When a Pet Might Develop Sundowning
Dr. Benjamin Hart, a veterinary behaviorist and Professor Emeritus at University of California-Davis, says that canine cognitive disorder has long been recognized. He explains that dogs, similarly to people suffering from Alzheimers disease, develop a beta amyloid pathology in the brain. This is a starch-like protein that becomes waxy once deposited in the tissues. Thirty percent of dogs aged 11 to 12 had one or more symptom. Sixty-eight percent of the 15 to 16-year-old dogs had one or more symptom.
More recently, the condition has also been recognized in cats. “Youre more likely to see it in 15-year-old and older cats,” says Gary Landsberg, DVM, a veterinary behaviorist in Thornhill, Ontario. He authored one of the first research papers on cats that concluded, in part, that as many as 80 percent of cats he sees that are over the age of 16 show signs of senility. Like affected humans and dogs, cats with cognitive dysfunction also have deposits of amyloid material in the brain.
Its important to diagnose cognitive dysfunction correctly. Behavior changes in your aging pet often have other causes. A break in housetraining might be due to kidney disease or diabetes. An old cats yowls could be due to age-related deafness, or hypertension. Disorientation and personality changes could also point to a brain tumor or neurological disruptions from liver disease. Diagnosis relies on eliminating other causes. According to a report by Washington State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital, veterinarians believe as many as 85 percent of pets suffering with age-related senility are never diagnosed. Sadly, many are euthanized when behaviors become unacceptable.
What Are the Symptoms of Sundowners in Dogs?
Many behavior changes seen in senior dogs like confusion, wandering, getting stuck, barking, and obsessive licking are symptoms of this disorder. That said, the symptoms of sundowner syndrome can be lumped into a few general categories:
With sundowner syndrome, dogs may experience disorientation such as going to the wrong side of the door to be let outside or getting lost in familiar environments.
Dogs with sundowners may experience increased irritability, anxiety, or agitation due to a loss in the ability to communicate properly with other animals.
This usually means increased restlessness (especially at night) and/or vocalizations that are seemingly directed at nothing in particular; as the disease progresses, you may notice these signs worsening and begin to see your dog aimlessly wandering the house with compulsive behaviors like barking at the wall for no apparent reason or excessive grooming.
You may notice your dog becoming less adept at their normal tasks, such as house training or responding appropriately to previously learned commands; you may also notice that your dog has difficulty recognizing and reacting to familiar family members.
What Is Sundowners Syndrome In Dogs?
More than 50% of dogs over the age of 10 experience symptoms of canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD). For some, the symptoms worsen in the late afternoon or early evening. This is sundowners syndrome.
While sundowners only occurs in dogs with dementia, not every pooch with CCD struggles with these stressful nighttime symptoms. Episodes also seem to be more common during the winter months when the days are shorter.
Sundowner’s Syndrome in senior pets
Sundowners syndrome is a tragic medical condition that occasionally afflicts older people with dementia, Alzheimer’s, or some other type of cognitive dysfunction. However, this condition isn’t only a problem for humans; dogs can suffer from sundowners syndrome too.
As when it occurs in humans, sundowners syndrome typically causes a variety of personality changes. It may also trigger bizarre behaviors and leave your dog feeling anxious or depressed. These changes can complicate your dog’s care and make it difficult to keep him comfortable as he lives out his golden years.
Below, we’ll discuss sundowners in dogs and explain some of the most common symptoms that accompany the condition. We’ll also talk about some of the things you can do to help provide your dog with the highest quality of life possible while coping with the challenges the syndrome presents.