Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome

Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome

I took BT to the vet on Saturday after reading everyone’s suggestions in my last post about her. The receptionist wrote down “Urinary Infection” as the reason for my visit, but when my vet entered the room I spewed out the long list of abnormal behavior I’ve been seeing in her.

  • Strange urinary accidents
  • Stress panting
  • Pacing
  • Unexplained crying
  • Compulsive licking
  • Decreased interest in playing with Pascale
  • No longer interested in toys
  • Unable to focus long enough to chew
  • Doesn’t seem out affection from me


He patiently listened to me talk without interrupting, and when I finished he said that everything I told him could have written a pamphlet for Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome, or CDS in dogs.

CDS is a neurodegenerative disorder of senior dogs which is characterized by both cognitive changes and neurophysiological pathologies.5,6,7 Memory impairment, poor problem solving skills, social disconnect, confusion and day-night reversal may occur and increase as the condition progresses. (Source)

In plain english, it’s Alzheimer’s for dogs. There is no cure, and it will only get worse. While I have suspected for a while that there was something seriously wrong with my dog and thought I was prepared for the news, I still started to cry in the examination room for the first time in my life. My vet handed me a tissue, and told me about his personal dog who had the same disease.


He said that he held on to her too long, and let the disease progress too far before euthanasia. When he would come home from work, his dog greeted him at the door happy & spinning in circles to see him just like she had in her youth. However he soon realized that his beloved dog gave the best of her sanity to him, and that during the day with his wife & kids it was a different story. When he told me about his dog giving her best for my vet, it made me think that BT had been giving her best self for Tim. Now that her simple brain has realized he’s gone, she’s not doing nearly as well.

We talked about quality of life. If BT pees in her bedding or has accidents in the house, she doesn’t really care. That’s aggravating for me, but for her… not so much. The bigger concern is her semi-constant state of stress. When she’s having a bad episode or day, she will just pace and stress pant and only settle when she’s exhausted herself. I told my vet that she doesn’t come to me for petting or cuddling any more, but will instead compulsively lick my leg when she happens to wander nearby. He asked me if the only thing she had left was compulsive licking used as a pacifier, was that much to hang on to? I knew the answer – it’s not.


There is a medication that can help with this (Anipryl), but he warned me that he doesn’t like to give it out much. It doesn’t work in all dogs, and only will work for a short period of time. At best, it can get the dog back somewhat to their previous level of cognitive ability. Even if that improvement is great, the improvement might only last a few weeks or months before the dog inevitably goes downhill again. I asked for some of the medication anyway, but only so I could try to give her a few good weeks while I prepared myself.

I’m traveling to North Carolina in mid-October, and both my vet and I agreed that it wouldn’t be fair to her at all to kennel her like this. So while I kept dabbing my eyes, I took BT and the medication home with me and told my vet I would call back to make a euthanasia appointment sometime before October.


When I got in my car, I fell apart. BT happily napped in the back seat, and I cried the entire way home.. and then most of the day. I cried because despite joking about smothering her with a pillow, I love my BT. She has always tolerated me at best (Tim was her true love in life), but she’s the first small dog I’ve ever owned. The first dog I could hold in my arms like a baby, and the dog that snored at night between me and my husband for many, many years. I cried because I have never taken a dog to the vet to be euthanized before, and I know it’ll be hard.

Mostly I cried because I know that the last thing I’ll ever say to her is, “Tell your Dad I love him.” Because now I’ll have an apartment filled with framed wedding photos and Boston Terrier trinkets, but no husband and no Boston Terrier. Just like it was before I met Tim, it’ll be me and Eliot (plus a Pascale). The family united I loved for so long is permanently broken. If I send his beloved little dog to the afterlife, it’ll mean he’s never coming back to us.


I cried about all of these things, and walked my puffy red eyes into the barn to hack Simon. He needed his walk/trot ride to build that suspensory strength back up, so I rode. After I rode I washed his face, tended to his little bouts of skin fungus and stuffed him full of his favorite treats. One day I’ll need to make the same decision for Simon and for Eliot and for Pascale and any other animal I ever have, but not today.

