Sundowners syndrome is a tragic medical condition that occasionally afflicts older people with dementia, Alzheimer’s, or some other type of cognitive dysfunction. However, this condition isn’t only a problem for humans; dogs can suffer from sundowners syndrome too.
As when it occurs in humans, sundowners syndrome typically causes a variety of personality changes. It may also trigger bizarre behaviors and leave your dog feeling anxious or depressed. These changes can complicate your dog’s care and make it difficult to keep him comfortable as he lives out his golden years.
Below, we’ll discuss sundowners in dogs and explain some of the most common symptoms that accompany the condition. We’ll also talk about some of the things you can do to help provide your dog with the highest quality of life possible while coping with the challenges the syndrome presents.
Sundowners Syndrome in Dogs: Key Takeways
- Sundowners syndrome is another name for cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS) or canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD). It is essentially a form of dementia, which is why it is also called canine Alzheimer’s by some.
- Sundowners may cause a variety of symptoms, including disorientation, anxiety, and sleep disturbances. It can also cause dogs to become confused, have accidents, or have trouble communicating with you.
- Unfortunately, there is no cure for sundowners. However, anxiety medications and some supplements may help ease your dog’s symptoms slightly.
What Is Sundowners Syndrome?
Also called cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS) or canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD), old-dog senility, or canine Alzheimer’s, sundowners syndrome refers to the general cognitive decline that sometimes occurs when dogs reach advanced ages.
Veterinarians aren’t exactly sure what causes the problem to manifest, but many believe that it is associated with the breakdown of the central nervous system, brain cell death, or oxidative stress. It may also be the byproduct of chemical imbalances in the brain, which may become more pronounced with age.
There is no cure for sundowners syndrome, and unfortunately, it is almost always progressive, meaning that your dog’s condition will deteriorate over time.
Accordingly, dogs who are diagnosed with sundowners syndrome will battle it for the rest of their lives, and they’ll require an increasing amount of care as they grow older.
What Are the Symptoms of Sundowners Syndrome?
Although the exact symptoms caused by sundowners syndrome can vary from one individual to the next, most dogs will experience some combination of the following issues:
Disorientation is one of the most common symptoms exhibited by dogs with sundowners syndrome.
Your dog may, for example, appear to forget where he is, or he may run into obstacles that have been present for years. He may also fail to remember or recognize familiar activity patterns, such as when you return home after work or get ready for your daily walk.
One of the first indicators of sundowners is often increasingly frequent accidents. Dogs who’ve been house-trained for a decade or more may suddenly start pooping or peeing on the carpet or other inappropriate places.
Some older dogs may begin suffering from incontinence as their bladders and bowels lose function with age, but for dogs with sundowner syndrome, the problem may be cognitive, rather than physiological.
Many dogs with sundowners syndrome become quite cranky as the disease progresses. Some owners even complain that their normally sweet and affectionate dog begins snapping at people. Many dogs with sundowners also become less tolerant of other pets.
Dogs with sundowners syndrome may begin waking up much earlier or later than usual or have difficulty staying asleep. Some may even begin sleeping during the day and staying up most of the night.
Occasionally, dogs with sundowners may even exhibit behaviors that are reminiscent of sleepwalking.
The cognitive decline associated with sundowners syndrome may cause some dogs to feel nervous or anxious more often than normal. Changes in your dog’s daily routine may make his anxiety worse, so it’s often wise to avoid drastic changes whenever possible and to maintain a consistent daily schedule.
Dogs with sundowner syndrome may begin having trouble obeying simple and familiar commands. Afflicted dogs may also begin barking or trying to get your attention in other ways, without an obvious reason for doing so.
Other Behavioral Changes
There are a variety of other behavioral changes that may afflict dogs with sundowners, and each case is unique. Many of the behavioral changes you’re likely to notice will be subtle and difficult to describe.
Just remember to trust your instincts; if you believe your dog is acting strangely, he probably is. You know your pet better than anyone else does.
Which Dogs Are at Risk of Sundowners?
Any dog can suffer from sundowners syndrome, but it appears to be more common among some breeds than others. Specifically, it seems more likely to occur in small breeds, who usually live longer than their larger counterparts.
For example, Great Danes, Irish Wolfhounds, and other giant breeds typically live relatively short lives and age very quickly. By contrast, Chihuahuas, Poodles, and other toy breeds may reach 16 years of age or more, and they often experience a more gradual aging process.
