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sudden onset of canine cognitive dysfunction symptoms

by mona
(Ontario, Canada)

Within literally two days, our once feisty, alert, active, 12-year-old Jack Russell became 110 years old. He is exhibiting classic symptoms of canine cognitive dysfunction: tremors, depression, disorientation, loss of weight, sleeping more than 15 hours per day, standing and staring vacantly into space or at a wall, weakened hind legs (causing him to slide on hardwood floors), avoiding drinking water, increasingly picky about food, urinating on his bed and carpet,no longer seeking affection or barking at the vacuum cleaner or doorbell. I have trouble accepting that it's senility, as the onset was literally overnight. The vet has ruled out a brain tumour or any other form of cancer. Do you know of any other 12-year-old JR who has had such a sudden deterioration?

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May 01, 2019
It's happening to Jack too.
by: AM from Geelong

This is exactly what's happening to our beloved Jack-the-Jack-Russell. I'm sad but sort of relieved and grateful, too, that I found this page because it's confirming for us what is happening, why it's happening and preparing us for the inevitable. The rapid onset is what's so terrible. Last week, happy, busy little pal, this week, just about every symptom suggested above. He's not incontinent and will have a wee when we take him outside, and he has suddenly had a couple of moments of lucidity where he's wolfed down his food and had a good drink of water. But then he paces and staggers and loses his way and collapses. Our dear friend is not going to be with us much longer and although the vets could not diagnose what was happening to our otherwise completely healthy Jack, I am in no doubt now that this is what he has. Thank you for sharing your experiences. You've helped us so much. Best wishes to everyone and spare a kind thought for our Jack, our gorgeous boy.

Oct 18, 2018
Insidious disease
by: Kurt and Kipper

I just put my best friend and companion of 15 years to rest.
Kipper was an amazing JRT like all of ours. He touched peoples lives in some way everyday of his wonderful life.

My onset occurred slowly. When I look back I would guess first signs/symptoms of possibly a year ago or more. This horrible disease will try and take the soul of your JRT. But it can’t. We battled the last month of his life with 3 hour walks past midnight. Self feeding and drinking. The drug Gaberpentin helped with the anxiety. Although it’s just a tranquilzed effect not a Disorder improvement.

All the Comments and problems raised in this forum are very accurate . My advise. Listen to your heart. Hold onto your bond strong. Let go before it’s too late.

My sweet boy knew his Mommy and Daddy and was the last joy left in his life. We could not see him losing this bond of not knowing us and let him be in peace.

Kipper JRT 18-10-18

Aug 16, 2018
by: Lance Phillips

Hi Judy,

Fifteen years ago I picked up a beautiful JRT from a shelter in Toronto. As a single man, she was my best friend. We did everything together including travelling across the country by car and aeroplane multiple times. My fiancee and I moved to Alberta in November 2016 and about a month before the move we noticed Abby was peeing on the floor. Not often, but it often enough that it didn't seem right.

Once we moved to Alberta she really started to change. A lot of pacing (in circles), staring at walls and sleeping lots throughout the day. She had become fully blind in one eye and had about 10% vision in the other by January 2018. When we took her to the vet (multiple vets) we finally found one that understood what she was going through. Canine cognitive disorder.

The onset for Abby didn't happen as quickly as it did for you, but it came on fast (it seemed fast to us) and it completely sapped her of life. She was messing on the floor and because she walked in circles, she'd walk through it and tramp it all over the house. At that point, we realized she wasn't enjoying life at all and her time had come.

The last night she was with us, she paced in a tight, 3-foot circle for almost 3 hours straight. I often wonder if we waited too long to send her off, but in hindsight, we didn't. The timing was right.

It's a horrible disease for a dog to have because it turns a lifelong friend into a dog you don't recognize. Abby was the most energetic, adventurous and brave dog I have ever seen and at the end, she was the complete opposite.

We also tried medication, but it didn't work and ultimately I think we knew what the outcome was going to be, but didn't want to admit it. If anyone out there has a dog with CCD, it doesn't get better. Unfortunately, it only gets worse, and fast.

Don't hang on to your friend for too long. Be brave and give your friend the last great service you can, sending it to its next life. It's the hardest thing I've ever done, but I'm glad I wasn't selfish and tried to keep a failing friend around.


Dec 27, 2016
by: John

Annie is our 14 yr 10 month old JRT. Annie also suffers from very rapid onset of Canine Cognitive Disorder. One day she was fine and the next she was blind, deaf and just no longer cared. Having her is just like having a two year old child in the house again. She never not once urinated in the house until that day. We got her at 7 weeks, crate trained her for a year and now it breaks our hearts to have to put her back in the crate when we are sleeping or not at home, because she doesn't remember she has to go outside. We walk her for an hour every night. She will be back in the house 10 minutes and pee on the floor. Our Vet put her on Anapril and she has since developed a very loose stool. As hard as it is to admit, I think it is time to set her free. She loves her walks but most of the rest of the day she is either sleeping or walking circles around the coffee table. Every now and then she gets the old glimmer in her eye - just not very often and not for very long. She has most of the symptoms of CCD, but she also drinks an excessive amount of water so something else may be going on also. My best friend for almost 15 years and I will miss her. We have an appointment with the vet January 6th to say our goodbye's.

