Odd night time behaviors in older dogs

Owners of geriatric dogs often call their veterinarian office concerned about their dog’s recent behavior changes. They may report that their dog may wake up in the middle of the night and start howling. Others may report their very well house-trained dog gets up and has accidents around the house or wakes up to drink and then shortly after urinates on the carpet.

I know about these instances as I have personally often taken these calls.

I recall particularly, an owner one day calling concerned about her dog because he started wandering around the home at night bumping into furniture and hardly recognizing her. He would then sleep for most of the day undisturbed. The owner was unable to sleep properly and was very concerned by this recent worrisome behavior. Afterward, the dog also changed behavior, from an outgoing dog he became an overly submissive and timid fellow.

While all the above instances required a careful evaluation by the vet via a thorough physical and geriatric blood-work sent to a lab, most instances turned out to be simply signs of good old aging.

Just as it may happen in humans, dogs tend to approach their golden years by losing parts of their cognitive function. Some may lose some, some may lose more. Many refer to these cases affectionately as “doggy Alzheimer’s” while medically, this condition is abbreviated as CDS standing for Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome.

CDS has become pretty common as we hear more and more about it. If we think about it, after all, dogs are living always longer lives and therefore, they are more prone to all the diseases and conditions that seniority seems to bring along.

There are some typical key CDS symptoms that may help dog owners understand better the condition and prompt them to have the vet perform a thorough check up. Below are some symptoms that may suggest, but not yet confirm CDS:


Senior dogs may forget some simple commands they have known all their lives. If your geriatric dog refuses to sit when asked to, do not scold him or think he is just acting out. Just as a person affected by Alzheimer’s may forget a family member’s name, a dog may forget a command and perceive it as something completely new you are requesting.


Dogs affected by CDS may stare for no apparent reason a wall or any other object. Some may even chase imaginary objects or bark while nothing is there. A routine check up is recommended as there are some neurological

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