51 thoughts on “Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome

  1. Oh Lauren! I am so sorry. My heart goes out to you. It sounds like you are seeing things through and making the best, most responsible and most humane choice for BT. But I am so sorry this has to be so hard on you. 🙁 <>

  2. I’m so sorry. I’ve had to do this with many dogs. My last being my beloved doberman who had canine vestibular syndrome. It was a daily struggle for about a year “oh hes better today I cant go today” Until the day when i just knew it was the day and though he still had his puppy grin, the bad days had outweighed the good and it was time for him to leave me. I called that morning, went in 2 hours later, ( pay first so you can just leave, this is important) held him until he was no longer breathing and ran out with his collar in my hand cried in my car all the way home and honestly i still cry over him and its been years. Its hard, very very hard but its what we owe to them and i know you will find the courage to do right by your baby when its the time. They are heartbreaks in the making because their time with us is fleeting.

  3. Oh Lauren, this is so unfair for you to have to go through so soon after losing Tim. I let my beloved Jack-cat go almost a year to the day after losing my mom in a fire at our house. Mom loved all of my “kids” but she said Jack reminded her of a cat she had as a child. I picture him curled up on her lap and that helps a bit. I hoe you can find some sort of solace like that at some point….my thoughts, my prayers and my tears are going out to you…

  4. Oh goodness, I am so sorry to hear this. I think for any pet owner/lover the thought of that day always lurks somewhere in the back of our minds. I know it does for me, but it sure won’t make it any easier.

  5. So sorry. I’ve made that decision, taken that walk with an animal that trusts you, follows you, depends on you. I’m a very firm believer in not letting humans suffer needlessly, and feel the same with pets. They will brave face and suffer as long as they can for you, and sometimes, the most loving thing to do is to let them go. Sounds like the vet gave you some very honest advice. So sorry you are dealing with this all at once.

  6. You know, I’ve seen similar changes in my 12 y/o squirrel mutt. Reading your list was like reading a description of her. Except the tinkles – we haven’t had tinkles yet. But she pants ALL THE FUCKING TIME. Wake up, she’s panting. Shave her bald and stick her in front of a fan, she’s panting. It makes me wonder what the lesser of two evils is – enlarged heart or distressed brain? She also does the random crying and isn’t sure what she wants – go outside? go to bed? play toss for a little while? And she doesn’t lick me – she’s been licking the walls for years. Putting her on Clomicalm helped some with the anxiety, but she’s still just batshit crazy.

    Sorry that you’re having to make this decision so soon, but I hope that you get the opportunity to spoil the snot out of her over the next month and get lots of great photos!

  7. So sorry to hear. That will always be the hardest decision we will have to make. I’m glad you have a little time to prepare and that you’ll be able to be there for BT when she goes. Lots of hugs.

  8. I too have an older dog that has gotten stranger as time has gone on. While he frequently still seems happy, he sometimes will randomly growl when touched, has balance issues, and will snap at our youngest dog for no apparent reason (snap being a strange halfhearted thing, he has never actually touched her but she is wary of him just the same). He also has a host of other health problems that mean his monthly medication/supplement costs are over $100 on top of his special food. Regardless of his many issues, I dread the day I have to make a decision for him.
    I know you will do what’s best for BT. Hugs to you!

  9. So sorry to hear this. I always read your blog but never comment, but I recently read a study about coconut oil actually helping people who have Alzheimer’s recover some memory and quality of life. I don’t know if you already feed your dogs coconut oil but perhaps in these final months it might help your old pal a little. Worth a try at least? Who knows. I just had to let my 12 year old Sheltie go in March and all of your blogs about dealing with your loss make me cry. I know losing a dog is not the same as losing a husband but he too was the love of my life.