Think about it this way: Most dogs would probably suffer from sundowners syndrome eventually. But, due to varying canine lifespans, it doesn’t always have time to manifest.
Treatment Strategies for Dogs with Sundowners Syndrome
There isn’t a cure for sundowners, so most treatment strategies seek to address the symptoms. The goal is generally to keep your dog as comfortable as possible while limiting the most troubling problems as best you can.
Contact your vet if you suspect your dog may be suffering from sundowners syndrome and discuss the various treatments available.
Your vet’s recommendations will vary based on your pet’s specific troubles, but some of the most helpful treatment strategies are detailed below.
There are a few medications that are sometimes helpful for treating dogs with sundowners syndrome. For example, anti-anxiety medications may be prescribed for dogs who have trouble relaxing, or antidepressants may be prescribed for dogs that seem to be withdrawing, sleeping more than usual, or losing interest in food.
Selegiline is the only FDA-approved medication for CCD in the U.S., but vets may also prescribe other medications, such as propentofylline (one of the most common drugs used to treat the condition in Europe) in off-label fashion. Some of these medications may even help protect your dog’s brain cells from further damage.
Many dog food manufacturers now market recipes that are specifically designed for seniors. Often, these foods have increased antioxidant content, which may help to protect an older dog’s body from the free radicals that damage brain cells.
Many senior diets also address other common problems seniors face. For example, they’ll often feature smaller kibble pieces to make it easier for older dogs to chew. They may also feature a bit more fiber, to help improve digestive performance (which may also help limit accidents).
There are a few over-the-counter supplements that may prove helpful for dogs suffering sundowners syndrome. Talk to your vet before starting any type of supplement regimen, but some of the most common and helpful ones you may want to consider include:
- Melatonin may be useful for helping ease your dog’s anxiety and promoting proper sleep cycles.
- Omega-3 fatty acids may help protect your dog’s joints and help him get around more easily.
- Probiotics can help regulate your dog’s digestive function. They may also help prevent accidents.
- L-tryptophan is an amino acid that is sometimes used to treat anxiety, which makes it helpful in treating some cases of sundowners syndrome.
Many of the best ways to help dogs suffering from sundowners syndrome involve simple lifestyle changes, which you can implement at home fairly easily. Some of the most common strategies include:
- Make sure your dog has a very comfortable bed. Because many dogs with sundowners experience sleeping disorders, you’ll want to do everything you can to help your pup get a good night’s sleep. A memory-foam dog bed is a good start, but you may want to opt for a heated dog bed if he suffers from joint problems.
- Limit anxiety-causing activities as much as possible. Try to let your dog live as calm a life as you can to help prevent unnecessary anxiety. Don’t introduce new pets to the home at this time, be sure to give him a good crate he can retreat into when he’s feeling overwhelmed, and let him stay close by your side as often as he needs.
- Avoid rearranging furniture unnecessarily. Many dogs with sundowners experience memory problems, so don’t make things any tougher on your pooch than you have to. Try to leave the furniture (and other obstacles in the house) in the same places they always have been. Unless, that is, your home is particularly crowded or cluttered. In such cases, it may make sense to remove some items to free up a bit of space and make it easier for him to get around.
- Continue to stimulate his mind. Try to keep those neurons in your dog’s brain firing by continuing to provide him with toys (puzzle toys or treat-dispensing toys for added engagement), letting him explore new areas (obviously, with supervision), and working on his commands and tricks. You can even try to introduce your dog to nosework games, which may also provide great stimulation.
- Go on more frequent walks. Walking more often will not only provide your pup with exercise. It’ll also keep his brain busy as he smells all of the interesting things outside and help empty him out regularly, thereby reducing the chance of accidents. Just be careful not to overdo it: Several short walks are probably better than a few long walks.
- Fit your dog with a belly band or diaper to help prevent accidents. Some older dogs may still struggle to “hold it” no matter how many walks you take, so a protective garment may be the best way to address the issue. Belly bands may help prevent male dogs from tinkling on the carpet, but girls (and boys with pooping problems) will require a full dog diaper.
Every situation is different, and with some adjustments, some dogs can still live a high quality of life with sundowners.
Other dogs are so distressed by the confusion and anxiety they experience that it may be worth considering whether it is time to say goodbye to your dog.
Ultimately, only you can decide what is the best option for you and your dog.
It can be very difficult to assess a dog’s quality of life — after all, we can’t ask them how they’re feeling.
