Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome in Dogs

by Kathy Dannel Vitcak 3 min read

Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome is an age related disease that produces the deterioration of cognitive abilities. Ok, what does that mean in plain English? It means your dog, as he or she ages, does not think or reason as well as he or she once did. For a couple of my oldsters, they seemed to get “lost” just walking around the house. CDS is often referred to as “old dog syndrome” or “senility”, and can be determined by your dog exhibiting the following….

Wanders aimlessly around the house
Gets lost or confused in the yard or house
Becomes “stuck” in a corner or behind furniture
Does not recognize familiar people
Does not respond to their name
Appears to forget reason for going outdoors or back in

No longer greets family members
Does not seem interested in being petted
No longer remembers once familiar tricks or commands

Sleep/Wake Patterns
Sleeps more than normal
Sleep pattern has changed, especially during the night
Marked decrease in activity level

No longer asks to go outside
“Goes” in the house
Appears to have forgotten why he wanted to go outdoors
Soils indoors immediately after being outdoors

As with Alzheimer’s disease in humans, the cause of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction is not completely known. In the aging process of dogs, as with humans, the accumulation of a nerve damaging protein, beta-amyloid, increases and causes the formation of plaques in the brain. This build up eventually causes a gradual decline of cognitive abilities.

Some age-related changes, like the graying of the muzzle, are inevitable. As with US, your dog may just slow down as he ages. But, dogs with CDS experience changes in behavior which are not a normal part of getting older.

The first step in diagnosing CDS is recognition of signs. When you begin to notice more than a few of the above indicators, contact your vet for a geriatric exam. A thorough examination, including a complete physical and neurological study, complemented by a medical history will allow your vet to diagnose the condition and determine an appropriate course of action. Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome is a common condition in senior dogs.

Although there is no cure for CDS, you can prolong the quality of their dog’s life and preserve their pet’s role in the family by decreasing the behavioral problems resulting from the syndrome. You may choose to use pet gates to prevent injury (i.e. stairs), using leads and fences outdoors for safety. Removing clutter from the house and yard can help your dog navigate the area easier (and de-cluttering is a GOOD thing for everyone). Dogs might also be restricted to areas easily cleaned if they are having difficulty with housetraining. But, please, do not isolate an old dog away from family just because of housetraining issues…that is just sad and mean :-(

Currently the drug deprenyl has been shown to reduce symptoms. It is not my place to go into medications, you can Google it or ask your vet, there are lots of sites on this drug.

BLATANT PLUG ALERT: I have had great success with my more holistic approach, using my Age Well Vibrational Essences for my older dogs. I have a houseful of little grey faces, as all seven of my French Bulldogs are seniors now (where does the time go???) and I use my AGE WELL on them when needed. Just an idea! As always, I do use brandy as a preservative, if that ohers you, I can use Apple Cider vinegar Click here for more on AGE WELL.

References: The Pet Center, The Pet Place,,

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