Just like people, senior dogs can develop medical conditions as they age.
If your senior dog seems out of sorts, it may be suffering from sundowners syndrome.
Here is everything that you need to know about sundowning in dogs.
Sundowners Syndrome In Dogs: What Exactly Is It?
Often referred to as canine cognitive dysfunction, sundowners syndrome in senior dogs is primarily characterized by cognitive decline. As the name suggests, sundowners syndrome in dogs gives rise to extremely distressing symptoms that get worse after sunset.
The exact cause of this condition is unknown, but many vets believe that these issues are associated with sundowner syndrome in dogs: dead brain cells, hormone fluctuations, oxidative stress, and a poor central nervous system.
Which Dogs Are At Risk Of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction?
The truth of the matter is that virtually any pup can develop this condition, but some dogs are more susceptible to sundowners syndrome than others.
Since tiny dog breeds breeds have a really long lifespan, they have a greater chance of developing this condition than larger breeds. Most large breeds would probably suffer from cognitive dysfunction eventually if they lived long enough.
A few examples of large breeds are Great Danes, English Mastiffs, and Saint Bernards. Some toy breeds are Maltese, Chihuahua, and Yorkshire Terriers.
What Are Some Symptoms of Sundowners Syndrome in Dogs?
When it comes to identifying the signs of canine cognitive dysfunction, always refer to the DISHA acronym . Many vets use this acronym to diagnose this syndrome in dogs.
Let’s go over the DISHA acronym, shall we?
A tell-tale sign of sundowning in dogs is disorientation.
Ask yourself these questions: Does your pup seem confused? How often does your dog run into things? Do you have to repeat commands a lot?
After pondering your answers to these questions, you’ll definitely be able to determine if your dog is disoriented.
I: Interaction Changes
Many pet owners complain that their normally easy-going dog is now aggressive and irritable.
If your dog is barking and growling more than usual, it may have developed sundowner syndrome.
Pups with this condition may be less tolerant of human friends and household animals.
S: Sleep Problems
Most dogs with sundowner syndrome experience nighttime distress.
Due to cognitive decline, senior dogs may feel like the dark is extremely frightening.
As a result, they may stay up all night and sleep during the day.
Soiling in the house is also a typical sign of sundowning in dogs.
Pups who have been house-trained for years may start urinating and defecating in inappropriate places if they are suffering from this condition.
A: Anxious Behaviors
Many dogs who suffer from sundowner syndrome have anxiety and compulsive behaviors. The primary cause of senior dog anxiety is fear.
If your dog pants excessively, avoids eye contact, licks compulsively, paces frequently, and walks with its tail tucked between the legs, there’s a good chance that it’s anxious.
When Should You Contact A Vet?
As soon as you notice that your dog is acting strange, you should call a vet. During the visit with a vet, you’ll want to describe exactly how your pup is behaving. A vet will be able to diagnose your pup and provide various treatment recommendations.
What Are Some Great Treatments For This Condition?
Although there isn’t a cure for this condition, there are some treatments that can make the symptoms really tolerable for your pup. Isn’t this what every dog owner wants?
In order to ensure that your pup is always comfortable, consult with a vet to discover the best treatments for this condition.
Here are the top treatments that your vet may recommend:
As soon as your pup is diagnosed with this condition, a vet may prescribe prescription medications.
Anti-anxiety medications are often prescribed to dogs who can’t seem to chill.
Anti-depressants may be prescribed to dogs who seem sad and withdrawn.
A vet may inject your pup with selegiline  to promote optimal dopamine levels in the brain. There are also prescription medications that can protect your pup’s brain cells from additional deterioration.
Many vets suggest over-the-counter supplements for dogs with sundowner’s syndrome.
If your pet suffers from incontinence, probiotics for dogs may stop frequent accidents.
Does your pup have trouble sleeping at night? Melatonin can help your dog get a good night’s rest.
When your pup takes Omega-3 fatty acids, normally found in the best fish oil for dogs, it may be less achy.
These supplements will not work overnight, but you should see results over time. Talk with your vet if these supplements don’t seem to be working.
As the condition progresses, you may have to change your dog’s diet.
The good news is that several dog food manufacturers create products specifically for aging dogs.
When searching for the best senior dog food that can potentially reverse or slow down cognitive disorders, you’ll want to be on the lookout for key ingredients such as Vitamin E, carotenoids, Vitamin C, and selenium. Such ingredients are known as antioxidants. Much researches suggest that antioxidants can protect a dogs’ brain cells from harmful free radicals.
Once you find a packaged dog food with plenty of antioxidants, you’ll want to ensure that the food contains small kibble pieces so that your pup can easily eat it. Just so you know, small kibble pieces typically contain lots of fiber, which supports digestive health.