However, there are some great dog quality of life scales that can help you assess your dog’s condition and better evaluate his quality of life.
Don’t Forget to Address the Common Age-Related Problems Most Dogs Experience
Sundowners syndrome is probably not the only challenge your older dog faces; he’ll likely also be suffering from common age-related ailments, such as canine arthritis, loss of sight due to cataracts, and more. Don’t forget to treat these issues, so your pal will enjoy more good days than bad.
For example, you may want to provide your dog with booties. These can help dogs get a better grip on slick floors, which will not only make him feel more confident while walking around, but it may prevent falls too.
And don’t forget to keep his nails trimmed properly, as long nails can alter the way he stands, which can, in turn, exacerbate any arthritic pain he experiences.
You may also want to pick up some dog stairs (or build your own dog ramp) to give him easy access to beds and couches so that he doesn’t have to jump up and inflame his aching joints. Your dog may also appreciate a warm dog sweater or dog coat during winter walks (or while just laying around the house).
Sundowners syndrome is clearly a difficult and heartbreaking problem to face, but if you work with your veterinarian and make a few easy lifestyle changes, you can likely make your dog’s final years almost as enjoyable as his first few years.
One final note: Don’t forget to take care of your own emotional health and well-being during this time. Sundowners syndrome is a bummer of a diagnosis, and you’ll want to deal with the sadness it’s likely to cause.
Let yourself grieve for a few days or weeks, talk to a counselor or close friend if you need to, and spend some time remembering all of the wonderful memories you’ve made with your pooch.
Then, once you’ve gathered your strength, pull yourself up by the bootstraps and try to figure out the best way to take care of your buddy. He needs you now more than ever before, and this is your chance to repay all of the unconditional love he’s given you. His time may be limited, and you’ll want to make every remaining day one to remember.
Have you ever had to care for a dog with sundowners syndrome? What types of treatments and care strategies proved most helpful for you and your pet? Let us know in the comments below.
March 24, 2023
Our 15 1/2 year old Labradoodle named Ceilidh ‘old age’ symptoms have increased this past few months. We built a ramp to our upstairs (takes up 2/3 of stairs but you got do what you can). This week she has stopped eating and her tremors have come on hard to about 1-3 an hour. She is very unsteady and we take her out and support her weight with a sling. We wonder the property for 20 minutes at a time as she stops and stares at spaces or nothing. She goes round and round in her bed and has gone from 24kg to 18 kg in weight. I checked at a pet store and they advised puppy food as it will be easier for her to eat and more caloric than senior food (which she would not touch). She is eating the canned soft food about 2-3 spoonfuls a sitting but is better than nothing. She is my first dog and one of the comments was “it’s like playing a game where the rules change all the time”. I totally agree. I’m scared to leave her as she is bonded to me and my Husband is “Not the Mommy” and she is upset when I’m gone, fortunately, we are both retired and I have moved to our spare room where I can get up when I want and take her out or settle her down. We have had the issues with the bowel movement accidents and we have increased taking her out and walking her around until she decides to come in. She definitely seems to have forgotten how she ‘tells us’ when she wants out. She does not appear to be in pain, but we don’t know. We had 3 family deaths during Covid and dealing with Ceilidh’s decline is hard. Thank you for the information you have provided.
March 24, 2023
Hey there, Rosemary. We’re so sorry to hear about Ceilidh’s struggles.
We don’t have any specific advice to offer, except that we’d encourage you to keep doing what you’re doing. You certainly seem to be doing everything you possibly can to make her comfortable, and we hope that the article and comments from other readers have helped.
February 22, 2023
It does my heart good to read everyone else’s comments. Our 14-year-old boxer-pittie has been on a slow decline over the past year. Like some others on here, I have not had a full night’s sleep in week. He will pace, pant and shiver most of the night. Over the past week or two, he has started barking between 2 and 4 am. We have tried melatonin, but it is no longer working. Trazodone does not seem to be touching him. Honestly it is like playing a game where the rules are changed every day.
February 23, 2023
Sorry to hear that you and your pooch are going through this, Susan. But we appreciate you sharing your story.
August 13, 2022
Our 15 year old chihuahua recently started with many of these symptoms. She’s has been getting up several times at night and wanting to get on and off the bed. We have a ramp, which she gets down without a problem but she cries when she wants to get back up on the bed. So we put our mattress on the floor so she could get up and down easier and by herself. We started giving her Melatonin right before bedtime, which has been helping a lot. But I know that Melatonin in people can cause strange dreams and even nightmares, so I am hoping it doesn’t cause nightmares in dogs. Has anyone experienced this with their dogs on Melatonin?
