Does Your Dog Have Age-Related Cognitive Decline?

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By Pet Expert Team
Updated: 5/9/20242-4 minutes
Senior dog

Physical? Or Cognitive?

It’s easy to mistake cognitive problems for physical problems in your dog, because they often look similar. A dog may stop eating, start going to the bathroom in the wrong place or slow down physically. But there’s a chance these behavioral issues are due to something going on in his brain.

The Risk for Age-Related Cognitive Decline

If your dog is over 7-years-old, he may be at risk for age-related cognitive decline. Studies have shown 28 percent of dogs ages 11-12-years-old and 68 percent of dogs ages 15-16-years-old have one or more signs of mental issues. Worried your dog may be going through this? Here are some signs to watch out for.

  1. Disorientation and Confusion
    If your dog seems confused about his surroundings or where he’s going, something could be going on. Also watch for signs of confusion, like your dog suddenly forgetting tricks he used to ace.
  2. Reduced Social Interaction and Affection
    Dogs experiencing age-related cognitive problems may have trouble remembering who the people in their life are, and thus try to avoid interaction. This may translate into less affection than they showed previously, and could be a sign of a problem.
  3. Loss of House Training
    With age-related cognitive decline can come the loss of some of the training you’ve worked so hard on with your dog, including house training. He may start to go to the bathroom where he shouldn’t because he forgot what he is supposed to do to let you know he has to go outside.
  4. Change in Sleep-Wake Cycle
    Sleeping all day and being awake all night, or just having an odd sleep schedule in general, is not normal behavior.
  5. Pacing
    Pacing back and forth may be a sign that something is going on with your dog.
  6. Lack of Appetite
    Dogs experiencing age-related cognitive decline may forget where there food bowl is or how their eating schedule usually goes. Eating less may be a sign something’s up.
  7. Aggression
    Is your dog suddenly aggressive toward strangers and even family members? This could be a sign that he’s lost some ability to recognize the people around him, and has become more on-guard.

What Should You Do if You See These Signs?

Remember, it’s not on you to make the call as to what exactly is going on with your dog. The best thing you can do is note down as much as you can about his strange behavior and talk to your veterinarian about it. They can help you figure out if what’s going on is physical or cognitive, and make a plan for getting your dog the help he needs. With the proper veterinary care, you’ll be able to share more quality time with the dog you love.


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