Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (Senility)

Older dogs and cats can show signs of cognitive dysfunction, similar to senility or Alzheimer’s in humans. As many as 25% of dogs at the beginning of their older years (ages 11-12), and approx 100% by age 15 or 16, show signs of this disease. Signs that your pet (dog or cat) may be affected include:

  • Urinary or Fecal ‘accidents’ in the house (loss of housetraining)
  • Problems with memory/Confusion
  • Difficulty in recognizing and reacting to human family members
  • Loss of sense of direction/Disorientation
  • Staring at seemingly nothing
  • Wandering
  • Getting stuck in corners
  • Sleep disturbances (waking at an abnormal time, night pacing, or sleeping very deeply)
  • Restlessness
  • Barking at seemingly nothing
  • Separation anxiety
  • Panting
  • Drooling
  • Obsessive licking
  • Aggression
  • Selective or Loss of hearing


There are ways we can manage and slow the progression of this disease.

  1. Environmental enrichment is a big factor. Teaching new tricks or running through old tricks will keep your animal mentally active. Also, new toys that present a fun challenge or mental stimulation help, as well as daily physical interactions with family members. Exercise also helps. 
  2. Dietary Changes – along with environmental enrichment, adding some key brain-friendly supplements to the diet can make the biggest difference to a pet showing signs of cognitive decline. Key supplements include antioxidants, medium chain triglycerides and omega-3 fatty acids to improve Cognitive function. You could notice a change in your animal in as little as 2 to 6 weeks.
  3. Medications – there are drugs that have been shown to help some animals, and may be worth a try when an animal is showing signs of cognitive decline.