August 15, 2022
Hey, Rhonda. We’re sorry to hear about your little Chi, and we hope that she remains as comfortable as possible during this time.
As for the melatonin, we haven’t heard any specific reports of it causing nightmares in dogs. So, we’d recommend just keeping an eye on her while she sleeps and watching for signs that she’s having bad dreams.
We wish you and your pooch the very best!
August 10, 2022
Our boy Howard, in the last 8 months, has become increasingly anxious. We have him on fluoxetine, trazedone at night, and melatonin per our vet’s prescriptions. He has recently begun keeping my husband and I awake despite the medications. He cannot settle. He climbs over us both incessantly or pants and whines in our faces. He randomly trembles and whines all day as well. He started getting stuck behind furniture and none of us are getting any sleep. We have an appointment for him tomorrow morning and I have been making a list of things I’ve observed so we don’t miss anything. His appetite hasn’t changed but he is breaking our hearts. When we put a leash on him he starts wailing. I’m afraid we’re going to lose him to this if we don’t find a medication or some treatment to mitigate his symptoms.
August 11, 2022
That sounds heartbreaking, Becca.
We hope that the vet visit goes well and you find a treatment that works for Howard.
Best of luck!
August 11, 2022
Our collie has the same problem, we increased her dose of Trazodone and it is helping. We also give her Gabapentin.
I have been reading that dogs are under-dosed.
November 6, 2022
This is helpful info. Our 11 yr old collie is a mess at night. He’s sharp and alert during the day, walking 2 miles – even with arthritis, grabbing his ball, never skipping a beat. Nights, he wanders around, staring at us, getting in our faces, trembling, anxious as though he desperatly needs to tell us something. It’s disturbing and he’s relentless. None of our previous collies have had this. Will see the vet. I hope there’s a med that can be given with Carprofen.
November 7, 2022
Sorry to hear about your pup, Sharon.
Hopefully, your vet will be able to provide some assistance to keep him comfortable.
Best of luck!
January 26, 2023
This is good to know. Our 40 lb Chow gets one 50 mg pill of Trazadone and there is no change in her anxiety. We may have to increase the dosage.
June 3, 2022
This article was helpful, but reading each of the posts is encouraging to know that I’m not alone. We’ve been dealing with sundowning for quite some time and I thought sharing some tips might help others. Our Rat Terrier will soon be 19. She is blind and deaf and no where near the spunky pup she used to be. We no longer take walks. Her world is the inside of our house and a small patch of ground cover in the backyard. We are facing a long, slow goodbye and yes, it’s heartbreaking. We are fortunate in that she’ll sleep for long bouts at a time 4-6 hours, but each evening around dinner time, begins the constant barking (sundowning). We just started giving her a dose a Trazadone about an hour before we want to go to bed. It seems to help, even though I don’t like the idea of giving her meds every night. We all need our rest. As for accidents, I’ve place a pee-pad on around her “bed” so that I can hear if she gets up in the middle of the night to alert me to take out before an accident occurs. This works pretty well, except for the times I’m sleeping too deeply and don’t hear her footsteps on the pad. I’ve also started keeping a log/diary recording the times for waking, peeing, pooping, eating, medications. It’s been helpful to see if there is a pattern and also to know when I should take her out again to prevent yet another accident. When she is awake, I take her out about once an hour. Night time is a bit more challenging, so we medicate her so we can all sleep. During the day, I use one of our bluetooth security cameras as a “baby” monitor. I can be in another part of the house and viewing my phone, I can see that she is sleeping or just woke up and I need to take her outside. She doesn’t like to be held, but I have to carry her multiple times a day to take her outside. She also seems to need help when it comes to eating. I remind her about meal time by giving her small bites of pill pocket or cheese and lead her to her food bowl to remind her to eat. Having had experience with my mother-in-law with dementia not remembering how to use a fork to eat. It’s like she knows she’s hungry, but doesn’t quite remember how to fix it. We love our pups and want them to live forever, but seeing them degrade over time is hard on us all. Bless our senior dogs and the guardians who care for them.
June 6, 2022
Hey there, Julie. We’re so sorry to hear about your little gal’s decline, but we’re glad you found the article helpful and appreciate you sharing your tips and management strategies.
We know it can be incredibly difficult to care for a beloved pet as the end approaches, but we appreciate how hard you’re working to give her a comfortable life.
