Cognitive Decline in Older Good Dogs



Hello everyone, CEO Olivia reporting. Today I’m continuing my deep dig into good dogs in their senior years. An older dog may develop a whiter snout, need to nap more & may be just slower overall. But a decline in cognitive abilities may not be so noticeable. Subtle changes in appetite or how your good dog interacts could be clues.

Once a vet rules out a physical cause in a behavior change they will do what’s called a cognitive dysfunction (CD) evaluation. What they will look for are the following.

Disorientation – walking aimlessly around the house. Staring at walls, losing balance, or forgetting how to use the doggie door may be symptoms of CD.

Interactions – Irritability or aggression towards family members or fur siblings. Withdrawal from the family or showing less interest in things such as the delivery person showing up or walks may also be symptoms of CD.

Sleep – An older dog’s sleep patterns may be interrupted by CD. They may even reverse sleep patterns by sleeping all day & pacing all night.

House soiling – older dogs may not remember their house training & may not alert the humans to when they need to go out for business.

Activity changes – Restlessness, agitation or anxiousness. Decreased appetite. Loss of focus or interest. Some  senior dogs will forget how to get food from the bowl or forget where the bowl even is.

Cognitive dysfunction is found in around 50% of dogs over 11 years of age. Once you’ve established your good dog has developed CD, there are some things you can do to help. Try to stick to the same routine. Keep up walks & exercise even if only for a few minutes.

Just like humans we dogs need to keep engaged in life so we don’t become withdrawn into ourselves. Regular socializing with humans & other dogs is ideal but never overstimulate your senior good dog. As I mentioned in a previous post, food puzzle games can be good stimulation & can keep the mind engaged.

For a senior good dog with CD, the less stress in the environment the better. Try to keep a regular schedule. Increase bathroom trips outside. Maybe a crate will help an anxious senior feel more secure. Ramps & padded runners can help an older dog get about. If there are sleep issues, perhaps sleeping with you may help, assuming you don’t already sleep with your good dog.  With that said, some dogs pawfer to be on ground level. Orthopedic dog beds with memory foam are highly recommended for senior canines. They help ease the pain of achy joints, & the stiff foam makes it easier for old dogs to get up after laying down. Other beds retain your dog’s own heat to keep them warm.  

Diet & supplements may help alleviate symptoms of CD. This is something you should discuss with your vet before making any changes. (I’ll be barking about supplements in a future post.)

We all get old & we all know that bites. But armed with knowledge, wisdom & patience a good dog’s senior years can still be quality years.

CEO Olivia

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