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

Symptoms of cognitive dysfunction in dogs
The symptoms for cognitive dysfunction vary from dog to dog. If your dog is showing any of these signs, it is important for you to make an appointment with the veterinarian to rule out other health problems.

Wanders aimlessly
Appears lost of confused in the yard or house
Gets “stuck” in corners or behind furniture
Stares into space or at walls
Has difficulty find the door
Does not recognize familiar people
Does not respond to verbal cues or name
Appears to forget reason for going outdoors

Decreased or Altered Response to Family Members
Solicits attention less
No longer stands for petting (walks away)
Less enthusiastic greeting
No longer greets owners

Abnormal Sleep/Wake Patterns
Sleeps more in a 24 hour day
Sleeps less during the night
Decrease in activity
Increase in wandering or pacing

Loss of Housetraining
Uninates/defecates indoors
Signals less to go outdoors

What You Can Do
If your dog is diagnosed with cognitive dysfunction, talk to your vet about options. He or she may suggest medication–there are pharmaceuticals that have shown success in treatment. However, holistic treatment has shown to be successful as well.

Holistic approaches include:

• Antioxidant treatment

• Supplements of omega-3 fatty acids

• B vitamin supplementation

• Mental stimulation including playing, walking, petting, and talking

• Extra attention and guidance during his daily activities

• Keep your yard fenced and to use a leash when walking your dog to minimize the risk of getting lost

• Try to avoid making any sudden changes to his surroundings or his daily activities in order to minimize confusion

• Lots of love and affection


Geo Porge
Geo Porge7 years ago

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.


Amy Roberts
Amy King7 years ago

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.

Tamara S.
Tamara S.7 years ago

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?

Margaretha van Egmond
No fwd van E7 years ago

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

Jesse C.
Jesse C7 years ago

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

Thanks Jesse!!

Ä°brahim K.
Past Member 8 years ago

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Mehmet B.
Past Member 8 years ago

good idea fosforlu nevresimler


Penny R.
Penny R.8 years ago

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.