Sundowner's Syndrome in Dogs

Updated April 17, 2017

Sundowner's syndrome is associated with the early stages of Alzheimer's disease in humans, in which the evening hours worsen symptoms of memory loss, confusion and agitation. Dogs may experience similar symptoms at night as they age, manifested as running in circles, barking for no reason and pacing. Sundowner's syndrome in dogs is also known as canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome.


For some dogs, the effects of age may result in cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS), sometimes also called doggy Alzheimer's. According to the CDSinDogs website, dogs with CDS may appear confused in familiar environments, fail to recognise their owners, become less responsive and have difficulty finding the door. Dogs with CDS may develop abnormal sleeping patterns and become restless during the night. Housebroken dogs may even begin urinating indoors.


Autopsies of dogs with CDS reveal degenerative brain lesions from deposits of beta amyloid in the brain. Beta amyloid is a nerve-damaging protein that forms plaque, which gradually clogs the brain and prevents the transmission of signals between nerves. Though the accumulation of beta amyloid is a natural ageing process, the extensive behavioural changes that occur in dogs with CDS is not normal, according to the BellaOnline website. With treatment, the symptoms of CDS may be alleviated.


Though there is no cure for CDS, the most common treatment for dogs is Anipryl. Anipryl comes in tablet form and should generally be taken once a day in the morning. According to the CDSinDogs website, studies report a major improvement of CDS symptoms after one month of medication, although results vary from dog to dog. As with most drugs, Anipryl does have side effects. The most common of these are vomiting, diarrhoea and restlessness, but these effects are usually mild to moderate.


Dog owners can take preventive measures to reduce their dog's likelihood of developing CDS. Some natural nutritional supplements may reverse signs of cognitive dysfunction and improve memory and concentration in animals, according to the Natural Dog Health Remedies website. These supplements include choline, ginko, rosemary, bacopa and gotu kola. Supplements with anti-inflammatory properties such as flaxseed oil may be beneficial for a dog's overall well-being by reducing cholesterol and preventing blood clots. The VeterinaryPartners website also suggests providing mental stimulation in the form of short walks, games in the park and plenty of human interaction to maintain your dog's cognitive functioning.


As CDS is irreversible, sometimes the best solution is to enhance your pet's quality of life as much as possible. The BellaOnline website recommends keeping a dog with CDS on a leash or in a fenced area to prevent it from wandering away. As an extra measure, attaching a bell on the dog's collar can help owners keep track of the dog indoors. To avoid further confusing their dog, owners should stick to a routine schedule and try not to change familiar surroundings.

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About the Author

Jeanette Lee began writing in 2010. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from Wellesley College and and a Master of Arts in technical and professional writing, as well as a Master of Literature in investigative journalism at Carnegie Mellon University. She is currently a digital content writer at an industrial marketing agency.