Create An Anxious-Free Environment: Do your best to limit anxiety-causing situations as much as you can. Don’t adopt any pets for a while. Avoid doing other things that may make your pup feel overwhelmed.
Avoid Rearranging Furniture: Many pet owners may not think twice about rearranging furniture, but changing the environment can negatively impact dogs with this condition.
Walk Your Pup More Frequently: When you take your pup on several short walks throughout the day, it will be able to relieve anxiety, take a bathroom break, and smell interesting things.
Use Dog Diapers: Regardless of how many walks you take with your dog, it may still have accidents in the house. If your senior dog just can’t seem to “hold it,” a dog diaper could really be useful.
Friendly Note: If you have any questions about these treatment recommendations, make sure to consult with a vet. You should also take your pup to any follow-up appointments with the vet.
How Can You Help Your Dog With Sundowner Syndrome?
Let’s face it: Sundowner syndrome isn’t fun for you or your pup. While you probably won’t be able to reverse the symptoms, you can help your senior dog cope. Check out these great ways you can help your pup.
Support A Healthy Diet
- Try specialized therapeutic diets that have been shown to slow down age-related changes in the brain
- Monitor your pup’s food intake and always offer plenty of water
Provide Mental Stimulation
- Teach your dog tricks and commands
- Purchase interactive puzzle toys
- Buy dog toys that dispense treats
- Play memory games with your dog
- Encourage your pup to explore new places
Promote Optimal Sleep
- Buy the best dog bed for your senior dog to provide maximum comfort. Memory foam or a heated bed would be perfect.
- Place a light by your pup’s bed to eliminate scary shadows
- Use a white noise machine to promote optimal sleep
- Put a warm dog sweater on your dog if the house is cool
- Give your pup a relaxing massage to relieve anxiety before bed
Make Safety A Priority
- Close gates and doors so that your dog doesn’t wander
- Store chemicals and small objects in hard-to-reach areas
Create A Relaxing Environment
- Maintain a daily routine for your pup to avoid confusion
- Let your dog be by your side sometimes
- Be kind and compassionate with your dog because it did not ask to develop sundowner syndrome
Friendly Tip: Don’t forget to take your pup to the vet periodically throughout the year. A vet will be able to treat any underlying health issues that may be contributing to your pup’s distress. Some of these health conditions may include canine arthritis and vision loss.
Why You Should Take Care Of Yourself Too
As you are taking care of your pup with this condition, make sure that you also practice self-care.
If you ever need to vent, talk with a therapist or close friend.
Periodically throughout the day, take some time to remember the fun times that you shared with your pup.
You can also incorporate physical activity into your everyday routine.
Here are some additional self-care ideas: journaling, yoga, bubble baths, shopping, and even baking.
At this point in life, your pup needs you more than ever. By nourishing the mind, body, and soul, you’ll be able to give your pup the best possible care.
There’s no doubt that cognitive dysfunction in dogs is a really heartbreaking condition to address. Always remember that you can make your dog’s life much more comfortable by using vet-approved treatments. The primary goal of treatment is to ensure that your pup has an excellent overall quality of life.
1. How do you treat sundowners in dogs?
Most vets will suggest the following treatments for this condition: prescription medication, over-the-counter supplements, lifestyle changes, and diet modifications.
Although these are really great treatments for this condition, it’s important to remember that cognitive dysfunction doesn’t have a cure. More than likely, your pup’s condition will get worse over time.
Make sure to ask a vet which are the best treatments for your pup. By doing so, you will ensure that your dog isn’t in distress or discomfort.
2. What are the early signs of Sundowners?
The early signs of sundowning in dogs include irritability, confusion, nervousness, and constant panting.
Please contact a vet immediately if your pup is displaying any of these symptoms. When you seek immediate veterinary care for your pup, you may be able to slow the progression of this condition.
You know your pup more than anyone else in the world. If your pup doesn’t seem okay, it probably isn’t.
3. Why is dog dementia worse at night?
According to many vets, dementia in dogs may be worst at night because of mental and physical exhaustion, disruption of the internal body clock, and increased shadows.
Not too long after sunset, dogs with dementia may start whining, destroying property, pacing the floor, itching intensively, and barking at their owners.
Try alleviating your pup’s nighttime anxiety by providing a comfortable bed, offering some water, playing soothing music, and placing the dog crate in your room.
4. What are the signs of dementia in dogs?
Here’s a hint: DISHA. When determining whether or not your pup may have dementia, look for disorientation, irritability, sleep problems, house-soiling, and anxiety or DISHA.
Keep in mind that the slow onset of dementia is often terrifying for dogs, and they probably do not know what’s going on. Seek veterinary care as soon as you suspect that your pup has dementia.