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New Research Shines a Light on Canine Cognitive Dysfunction: Transcranial Laser Therapy

Cognitive dysfunction (CD) is a common problem in older dogs and can lead to a wide range of symptoms, such as changes in behaviour, confusion, disorientation, and even seizures. While many different treatments are available for CD, transcranial laser therapy has shown some promise in recent research. In this blog post, we will discuss the signs associated with canine cognitive dysfunction and some of the most common treatments. We will then focus on laser therapy and its potential benefits for treating CD.

Canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD) is a common problem in older dogs. It can lead to a wide range of symptoms, including physical changes such as weight loss and muscle atrophy, as well as behavioural changes such as confusion, disorientation, changes in their sleep cycle, appetite, hygiene and more. If your dog shows any of these signs, it is essential to take them to the veterinarian for a proper diagnosis. There are many treatments available for CCD, including neuro-protective diets, medium-chain triglycerides, environmental enrichment, pharmaceuticals and laser therapy.

Medium-chain triglycerides and Neuroprotective Diets:

One standard and well-researched treatment for CCD is an appropriate diet. This usually involves adding medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) to your dog's food. MCTs are a type of fat that provide neuroprotective benefits. In addition, diets high in vitamins B and C, anti-oxidants, alpha-lipoic acid and L-carnitine, DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids, silybin, SAMe and phospholipids have also been shown to have benefits for dogs with CCD.

Environmental enrichment:

Sensory impairment and poor environmental stimulation, although unlikely to be causative factors, can accelerate the progression of CCD. The old saying "use it or lose it" is not just for physical fitness but applies to neuroplasticity and health. Increasing senior pets' environmental enrichment can be done in numerous ways, for example, by taking them for regular walks, food play mats, teaching them new tricks or simply practising the basics.

Transcranial photobiomodulation AKA Laser Therapy for dogs

Transcranial photobiomodulation (laser therapy) is a new and exciting treatment option showing promise for treating CCD, with studies in humans and rodents demonstrating several benefits. Although there are no guidelines for the treatment of dogs yet developed, data extrapolated from human and rodent studies suggest using a 660-880 nm beam around 2-3 times weekly for 4 to 6 weeks to assess response to treatment. Some of the reported benefits of laser therapy in human and rodent studies include; neuronal mitochondrial stimulation and subsequent assumed increased neuronal metabolism, increased levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factors (a vital protein linked to neuronal synapse maintenance and repair and the growth of neuronal tissue/neurogenesis), decrease neuronal inflammation and oxidative stress and increase neuronal oxidation by promoting increased blood flow. Although further research is needed in this area to help develop guidelines for optimal treatment frequency, laser therapy is a promising adjunctive treatment for dogs with CCD.

Please visit your veterinarian if you think your dog may show cognitive dysfunction. They will be able to help you develop a treatment plan that is right for your dog.


- Dewey, C. W., Brunke, M. W., & Sakovitch, K. (2022). Transcranial photobiomodulation (laser) therapy for cognitive impairment: A review of molecular mechanisms and potential application to canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD). Open Veterinary Journal, 12(2), 256-263.


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