Signs of dementia

(Q) I am at my wits' end and really need some advice about my elderly collie, Fizz. She has always been clean in the house but recently she has been weeing in the lounge and kitchen, sometimes just after her walk or when we aren't there to let her out. At night she wakes us up (and our neighbours) barking but when we go down to her she doesn't seem to want anything. I don't want to put her to sleep but I just don't know how much longer I can cope with all the mess and sleepless nights.

(A) Vet Vicky Payne says: It sounds like Fizz is suffering from canine dementia. Symptoms include vocalisation, inappropriate urination, reduced interaction, attention seeking, and apparent forgetfulness.

I would recommend a thorough check-up at your vet's, including blood tests to check on her liver and kidney function. If all of these are clear your vet could prescribe a drug called Vivitonin, which improves blood flow to the muscles, organs, and the brain and can really improve the mental functions of older dogs.

There are also foods designed to help with brain ageing and some herbal medicines can be useful too; see a holistic vet if you are interested in herbal options.

Tips for owners

If your dog has been diagnosed with senility, how can you help make life easier for him? Dogs Trust has the following tips:

  • Make it clear to your dog where he eats - and don't make changes.
  • Stick to routines when preparing food or going out, using verbal cues, so that it is clear to your dog what is going on.
  • A dog suffering from senility needs a lot of social and physical contact, especially at night time - he may need stroking and comforting to calm his anxiety and to settle him to sleep.
  • Your dog may forget where his water bowl is, so place more around the house. Lead your dog to his water after he has eaten and then to the garden to toilet.

Having a dog who suffers from senility can be upsetting and frustrating. Remember that he can't help it, be forgiving, and do not punish him or tell him off for any unwanted behaviours.