Older Dogs and Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome

Is your dog getting old? How can you improve its quality of life? One potential problem you should know about is Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome. Educate yourself and read more below.
Older Dogs and Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome

Last update: 12 June, 2019

They say that there’s nothing sadder than getting old. And, unfortunately, everything gets old: you, your things and your pets as well. Watching a beloved pet getting old and unsteady isn’t pleasant. One of the possible problems older dogs may have to face is the Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome.

Learn about this syndrome that occurs in older dogs. It’s always good to be well-informed about problems your pet might face. That way, you’ll be able to help your friend have the best quality of life possible.

What is Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome?

This disease is more common in older dogs, but can even occur in middle-aged dogs. According to different studies, it seems to be caused by changes in the nervous system due to the aging of the cells that happens with the passing of time.

The canine nervous system is extremely sensitive to free radicals. These make neurons that carry out important functions age more rapidly and even die. Therefore, the brain can’t create new neurons to take the place of the damaged ones. This all means that the aging process speeds up.

Due to these changes in the brain and because of a decrease in neurons, the animal starts to change its behavior. This affects the dog’s quality of life. The changes also affect the dog’s capacity to interact with other dogs and even with its owners.


How can you know if your dog is suffering from Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome? It’s important to get to know the symptoms. Some common symptoms are:

  • Disorientation. A dog with this syndrome can start to wander around the house, tripping over things, as if it doesn’t recognize the place. It’s also possible that the dog might have trouble remembering family members, neighbors or friends. In the street, even if it’s familiar territory where your dog always walks, the disorientation can become even greater. One of the most recognizable signs is when a dog hides under a chair or table and doesn’t want to come out.
  • Reducing interactions with other animals or with people. If your dog has always been a sociable creature but now it seems like it doesn’t want to do anything, not even with you, it’s a clear sign that it could be suffering from this disease. It might not seem interested in being petted anymore, or in getting attention from you.
  • Changes in sleep patterns. Has your dog started sleeping all day and being restless at night? It’s a sign that something’s not right and might possibly be Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome. Other changes might be sleeping very little during the day or, sometimes, way more than normal.
  • Hygienic habits. Has your dog started urinating or defecating around the house when it’s never done that before? Or maybe it doesn’t ask to go outside when it needs to anymore. It’s because something’s not right in its nervous system.

Other symptoms could include:

  • Barking without any apparent reason, especially at night.
  • Slow to obey orders that used to be simple tasks.
  • It can’t remember things it had learned to do, such as sitting, or not eating off the floor, etc.
  • Your dog may get a little confused when it has to do even routine things, like, for example, eating or going to sleep.
  • Standing up but not looking at anything and not going anywhere is a clear sign of Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome.


An older dog that looks a little bewildered.

Although this is a degenerative disease and there isn’t much you can do to cure it, you will be able to improve the symptoms with some treatments or medications. Certain treatments could help your dog to have a better quality of life if it suffers from Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome.

Apart from the above drugs, you could also alternate with natural products that can combat the effects of free radicals. Some of these are:

  • Vitamin C and E
  • Selenium
  • Coenzyme Q10
  • Alpha lipoic acid
  • Grape seeds
  • L-Carnitine
  • Omega 3
  • Phosphatidylserine

Of course, even though these natural components may help your pet, you should still take it to see the vet.

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