Sundowners Syndrome in Dogs

Pet and owner, enjoying each other's company.
Pet and owner, enjoying each other’s company. Sven Lachmann @ Pixabay

What are the signs of Sundowners syndrome?

My Boston Terrier has always been a happy-go-lucky dog ​​with a busy disposition. However, things have changed since he entered his senior year. At ten years old, he no longer likes to play rough, nor can he jump on the bed without falling on the floor. It’s not uncommon: both scenarios are fairly typical and a natural state for aging dogs.

For pet owners who may witness this gradual physical change in a dog’s life, it is normal to feel a sense of foreboding when considering the inevitable heartbreak of losing a pet to old age.

What’s even more disconcerting are the strange and disturbing behaviors my dog ​​has displayed in recent months. These unexplained changes prompted me to do an online search and schedule a veterinary clinic visit for a geriatric condition known as Sundowner Syndrome in dogs.

If you are like me, concerned and want to know if your dog has this type of health problem, let’s go over this debilitating condition.

What is Sundowners syndrome?

In simplified terms, Sundowners syndrome (also known as canine cognitive dysfunction) is a common progressive degenerative dementia experienced by aging dogs that affects a pup’s awareness and responsiveness to their once normal environment.

According to Dr. Becky Lundgren, an educated veterinarian and a member of the Veterinarian Information Network, in her research article senility in dogs—A recent study reveals that of 69 dogs, 32% with an average age of 11 years had Sundowners, while 100% at 16 years and older suffered from this deteriorating condition.

Given these statistics, it’s no wonder why so many pet owners overlook the early stages of cognitive dysfunction, mistaking the subtle signs of the disorder for a natural aging process.

So how do you determine if your dog is suffering from canine senility?

There are quite a few key behavior changes that can help you determine if your dog has reached this point. Perhaps the most noticeable change, by far, is the disturbing onset of nocturnal anxiety. Let’s look at the following table compiled with various common signs and symptoms.

Common Symptoms of Canine Sunsets

Excessive or excited barkingwandering aimlessly and incessantlyUnable to process difficult situations (getting stuck)
obsessive lickingDisorientation and MalaiseBlank gaze (fixed on the wall or floor)
Nocturnal anxiety and pantingDisruption of the sleep cycleLack of response to trained commands
more dirt in the housecircling stimulationDifficulty recognizing family members
Senior Great Dane looking for comfort
Senior Great Dane looking for comfort Schwoaze @ Pixabay

A slow degenerative condition

Sundowners develops over time, but remains progressive and persistent. Although the cause behind cognitive dysfunction (changes in the brain) remains unresolved in dogs, some researchers link the condition to several plausible scenarios, such as the dog’s fatigue, changes in hormone levels, visual impairments, or poor vision. functioning of the biological clock.

According to research conducted by the Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice, as noted in their educational series on pet illnesses, 50% of dogs over the age of 10 will exhibit one or more symptoms of the syndrome. As symptoms increase and the dog progresses into senility, its behavior can be compared to that of humans suffering from neurological and physiological complications of both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Old dogs, like old shoes, are comfortable. They may be a little out of shape and a little worn around the edges, but they fit well.

—Bennie Wilcox

sunset management

Any pet owner dealing with the stress of managing an older dog with cognitive impairments may need to make lifestyle changes to help alleviate the severity of the condition.

  • If possible, walking your dog three times a day eases restlessness in the evening hours.
  • Establish a sleep routine that allows you to rest through the night without going to the bathroom (earlier meals and watering times).
  • Most dogs crave the comfort of human contact. Incorporating a daily massage at night prepares your dog for sleep and allows him to relax into a happier state.
  • Make sure your pet has a warm place to sleep to help regulate body temperature.
  • Prefer to orthopedic bedding like the kind my pet wears. Ergonomic beds help reduce muscle and joint pain, and promote better rest for your senior dog.
  • Playing calming music can help ease anxiety and decrease restlessness.
  • If your dog is visually impaired, installing a night light may be another option to help reduce anxiety due to confusion.
Greater Golden Retriever
Greater Golden Retriever Color @ Pixabay

Possible options to calm your dog’s symptoms

Note: If you suspect your pet has Sundowners, the first thing you should do is schedule a visit with your local vet. Do not start any of the following medications or dietary changes beforehand.

According to Camille Schake, founder of the Good Pet Parent blog, author and former RVT who wrote an informative article sundowner syndrome in dogs she explains that there are a few treatments that your vet may suggest:

  • selegiline prescription, a drug that triggers higher levels of dopamine in the brain and reverses changes caused by canine cognitive dysfunction.
  • anti-anxiety medications to help lessen the more severe symptoms associated with the dysfunction.
  • Diet changes or supplements that increase the amount of Omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants your dog consumes.
  • melatonin, a supplement that balances hormone levels and can help regulate irregular sleep patterns.

Senior Dog Owner Personal Story

If you are an aging dog owner looking for answers and dealing with this disorder like I am, then I am sure you are ready to do whatever you can to help your pet.

First, know that you cannot fix the problem on your own. However, there is hope.

First things first, make an immediate appointment to see your local vet. I can’t say enough. Keep in mind that there is no cure for the syndrome, but your vet can help you with the right medications and supplements, and a better health care regimen. Dont wait. Your dog needs the love and care that he deserves. You and your family deserve a break! I know. After endless nights trying to care for my dog ​​without getting enough sleep, the amount of anxiety and stress had taken a toll on my morale. I had no choice but to see my vet. Since then my senior dog has made excellent progress and there is less general anxiety and stress in our home.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *