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How To Tell If Your Senior Dog Is Senile, And What To Do At Home

Updated on December 10, 2017
DrMark1961 profile image

Dr. Mark is a small animal veterinarian. He works mostly with dogs and exotic animals.

Is your old dog disoriented when not sleeping?
Is your old dog disoriented when not sleeping? | Source

What Are the Signs of Senility in a Dog?

Does your senior dog have one or more of the following clinical signs?

1. Failure to respond to her name or simple commands that she used to know.

2. Getting lost in corners, even in a house she has lived in her whole life, and even in the yard she is used to.

3. Personality changes, both with other pets and with her human family.

4. Soiling (urine or feces) in the house, even if she had been perfectly housetrained.

5. Whining excessively, barking excessively, and doing both for no reason.

6. Restlessness.

Old dogs sleep a lot.
Old dogs sleep a lot. | Source

Is My Dog Has Those Signs, Is She Senile?

Some changes are normal, so not all dogs with just a few changes should be considered senile.

If your dog is senile, however, it may be a type of senility, an age related dementia, now called Canine Cognitive Dysfunction. According to some research done at the University of California-Davis, over half of geriatric dogs have symptoms of this condition. Nobody knows what causes it yet, but it may be related to an age-related decrease in a neurotransmitter called dopamine.

So what can you do to make her life better in her senior years?

Treating Senile Changes In Your Dog

If your dog has several of the behavioral changes described above, the first step is to take her to your regular vet and see if there is anything that can be done.

There is a drug called Anipryl (selegiline) that may be effective in decreasing the symptoms in some dogs. It is not a cure and does not always work, but it has few known side effects (at least according to the manufacturer), so you may want to give it a try. If your dog has symptoms of senility you will need to talk to your veterinarian about this drug.

Is there anything I can do at home?

I realize not everyone reading this is able to take their dog to a vet so she can also be treated more naturally if drugs and veterinary care are not an option.

  • Take your dog for short and frequent walks.
  • Play new games and teach her new tricks to provide mental stimulation
  • Provide plenty of antioxidants in her diet.
  • Make sure to supplement omega fatty acids.
  • Do not move furniture or change her feeding routine--make things as normal as possible so that she does not become even more confused.
  1. Walks are very important, and if your dog is becoming senile they do not need to be marathons. Just take her on "sniff-walks" so that she can exercise her muscles, her nose, and her brain.
  2. No matter how well you have trained your dog, there are always new things for her to learn. There are plenty of books out there on training tricks, and when you find something she does not know, work on it. She will learn a little slower, so be patient.
  3. Some vets feel that antioxidants may also be effective in preventing or slowing the progression of senility. There is not a lot of evidence yet on what products may help but it would be a good idea to try products like açai or blueberries (depending on where you live), acerola or other fresh sources of vitamin C, and a source of vitamin E.
  4. Also make sure she is getting adequate omega-3 fatty acid supplements. Many companies sell fish oil produced from salmon and that would be an excellent dietary supplement. There is also a type of jellyfish that may be effective but no one can guarantee it will work; you can find products like this, or others that may or may not help, at a local pet store.
  5. When your dog has been diagnosed with the condition you should try to make things as easy for her as possible. Do not change her routine (like feeding time, walk time, etc) and do not move the furniture around, so that she will not become even more confused.

Medication may not make your senior dog young, but it may help him lead a more active life.
Medication may not make your senior dog young, but it may help him lead a more active life. | Source

What Other Problems Can You Look Out For?

Old dogs can have a lot of problems.

It would really be best if you took her in to your veterinarian and had a physical examination, urinalysis, and a complete blood profile checked. Once the results are in you will have a better idea on how to proceed. If she has arthritis, she may be in a lot of pain and her reluctance to go to the door may be because of pain. If she has kidney problems or bladder problems the “accidents” in the house may not be his fault. If she has cataracts and is going blind she may not be able to find the door or even reach it if you move the furniture.

There is no specific test for senility, but if other problems have been ruled out this will be what remains.

There are many alternative therapies you need to investigate for this problem. If your veterinarian is not willing to find an alternative therapy to help your senile dog, and only wants to diagnose Anipryl, you need to find another vet.

Get her checked out now.

Are you willing to try alternative therapies for your senile dog?

See results

© 2012 Dr Mark


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    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 4 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      I was reading a story about an Austrlian Cattle Dog the other day when I was researching my "Healtiest Dog Breeds" hub--she lived to almost 30 years. Glad to hear things are okay, and lets hope Peso is with you for many more years!!

    • Maria Cecilia profile image

      Maria Cecilia 4 years ago from Philippines

      Hi DrMark... it's been a year and my 12 year old Peso will turn 13 this month...I wish him a longer healthy life still... and you know I always tell him, Peso don't leave me ha...LOL

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 4 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      You sound like a good person. Not many are willing to take on that burden. Try to keep her stress levels low, feed her well, and hopefully symptoms will not progress, or slowly. It is a lot harder for street dogs since finding food is an issue.

      My wife is from Marrakesh, and learned to apply Henna on hands and feet when young.

    • Wasteless Project profile image

      Wasteless Project 4 years ago from Worldwide

      We adopted her from Spain. She was rescued by animal activists from an animal shelter where street dogs end up being euthanized after three months of not being claimed by an owner. She was already tested positive then, but luckily till date has shown only very mild symptoms. But of course since the first symptoms started we are always overly alert, fearing to miss something that would need our attention... But touch wood, she is actually doing pretty well considering her underlying condition:) And yes, the hand is mine:)

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 4 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      That is good to hear! The symptom you described was pretty mild, but you are probably like me--concerned about everything! My older dog had a high fever last week and I was worried all night.

      What country did your dog pick up her Leishmania infection?

      Is that your hand with the henna? It looks great!

    • Wasteless Project profile image

      Wasteless Project 4 years ago from Worldwide

      Thank you for this insightful article! This actually gives me the confidence that whatever our dog has/does, is still very very far from CCD - so that is good news!

    • Maria Cecilia profile image

      Maria Cecilia 5 years ago from Philippines

      DrMark1961 my Peso is a Philippine Local dog, he an be a mixed breed of unknown origin hope you'll mee thim in some of my hubs. thanks for your wish, that's my wish for him too

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 5 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Hi wetnosedogs, they really are sad at that age; alternative therapy works for some but not all, so eventually those symptoms come about.

      What breed or mix is he, Maria Cecilia? Yes, it is a lot easier for most people to love puppies, and a lot harder for them to take a look at an old dog, or read an article about an old dog. It is the same with people, unfortunately. I hope your 12 year old is with you many more years.

    • Maria Cecilia profile image

      Maria Cecilia 5 years ago from Philippines

      I love reading about senior dogs, my dog is 12 years old aside from sleeping, I guess he is still good. I think he still looks younger than his age in spite of 6 surgeries that he had undergone. This is a very helpful hub.... promoting love for our dogs not only when they are young and cute but more when they are already old and quite sickly

    • wetnosedogs profile image

      wetnosedogs 5 years ago from Alabama

      Long ago, I knew people who had an old dog that kinda did like the dog in the video. There was an enclosed part of the house, like an open closet and the dog would go in there and poor thing would bump the walls, i' m assuming to get out, but didn't seem to get the opening where he walked in. It wasn't all the time, the moment would just click. Sad thing.