is something many of us suspected.  A greater level of activity may protect against CCD.

I see trends in the CCD community as well. People started using the term “sundowning” about their dogs a few years ago.  Sundowning refers to a person (or now, a dog) with dementia having more confusion later in the day. There is no research to support that yet in dogs, but the research is starting to come in with humans with Alzheimer’s.  Caregivers have reported the phenomenon for a very long time. 

I said above that there is no cure. But there was something like a cure performed in research at the University of Sydney, Australia. Unfortunately, it’s not a method that will be available to most of us. In the research, six dogs had operations to remove skin cells that were then processed in a lab to create neural stem cells. These stem cells were then injected into the dogs’ brains. These were pet dogs with CCD whose owners wanted to give them this chance and to help further research. One dog passed away from surgical complications, but four of the others improved remarkably. Three of them had close to a complete reversal of their symptoms. A main purpose of this study was to prepare to try this kind of treatment for humans. I don’t think we will see it offered for dogs, even at university veterinary schools.


Looking forward with your current pets, is there anything you do to try and prevent CCD?

You probably know that there is currently no way to prevent CCD, but we can take some measures to slow its progress. And this is a timely question for me. My dog Clara, who was a youngster when I published the first book, is now 12 1/2 years old. She is showing a symptom that might be from CCD. She is doing what I call, “old lady barking.” She does it especially in the evenings—there’s that sundowning again! She will stand in the middle of a room, not facing a person, and just start to bark. She’s not responding to a noise or trying to get my attention.

Some dogs start barking as they go deaf, and she does have some hearing loss. So many of us have wondered at times which problem our dog has. For Clara, I hope it’s from hearing loss, but I’m proceeding as if she has early CCD, just in case. One thing we do know is that early intervention with meds, foods, and supplements has the best hope of helping.

I already had Clara on a supplement, the one I felt had the best studies behind it. Then the barking started. It didn’t take me long to notice because she has never been much of a barker. I contacted my vet who prescribed selegeline (Anipryl). She’s two months in and we are raising her dose in the next few days. She started on a small dose and I haven’t seen much change in her barking, but neither have I seen side effects, which is good. So we’re raising it to see how she’ll do. These kinds of medicines can take a long time to take effect.

As for the other things that can help: we have those pretty well covered already. She gets a lot of enrichment, and her favorite part of the day is a daily walk of more than a half mile. You wouldn’t be able to tell from her bouncy gait that she is quite the senior. 

The barking issue is ironic because Cricket, the star of my book, had been a very barky little dog. She got quiet as her CCD progressed. In contrast, Clara has been a quiet dog all her life, and now she is noisy for long periods. But both of these correlate with the “official” symptom of CCD about barking. The symptom is that they change their barking habits: it can be more or less. I’ll have to say that Cricket’s situation was a lot easier. It’s already very difficult to deal with Clara’s barking, because she’s a bigger dog and she barks loudly.


My vet doesn’t always catch signs of a problem unless it’s brought up. How do I discuss this with my vet?

It’s great that people are consulting their vets about possible CCD. One thing you can do is download a checklist of symptoms. I have one on my website at dogdementia.com, and there are others. You can’t diagnose your dog with a checklist, but it’s something you can fill out and give to your veterinarian for them to consider. I find more and more that vets are willing to take steps to treat this medical condition.   But there are a few vets who don’t want to make interventions like prescription drugs. You should always ask why, because they may have a specific and very good reason for your particular dog.

For instance, we had to be careful with my dog Clara because she also has Cushing’s disease. But the medicine worked out okay because it is compatible with that condition. On the slight chance that your veterinarian doesn’t want to prescribe anything and doesn’t give a reason, you could get a second opinion. You can consult another veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist (they are the psychiatrists in the veterinary profession). 

Thank you for asking these wonderful questions!

Copyright 2024 Eileen Anderson

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By Andrea

Andrea is a dedicated dog mom of three chihuahuas. She has over a decade of experience as a dog groomer, chihuahua owner, and more recently as a dog trainer. She loves all things canine, particularly chihuahuas.

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