It is natural for dogs over 7 years of age to start showing signs of normal ageing. These signs include white hair around the muzzle, poor hearing, sight and smell, decreased energy and becoming less active, stiff joints, and becoming less tolerant.

Behavioural problems in senior pets can occur for a number of reasons such as pain, illness or old age changes (decrease sight, hearing, mobility etc).

Problems that occur due to age-related changes in the brain are referred to as cognitive dysfunction syndrome. Other names include dementia, Alzheimer’s and senility. It describes the progressive degeneration within the brain and is characterised by the loss of memory, learning and problem-solving ability. Unfortunately, the condition is gradual and progressive and the pet will appear to have ‘good days’ and ‘bad days’ until the signs worsen.

Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome is often categorised into the DISHA acronym:


I – Decreased social INTERACTION

S – Change in SLEEP-WAKE activity cycle




Common behavioural signs include:

  • Sleeping more
  • Wandering aimlessly and pacing
  • Increased vocalisation such as whining
  • Confusion
  • Urinating and defecating in inappropriate places
  • Refusing food
  • Changes in interaction with people or pets.


Management of cognitive dysfunction syndrome involves:

  • Maintaining a daily routine
  • Daily exercise appropriate for old age such as short walks
  • Increase visits outside for more frequent toilet opportunities
  • Dietary therapy helps to protect the brain and nervous tissue against free radical damage. Hills b/d contains antioxidants such as vitamin E, C, beta-carotene and selenium, L-carnitine and alpha lipoic acid and Omega-3 fatty acids DHA & EPA
  • Control of any medical conditions such as arthritis, cystitis, diabetes
  • Prescription behavioural medications such as Vivitonin (propentofylline) increases blood flow to the internal organs, especially the brain, heart and skeletal muscles. It improves oxygen uptake from the lungs and improves overall demeanour in geriatric dogs.