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Is Your Dog Senile?

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Is Your Dog Senile?

By Melissa Breyer, Senior Editor, Healthy & Green Living

Did you know that older dogs can exhibit signs of dementia just like older adults do? As your dog ages, you may find him appearing lost or confused in familiar surroundings, wandering aimlessly, seeming disoriented, or showing decreased responsiveness–among other symptoms. Although these signs can be caused by other undiagnosed health problems, in the end many dogs are diagnosed with cognitive dysfunction. Although this might just sound like a fancy name for old age, when the brains of dogs diagnosed with this disorder are autopsied, there are changes in the brain tissue very similar to what is seen in humans with Alzheimer’s. What they find is the deposition of amyloid plaques in the cerebral cortex and hippocampal part of the brain; alterations in neurotransmitters, including dopamine; increased levels of monoamine oxidase B (MAOB) in the brain; and increased levels of free radicals

It’s important to note that these signs may be caused by other undiagnosed health problems in your dog including thyroid disease and arthritis, so the first step when your dog exhibits one of these behaviors is to have him seen by his veterinarian for a full physical and blood work.

Not all dogs exhibit all symptoms, and some may simply show odd behavior, such as agitation or barking for no apparent reason. The clinical symptoms of cognitive dysfunction are progressive and will eventually impair the dog. Interestingly, the rate of dogs affected at 10 years old, 12 years old, or 14 years old, mirrors the age-related demographic for cognitive dysfunction in humans.

Next: Symptoms and what you can do

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Melissa Breyer

Melissa Breyer is a writer and editor with a background in sustainable living, specializing in food, science and design. She is the co-author of True Food (National Geographic) and has edited and written for regional and international books and periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine. Melissa lives in Brooklyn, NY.


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5:44AM PDT on Jun 28, 2010

Im not at sure at first if my dog is senile. On reading the material. Everything fits. she wakes up middle of the night barking.Wandering, barking at the wall, getting stuck on a corner. She is just 11 yrs turning 12 on October. I just called the vet for an appointment. Any other suggestions or advise would help.


4:34PM PDT on May 17, 2010

My dog is definatly senile. He doesn't seem to be able to understand us much anymore (might be loss of hearing though) but then other times he acts like he's heard something when nothing happened. He does poops in the house, he's not at all active in the daytime and wanders around the house at night quite alot. I'm not worried, he is old for a dog and old age is a natural thing to happen.

11:22PM PDT on Mar 27, 2010

my dog is 14 and she's in pain can I ask to but her down. I'm out of money and the vets can't find any thing. Knowledge? Suggestions?

6:48AM PDT on Mar 20, 2010

When my dog was 14 years he started to forget things :(

8:08PM PST on Jan 30, 2010

Fight for pet rights!!! They deserve better health care availability!!
Please sign my petition!

Thanks Jesse!!

10:36AM PST on Dec 29, 2009

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5:16PM PST on Dec 13, 2009

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6:31AM PDT on Jun 14, 2009


6:59AM PDT on May 21, 2009

My dog was diagnosed with Alzheimers when she was 13 years old (this was in New Zealand). The vet gave her pills for the human version & she was back to her old self within a couple of days. It was another 3 years before they stopped working so she had a great lovely last few years with us - & vice versa.

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