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Jenna Stregowski, RVT

Is Your Dog Going Senile?

By November 27, 2011

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Does this sound familiar to you? Here's my situation: My dog is 16 years old and doing pretty well considering. However, I have noticed a few of the telltale signs of dementia over the past year or so. She is not as responsive to commands as she used to be, but I also know for sure that she she is going deaf. She sometimes goes to the wrong sides of doors, but perhaps her vision is fading. Occasionally she has a urinary accident in the house, despite the fact that she has been perfect with housetraining since she was four months old. Yet, she has kidney disease, so maybe that's the reason she sometimes cannot hold her bladder. She does sleep a lot, sometimes paces and is generally less active, but what if that is simply due to her arthritis? The truth is, her symptoms are classic for all of her diseases AND for dementia. If I am being honest with myself, she is probably in the early stages of dementia. Yes, my dog is likely going senile.

Does that sound like your dog? Chances are, your senior dog will develop some signs of dementia as he ages. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to help him. Read all about Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, also called Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome. Once you have a better understanding of the disease, there will be much more you can do to help your dog. If you think your dog is going senile, visit your vet to make sure. There may not be a cure, but there are options.

Have you lived with a senile dog? Share your experience and advice by leaving a comment below.


November 30, 2011 at 9:31 am
(1) Lamar says:

Our dog, Hafta, is an 18 year old Basenji. She has all of those signs listed in the article. To look at her, one would think that we are not feeding her because she looks so emaciated. But, we have to doctor her food with juices from other foods before she will take a bite, and then she eats. She paces in circles or just all over the house. She has had many a stroke, some lasting as long as 8 minutes. Some only 2 minutes. When they pass, she gets up like, “Okay, Dad. I’m all done now”. But then we have to corral her in a pen for about 4 hours, otherwise she could hurt herself just by bumping into things or stumbling. She will walk under a dinner chair and then forget how to get out. Or, she will walk behind the sofa and forget how to get out.

Still, with all of these circumstances, she has not failed to greet me when I come home from work. Slow getting there, but she still gets there. She still wants to get in my lap and once she is there, she is as happy as a lark, lays her head down, and goes to sleep.

She is in no pain. She is not starving. She is not lacking in anything that would be detrimental to her health, so I see no reason for putting her down. My mother-in-law had all of these signs with Alzheimer and we did not “put her down”. We tolerated all of the conditions and let her pass from natural causes. We will do the same with Hafta.

Selfish? Maybe. Tolerable? A lot. Love and devotion to this dog? More than you know.

June 23, 2012 at 12:58 am
(2) Victoria says:

we have a similar situation with our 17 year old poodle. He has medication for arthritis and that helps a lot, he is not blind but has trouble seeing (checked out by a specialist) He is not deaf as responds to noises but not necessarily when we call him. He too paces a lot, stands in the middle of an empty room “staring”, gets stuck behind couches or in corners. Has “accidents” in the house (after being pretty good with his toileting) Sleeps all day, but not at night and is quite disruptive to the family’s sleep. The difference is, he cries so much. It goes from a quiet whimper, to whining to full on yelping. Before we would pick him and cuddle him to calm him and he’d doze off (like a baby) but it’s getting more difficult to calm him. The crying is the most distressing as we can’t say categorically he isn’t in pain; how do you know when they can’t say? He’s always been vocal and “talked” when spoken to, but this is different. We have 2 other dogs who have taken to either ignoring him or growling when he’s in the same room, let alone nearby but they come to him when he cries. He’s currently on diazepam to help him sleep at night and to calm him down – have just started and so far not much difference. But the same thing, when you come he wags his tail (albeit briefly and you have to be quick to see it) but he still recognises the family (but not friends who visit). Still gets excited for dinner and has a hearty appetite (despite having very few teeth) and we have no desire to have him put down. We’re hoping he’ll peacefully pass away in his sleep. And we do love him. It really is a tricky one

January 14, 2013 at 2:50 am
(3) Susan says:

