When Sammy had just turned 13 years old and one month, he developed pancreatitis due to the steroids he had been taking for his skin allergies. Having almost lost him that day, I was so grateful to bring him home and hug him all over again. Little did I know there was a worse disease lurking to steal my precious boy.
After his hospitalization from pancreatitis, the first thing I noticed is that he stopped drinking water. I tried every which way for him to drink, but he wouldn't. Odd. I thought, could it be that something happened to him with the pancreatitis? Whatever it was, I got creative and developed all kinds of "puppy soup" to ensure he was hydrated. I thought nothing of it and continued his puppy soup regimen.
Time progressed. The first time Sammy wound up behind an antique desk in my living room and stood there crying to get out, I thought "You silly goose, you got in there you know how to get out". But he didn't get out. I helped him out of this corner in which he was stuck and thought nothing of it. Neither did I think anything of the occasional restless nights where he would suddenly just cry and not be comforted. Sometimes he would just sit and stare. Did I think twice about it? Not really. Sammy was never known to do anything ordinary.
As I took my beloved 14 year old Yorkie for walks, something he loved more than anything else in the world, I thought "Oh his eyesight is going due to his age" when he would try to climb the steps to other houses, or maybe it's the dark so he can't tell which house is his. It wasn't until he fainted one day trying so hard to get home from this torturous thing called a walk that I started looking into what could be going on. The first thing we did was go to the heart doctor. No congestive heart failure. In fact, he was looking pretty good and his heart murmur was only a grade 2. What could be going on I thought as I took him to the vet and all his tests were normal. Nothing physically wrong at all.
One night, on a hunch, I typed in "Doggie Alzheimer’s" into Google.com and there it was. This awful disease that was slowly stealing my boy. It's called Canine Cognitive Disorder. As I read the signs and symptoms "restless at night, unexplained barking, getting stuck in unusual places, loss of appetite, loss of housetraining (Sam as is typical for a Yorkie, always had trouble with housetraining so I didn't notice this to be a worry), and unexplained trembling" my heart began to sink. My boy clearly had this horrible disease. There was some hope though; there was a medication for this thing. Anipryl. I went to my vet and she started him right on it. Barring this medication, there weren't too many alternative treatments. Within days I saw an improvement in the restlessness at night and the getting stuck. Some things were clearly better, others not, but he didn't progress into being worse. I believe the medication gave me another two years with my boy. Sammy made it through some other hurdles and he saw his 15th birthday on June 14, 2009. His decline had begun early in the year but leveled off until the summer. By the time August came around he was getting stuck almost every time you turned around. He was housebound because it was the only place he felt safe. It was the day I saw him chewing wires that I knew he needed to rest. On 8/29/09 surrounded by myself and his three favorite Aunties my vet came to my house and while I held him and sang him to sleep he went to the rainbow bridge.
I know this is hard to read about. I know your beloved pet growing old is scary. I also know the thought of adopting an older dog with the endless possibilities is a frightening thought. However I don't write this to scare people away. We all know that dogs live far too short of a life. I write this to honor my boy and his struggle to educate people on this awful disease. Sammy was fairly advanced when I brought him to the vet and got the medication for him. Nonetheless it gave me two more years with him. It is vital that people be aware of this disease and catch it early. There are other interventions to use as well now, natural remedies, food (Hill's KD for cognitive health), as well as various supplements. If you suspect your dog has CCD by reading this article, talk to your vet. Also, the best place to get support and advice is from the yahoo group firstname.lastname@example.org. It was there I took a great deal of comfort from others who understood. There was advice, suggestions, ideas, and most importantly someone who completely understood. Lots of someones. I wouldn't have gotten through that journey with Sammy had it not been for my friends and for this group.
Not all dogs get CCD. It's just like Alzheimer’s. Some people get it some don't. So please don't be discouraged from adopting that older dog or live in fear about your dog getting Canine Cognitive Dysfunction. Just make sure to educate yourself and be prepared so that you and your best friend can survive whatever comes your way.
Thanks for reading about Sammy's story.