Apr 22, 2015
Sudden onset
by: Mark

Our Gus is a 10 year old Sharpie cross. He has had some arthritis in his front elbows but apart from that he has been fit and healthy.We have had him on Pentasan injections and Metacam for the pain.In only 4 weeks my boy is now suffering tremours, standing in corners staring and his hearing has deteriorated. He gets stuck behind furniture and his eyes look so tired.Going to the vets tonight looks like goodbye to my boy.

May 26, 2014
My dog went a similar way
by: Anonymous

Hi Judy,

My dog Jack (approx 11 yr old Shithzu X) went down hill very rapidly and within 5 weeks I decided that it wasn't fair to him to prolong the inevitable. He started graving food and crying to be feed all the time, also crying when I left him at all. He was waking earlier and earlier for his breakfast. Then I noticed slight occassional tilt of his head and his front feet slipping on the vinyl of wooden floors. This was 15/4/2014 and I had him euthanaised on 23/5/14. some of the first symptoms were constantly wanting food or attention and not settling at night and ever restless during the day. Often he would only sleep an hour or two at a time and I would get up and try and resettle him with food or in my bed. In the last two weeks he had great difficulty negotiating up a single step, his sight appeared to be greatly affected. He couldn't smell food put in front of him, he would stare into space, get stuck behind doors or clear patio blinds, was often unresponsible when I called his name which appeared to be hearing deficit as when I whistled he heard. He too was fairly active and I noticed nothing wrong until 15/4/14. I miss him dreadfully.

Nov 15, 2012
My heart aches for you, Mona
by: Arlene

Dear Mona,

I have a six year old Jack Russell. She is my joy and almost constant companion. My husband passed away one year ago, and my wee girl really aged and changed. I guess I did too, as his loss was profound. Our vet said my JRT was in deep depression. My heart was broken even more, as she seemed to age so much and so quickly -- even went blind in one eye. She seems to be bouncing back now -- energy increased, eating, enjoying long hikes and happier. I pray she is! Anyway, my point In writing is to tell you how sad I feel for you for the pain of losing your sweet JRT. You were so loving and good, and your JRT had a grea family and life. I hope that brings you peace.


Nov 14, 2012
He's no longer suffering the indignities of advanced dementia
by: mona

Thank you for your thoughtful post, Judy.
Sadly, we had no choice but to say good-bye to our beloved JRT. For several weeks, we were in denial, but when I saw him looking passively at the squirrel daring to sit on our back deck--and when he did not bark at the frequent doorbell ringing on Halloween night--I knew that he was already in another world...We were trying desperately to stave off the inevitable with Anipryl and other brain-strengthening meds, but it made matters worse, as he developed severe diarrhea. His rear end had atrophied to such an extent that he totally lost bowel and bladder control. Since the time of my initial post on this site, his condition deteriorated rapidly. When I questioned the vet about the unusually sudden onset of most of the symptoms, she said that every case is individual. As with human Alzheimer's, some dogs simply do not follow the textbook progression of the disease...My only advice to all you JRT owners out there is to let your dog know every day how much you love him or her. Do not take it for granted that he or she will continue to live a healthy life until 15 or 16 just because some other "healthy" JRTS have done so. Only once before had our JRT been sick--with a cold-like flu at age 10. We noticed the white hair and increased daytime sleeping by the time he was eleven, but he was still the same feisty dog up until the beginning of October. However, within six weeks, our dog went from attacking the vacuum cleaner and chasing squirrels to sliding on the hardwood floors and defecating in his bed...He was a proud, fearless, highly intelligent dog. We could not bear to put him through the indignity of having to wear a diaper and having to keep him alive until his hind legs became totally paralyzed....He went peacefully and with dignity in our arms. He had just turned 12 in October. The vet was very gentle and compassionate. She said that he had led a good, long life surrounded by love...Sometimes, we just have to let go...I believe we did "the right thing". However, one cannot help feeling guilty and second guessing oneself in such situations.I know my tears will never stop flowing...He was always here sitting by my feet whenever I was at my computer...

Nov 12, 2012
sudden change
by: Judy

I feel for you and your JR - and wish I had a suggestion other than perhaps a 2nd opinion with a vet specialist in neurology. My 10 yr old JR did have a condition believed to be inflammation of the central nervous system and couldn't use his legs. He was given prednisone, which remedied this, and I give him 500mg of fish oil per day - no more episodes. I find it hard to believe the onset with your dog was so sudden that it would be dementia. Keep trying to find an answer, and good luck!

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