I too have a 17 1/2 year old poodle, who has been like one of our children. He is still so smart and loving, with a hearty appetite and a desire to live. But, unfortunately, he has recently started exhibiting signs of anxiety, mostly at night, and sometimes during the day as well. He is nearly blind and deaf, and gets stuck in corners, under furniture. We are always there to guide him back to his places of comfort. The biggest obstacle has become the mounting anxiety when we are ready to go to sleep. Victoria, in the previous comment, described it perfectly when she said that it escalates from a quiet whimper to whining and then yelping. We have him on a sleeping medication called Acepromazine, which only works for a few hours. A side effect is that his legs become very weak until it leaves his system, making it difficult to walk. I hate to drug him, but it is the only way to calm him and allow us to sleep, if only briefly. My heart goes out to him. It must be very frightening to experience these changes, and he is completely dependent on us to be understanding of the effects they cause. We hope he still knows how much we love him.

June 11, 2013 at 10:54 am
(4) Selena Hernandez says:

In our situation Mimi just turned 16 and we had noticed signs about a year ago. She wasn’t responding to our regular voices but could still hear a high pitched whistle. Now she walks around all day if she’s not sleeping. We live on 2 acres and she will go around the whole property several times a day. She looks so thin, but we watch her eat and she’ll even take a tret if you put it right in front of her. This is how we know her vision is getting limited. We don’t want to put her down but the seizures scare me, I worry that she will have one while she is out walking around somewhere and I won’t be there if she passes away. Selfish I know but she’s one of our girls. Has anyone noticed the labored breathing ?

June 12, 2013 at 4:26 pm
(5) Elizabeth Green says:

My 18 1/2 yr. old Jack Russell terrier is blind, deaf and senile, as well.Because we have a swimming pool, she can no longer be allowed in the back yard because she falls in. We have an alarm on her, but she still falls in. She is constantly squeezing herself under and behind furniture, and can’t figure out how to get out. She will just stay there and whine. Although she eats like a horse, she is emaciated, like some others have reported. The Vets say she is not in any pain, so unless I can’t take her behavior any more, she is fine-for her age and condition. Of course, I will live with her problems. She is my little girl. How could I just give up on her just because she has deficits. It is just so painful to watch, but I would have it no other way.

November 24, 2013 at 6:59 am
(6) stacy pyrek says:

Elizabeth, I feel the exact same way. My hysband feels differently. The middle of the night barking is getting hard on me. The constant pottying in the house is getting hard on all of us. Our petsitter comes to let them out during the day, but we still come home to accidents in the house. He is about 19 years old. I know hes had a good life, but just dont know when its time. Im hop8n TNhe will just pass away naturally.

November 25, 2013 at 10:44 pm
(7) Charmaine says:

I am reading these comments with tears flowing. my little girl is about 16 1/2 if the info we got from the shelter 13 years ago was correct. She sleeps all day and then pees all over the house at night. I put paper down for her but she seldom uses it. She is totally deaf and I think her sight is deteriorating fast but her sense of smell seems to be intact because she can smell food and eats well.
Her shoulder pain is controlled with drugs. She has started barking in the night and I find her standing in the middle of the room staring, it takes her a while to notice me. last night i put a soft lamp on and she slept the rest of the night.
I came here to see if this was all normal and I see it is. Besides all of this she still has a spring in her step most days so I suppose I’m in for the long haul.

January 28, 2014 at 3:09 pm
(8) Sue says:

My senior Beagle, age 15, was put on Acepromazine on Jan. 6. She was pacing all over the house. Yesterday I took her off the Ace after doing research….She was unable to stand without losing her back legs. They were getting weaker each day. Today she was able to walk somewhat normally and I hope she keeps improving. I had mentioned to the vet that she was “weak” in her back legs and NO ONE mentioned it could be the Ace. She was also on Prion for incontinence which made her pace all the more and anxious. She is off of that, too, and her pacing has slowed down as well. I have started her on estrogen for incontinence. She is on her 5th day and has improved somewhat. Her bed is still wet at night, but she is on a pad. Anyhow I will never give her Ace and Prion…too many side effects for my Beagle.

