Shammi –
Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome

Danke & Shamrock (Shammi) on their first birthday, May 20, 1992

Written by Gerri O'Neill, January 2005

Some of you may remember that a few months ago, I wrote an article about "Adopting an Adult Dog". The 'star' of that article was our beautiful Chocolate and Tan Longhaired Miniature Dachshund, Sienna, who we had recently adopted from Michele (of Terragethen). Also featured (although not as much as they would have liked!) were Sienna's two puppies, Chloe and Pumpkin (AKA 'The Munchkins'), who, thanks to Michele, were given to opportunity to grow up with their mother.

But before there were Munchkins and Sienna, there were two other beloved little Dachshund sisters in our lives, Shamrock and Danke. And Shammi developed Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS)......

When Shammi was about 8, she started to have "accidents" on the rugs. Both she and Danke had always been very good about letting us know when they had to go out, so we were puzzled about her change in behavior, as was our vet. In retrospect, I remember reading that this could be a symptom of CDS, but just the idea of it happening to her at such a young age was very upsetting and so I pushed it out, or at least to the back of my mind. She had no other symptoms and that alone was not indicative of the diagnosis.

When she was 11, major changes in her behavior took place, although we didn't realize that it was CDS. She would fuss, cry and bark if we were upstairs and she and Danke weren't. (Danke had stopped climbing stairs and Shammi had never come down the stairs on her own). Generally, this was around 'din-din' time so we chalked it up to hunger. Then she began fussing in the evenings. She'd wake up from her nap and start to cry and bark. We would tip-toe around upstairs so as to not wake her. As time went by, it got worse and she started getting more and more upset.

Several months later, she suddenly started carrying on during the night – sometimes for hours. She barked, cried, panted and threw herself at the half-door we have in the kitchen. We tried moving their bed in front of the heat vent (their favorite spot), we tried giving her their snuggle sack (which was usually put away at night, so that they'd stay covered in their bed) and everything else we could think of. Nothing worked. We tried a "calming" pill that we got from the Drs. Foster and Smith catalog, but it didn't seem to help. She missed nothing – not a creaking floorboard or a squeaking bed. Meanwhile, poor Danke just kept trying to sleep and would look at us as if to say "will she ever stop?" every time we'd come down to try to comfort her distraught sister.

A week after this nighttime problem started, I took her to our vet. He did blood work to see if there was any medical problem causing this, although he doubted that was the problem. He also recommended a drug called Anipryl to help the changes in her little brain that were causing her upsetment. Although Anipryl sold in his office for $64 a month, he was kind enough to write out a prescription for the generic kind, Selegiline Hydrochloride, which is the exact same thing. So Shammi got her own account at our drug store and got her meds for $24.

I did some research on the Internet and found that she had several of the symptoms of CDS. "Changes in sleep patterns" and "confusing day and night" are among them. Also, forgetting housebreaking and "going" inside soon after being taken out. Plus aggressive behavior, and although she was never anything but a sweetie with us, she had snapped at poor Danke several times during the past year.

It seemed as though parts of her brain weren't working, but other parts were fine. She still answered to her name, although you might have to say it a few times. But she had always been stubborn (hey, she was a Doxie!), so who's to say that she wasn’t just choosing to tune us out. A lot of times, she ignored "Shamrock" and "Shammi", but answered to "Shamrock O'Neill"! Go figure.

Unfortunately, Selegiline isn't effective in all dogs but even when it does work, it takes time before it takes 'effect'. So we had several weeks of sleepless nights while our poor little baby cried, panted, barked and paced for hours. She'd get so upset that we worried she'd have a stroke. It was heartbreaking and terribly sad to watch.

Luckily, I'm a night owl, so I was able to stay up with her. Most nights, she'd sleep behind my chair as I surfed the Internet, but sometimes, the only thing that would calm her would be if she slept on my lap or if I sat on the floor with her. One night we slept on the floor together, but most nights I'd put her to bed around 4 or 4:30AM with Mom, who had the 'morning shift'.

During the day, she'd be practically glued to us. She'd follow us around and most times was so close that we practically fell over her. And she wouldn't let us out the back door without her either. One freezing day, she accompanied me when I took Danke out and I wound up carrying her around the yard, so she wouldn't catch cold in the snow. But she was calm and happy and that's what was important.

Things got a little better after we started giving her a mild tranquilizer (prescribed by our vet) at night. It helped her sleep a little better. And then, about 6 weeks after she started the Selegiline, we realized that Sham hadn't had any "accidents" in the house in for over a week! The pills were beginning to work!

Other changes took place, too. It took a while, but she started to sleep again at night – all night. And then one day, she rolled over and showed us her tummy! She hadn't done that in a long, long time, but we'd never realized why. She also started "grooming" Danke's ears again, something she'd done since puppyhood. Since she generally liked to chew on Danke's ears until they were sopping wet, I'm not sure that Danke was happy with that turn of events!

I wish I could tell you that this story had a fairytale ending, but it doesn't. The blood tests showed that Shammi had Chronic Kidney Disease and liver problems, which led to surgery for a benign liver mass. In the meantime, subsequent testing on Danke showed that she, too, had Chronic Kidney Disease, Cushing's Disease and a bladder stone. Because of Danke's stone (the second time she'd had them), Shammi's bladder was 'probed' during her surgery. Nothing was found, but her bladder never regained its strength after that.

This past March, a little over a year after their diagnoses, Shammi and Danke died only eleven days apart. They were always together in life and so we buried them in one casket, so they would be together for eternity. They never knew that they were sick and they felt well and were happy until the last few days of their lives, thanks in part to the Selegiline which helped make the quality of Shammi's life much better. Selegiline couldn't save Shammi, but it brought her back to us for the last several months of her life. And for that, we'll always be grateful.

Content copyright © 2005 by Gerri O'Neill. All rights reserved. This content was written by Gerri O'Neill. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Please contact Gerri O'Neill for details. Originally published in the Terragethen Newsletter, February 2005.

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