Ageing Changes to be Aware of

Alison Laurie-Chalmers, Senior Consultant, Crown Vets Inverness

If your dog’s behaviour has been changing slowly over time, for example, if he no longer greets you at the door when you come home, or he seems to forget the route of his daily walk now. Then he could be suffering from canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD). Of course, the fact that your dog’s behaviour has changed could be the result of other health problems. For example, if he doesn’t chase his toys the way he once did, the cause may well be stiff, older joints due to arthritis.

Cognitive dysfunction in dogs is more common than you might think. Studies have shown that 28% of dogs aged 11 to 12 years displayed one or more signs of cognitive impairment. 

Some symptoms of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction are: 

  • Disorientation 
  • Changed behaviour with family members
  • Sleep-awake cycle changes
  • House soiling
  • Activity level changes

There could be a number of signs that your dog is experiencing disorientation. For example, he might go to the wrong door to get back in the house, or stand at the wrong side of the doorway. You might also notice that your dog’s awareness of time is off, for example, he might sleep through his normal wake time, or be in the living room staring at the wall instead of his usual sleeping spot at bedtime.

Dogs navigate their environments through learned behaviours, this includes the way that they interact with family members and other dogs, and normally they rarely deviate from those behaviours. If your dog that was always friendly and sociable begins to show temperament changes and signs of aggression or irritability, he could well be experiencing signs of CCD.

He might also begin to withdraw from some of his formerly favourite activities, he may no longer bark when someone comes to the front door, or fail to respond when you take out his lead for a daily walk.

Also your dog that previously slept through the night may now be wide awake, pacing the house during the time that he used to be sound asleep. This could be related to a disruption in his normal sleep pattern rhythms, a common sign of cognitive dysfunction.

If your dog is house trained, but suddenly begins soiling inside, this also could be a result of CCD. His changed behaviour could be the result of memory loss, or he could be messing in the house because he can no longer voluntarily control this.

When dogs are suffering from CCD, they often display a decreased interest in exploring their environments or in their response to common stimuli. This could also though be related to ageing vision or hearing issues. Other changes related to CCD include things like repetitive motions, for example head bobbing, leg shaking and constant pacing in circles.

If you notice any of these changes in your ageing dog’s behaviour, it could be the result of CCD. After ruling out other causes of similar symptoms, there may be some treatments that could be offered to hopefully slow down the progression of this upsetting condition.

For good professional advice please contact us for an appointment if you have any concerns.