March 2, 2014 at 8:23 am
(9) Nick says:

I sympathize with all of you and thank you for sharing because I have found some comfort in knowing I am not alone with an elderly dog with these symptoms. I have a 16 1/2 year old Cocker Spaniel and he struggles with the same symptoms you all mention. Last summer he started to eat less and less of his regular senior diet food and began preparing him chicken and steak along with more dog treats and that kept him happy for a while. A couple of months ago be began to throw up a lot of whatever I had fed him and he began to loose a lot of weight. He looks anorexic and about half of his normal size. He is weakened especially when his front legs started to slip from under him (now all four slip from under him but is fine on carpeting). His vision and hearing have diminished and seems disorientated and just stands and stares and other times hides under the dining room table as if he were lost. He sleeps a great deal and occasionally has accidents but I deal with all of this like all of you do. Four months ago my vet said the sliding was due to his old age and arthritis but otherwise for his advanced age he was fine as he walks, eats, and is no pain. Like the rest of you it is very hard to see my best friend deteriorate so terribly and often think of home euthanasia. I always decide against it because I have the guilt of killing one of God’s creatures. What brought me to this page was the endless pacing around the room for hours (in and out of the closets and bathrooms) but see it as a new symptom of his increasing age. I am hoping he dies a peaceful painless death at home in his sleep. Best of luck to all of you.

March 6, 2014 at 11:34 am
(10) Chris& little Bear says:

Reading the posts people left has been like reading my own story. My chow/Shepard mix is 16 years old. About 2 years ago she went deft. Luckily she knows and responds to sign language. That was ok her just being deft but for the last month now she doesn’t seem to want to lie down. She will actually start to fall asleep sitting up… I’m guessing that is due to back knee pain. She is 16 after all. But what scares me most is she has stopped sleeping through the night. Just like the other dogs posted about, she gets very anxious, pants allot and walks from window to window downstairs and barks out each one. I believe she forgets that everyone is upstairs sleeping and thinks nobody is home. I will go down, let her outside just incase that’s what she wants, and then bring her back upstairs. She will then jump on and off the bed every minute, I’ve timed it. And if we try to enclose her in my room or even upstairs she paces, pants unroll she is let out to go back down stairs to start all over again. Any ideas? Has anything helped anyone? Meds or whatever? I appreciate any feedback. My poor old dog is my life and I hate to see her uncomfortable. Thanks, Chris & Little Bear

March 17, 2014 at 7:57 pm
(11) Pam K. says:

We’re living with what we think is a 15 yr old rat terrier something mix. We call him SpotMonster (one word). We’ve only had him 5 years. About a year ago he started loosing his vision and then his hearing. Usually during the day he settles down and snuggles up in one of his beds that he shares with our other senior, MillieGirl (also one word). MillieGirl is fine for her 14 1/2 yrs. The evening is when the SpotMonster has most of his issues. They both take meds for arthritis and pain. The SpotMonster paces and whines for at least 2 to 3 hours before he can settle down. The good part is once he’s asleep he’s down for the night w/o meds, he’s out like a light, but i wonder if I shouldn’t look into something to help ease the anxiety. I just hate giving him another medication. He’s a little chow hound and sometimes he he springs around like puppy. He is one odd little man, but he’s odd little man :0)

Thanks for letting me share…pk

March 30, 2014 at 5:37 pm
(12) R says:

Thank you all for your stories. My buddy Jack, is an 18 yr ol jack Russell. We adopted him when he could fit in my palm…6 wks old. He is now blind & deaf. He has accidents if not taken out every 45 mins or so. We let him out in the back yard where he will pace in circles until somebody gets him. I figure walking, even in circles, is better than sleeping. My wife is ready for him to go…to doggy heaven. Some ways I think she is right but other ways I can not let him go. He does not seem to be in pain. He is physically healthy.

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