  10. This is just not fair. I am so sad for you and for BT. When I took my cat Grover in to be euthanized, I sobbed in the exam room. Like, ugly sobs. I thought for a minute I might throw up. Then I sobbed more in the car after I had to walk out of there with an empty carrier. I felt heartbroken, then guilty, then heartbroken … now I am at peace with the decision but still sad. But you already know this …. we take on their pain so they can be released. And you have to let yourself feel all the feelings. Even so, I am so so sorry for this decision you have to make. I hope BT gives Grover a bop on the head for me.

  11. I am sitting in my office reading this and balling my eyes out. I know how hard this is, I’ve been there with my own companions. But I can only imagine how hard this is for you- dealing with so much loss. I normally don’t comment on your blogs (I simply read from afar), but I just wanted to tell you to stay strong and just keep swimming 🙂

  12. I’m so sorry, Lauren. It’s so hard to have to be their stewards in their final days, but it is the kindest and most faithful thing we can do. It seems particularly unfair that you should have to deal with this loss on top of everything else. 🙁

  13. i’m so sorry the news wasn’t better. you and BT are very much in my thoughts – i hope you are able to truly enjoy some quality time together in the next few weeks 🙁

  14. I’m so sorry the news about BT was so bad, and that you have that heart-wrenching event facing you. At least now you know that letting her go is definitely the right thing to do, even though it will be difficult.

    I’ve had to have numerous animals euthanized in my 65 years, and it is never easy. I’ll be praying for you and thinking of you as you approach letting BT go. The fact that she was Tim’s special dog, and that he left so recently makes it so much harder, I’m sure.

    Hugs and prayers.

  15. This is never easy to do, but right for the animal at the time. You will get thru this Lauren and we’re all here to give you a shoulder to lean or cry on, even if it’s a cyber one.

    The last dog I took in to the vet, was so far gone when we got there, they sedated him before the final shot as they always do and that was it. He stopped breathing and was already gone. Driving him home to bury him- I bawled the entire way.

  16. No! Ugh. I’m so sorry.
    I was really hoping for a good ol’ UTI. Might you consider a second opinion? Or just push for the UTI test? I only say this because in humans a UTI can make people literally insane, especially the elderly. I don’t see why that can’t happen in dogs and cause all these same symptoms.

  17. I’ m so sorry, Lauren. I have but one piece of advice to give you: Let her go sooner rather than later. In the end, after all they give to us, it’s up to us to not hesitate or prolong suffering. It’s up to us. This is the final gift of real, true love that we give to them. I promise that you will find peace in knowing that when BT needed you, you were there to let her go. When she is counting on you to make the right decision for her, you will. This is what will give you solace.

  18. Sending all my sympathies and hugs to you. Even as it breaks your heart, take solace in the fact that having to euthanize an animal due to old age is a truly wonderful thing.

  19. Well damnit. I was really hoping it wasn’t going to be anything like this. I send you virtual hugs and BT a virtual doggy treat. 🙁 And one for Pascale and Eliot too!

  20. Lauren, I am so very sorry. As a fellow BT owner I’m so sad for you. They are weird, special little gremlins. I had to put my pit bull down almost 7 years ago and it is a horrible thing to go through but we have to do it for them. I’m thinking of you.

  21. Would you accept reader suggestions/donations for BTreatz? Give me a couple days to work out the logistics of Fedexing a warm Bojangle’s biscuit….
    I love you and love BT.

  22. Oh Lauren, I’m so sorry. I’ve never owned a boston, but I’ve known many and they are quiet funny and special little dogs.

  23. Lauren, I was so so very sad to read this. I can’t even imagine. I love your BTreatz posts though. I love how you’re approaching this. It’s beyond hard, but you’re tackling it beautifully. Hugs to you. And adult beverages.

  24. Oh no, this is horrible!! I think it’s hard enough when a pet dies but when we are in control of ultimately picking out the day of their death, it feels even worse. You’re doing what’s best for BT and you but I’m so sorry you have to go through another death so soon. : (

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.