We’re sending good vibes to you both.
August 3, 2022
Just wanted to add a note to my previous post. Our dog just turned 19. We ended up getting a square 37″ play pen to use at night. I put her bed inside the play pen and she finds it and settles down to sleep for several hours at a time. If she wakes during the night, I can hear her walking around and am able to let her out for potty. It has helped knowing that my blind/deaf dog isn’t wandering about the house in the middle of the night.
May 16, 2022
Molly the Beagle, age 12, becomes extremely agitated every night, like clockwork, at 10:00 p.m. She whimpers, pants and barks. I have tried the usual calming aids, to no avail. It lasts for about 4 hours, when she goes to sleep as if nothing happened. The next day, she is perfectly normal It appears to be Sundowners, with the time off, or maybe doggy time I have not had a good night’s sleep in about 6 weeks When I leave for work in the morning, she is enjoying a good rest. I get the feeling she is looking at me and asking “why are you so tired? I live in an apartment that is not too dog friendly and I am sure she has awoken the neighbors. What should I do? All day long, there is no problem
May 16, 2022
Hey there, Mary.
Poor Molly. 🙁
For starters, you’ll want to go to the vet and have Molly checked out. You need to make sure it is in fact sundowners and not something else. Once you know what you’re dealing with, you can discuss some treatment options with your vet. There aren’t a ton of great treatments available, but some meds may help keep her calm and help her sleep.
Best of luck with your little lady!
February 19, 2022
My Evva is a 16 year old 7lb rescue chihuahua who has began with all the above symptoms for the past 8 months. Additionally, she is also blind & deaf which makes it hard to talk softly to calm her down. Additionally, she will only let you pet her, there is no picking her up or cuddles. She sleeps all night now due to the medication ( Gabapentin) then wakes up to pee and goes right back to sleep. He walks are shorter each day, she wants to turn around & come home. She absolutely will not ride in the car, there is howling, screaming & shaking. I do not like keeping her so medicated and drowsy. She will eat her food one day then the next several days she will just pick at her favorites. I feel so guilty however I honestly feel she is tired & her time has come to cross the rainbow bridge. Thank you all for addressing your personal issues about your sweet dogs. It is so important that we all know more about what is going on with our dogs and by sharing our stories it helps.
February 21, 2022
Hey there, Laura.
We’re so sorry to hear about your pup’s struggles, but we’re glad you found the article and comments comforting.
We wish you both the very best of luck during this difficult time.
January 15, 2022
I rescued Carl a year ago at age 17 and he turns 18 this month! A few months after I got him he started sun downing. Literally for hours he would walk around high pitch whining and crying or just barking at a wall or in a spare room. I didn’t sleep for weeks. I finally got him on Trazodone and Gabapentin which has helped about 95%. He may still have an occasional episode if I give him the meds too early before bedtime. In the last few months he has started shivering non-stop, almost 24/7. A lot of times he wants to sleep in his dog bed and not with me but if I wake up in the middle of the night I always go check on him and a lot of times he is in his bed awake shivering so hard I think he will come out of his skin. I gently squeeze him like a thunder shirt and lay him next to me. Sometimes he stays and sometimes he gets frantic and I can’t calm him 🙁 He is just a bitty little 7 pounder. I feel so bad for him. I know many people do not agree with prescription drugs but without Trazodone and Gabapentin I feel that I would have had to put him to sleep. Blessings to all of the pet parents who are trying to help their wee little ones.
January 17, 2022
Hey there, Shelley.
We’re so sorry to hear about Carl’s troubles, but we’re really glad he found such a great dog mom who’s doing everything possible to help him feel his best.
We wish you the best of luck!
October 11, 2021
Our corgi/jack Russell is 14 and started down the CCD road over a year ago. We didn’t recognize at first a we were doing a lot of traveling due to aging family emergencies on both sides of the country. When the urinating in the house started, along with the non-stop wandering in the evenings we knew something was going on. Our vet did a full work up and he was/is extremely healthy for his age – zero medical conditions outside the CCD. Our vet put him on Xanax for the anxiety and Selegrine for the CDD. He’s progressed to the point he rarely recognizes either of us and is generally opening hostile to my husband. For whatever reason he seems to tolerate me better. He has bitten my husband without warning several times and got me yesterday for the first time. He’s been on the meds for almost 2 months and we are not seeing an improvement. The truly sad thing is once or twice a week we will see brief glimpses of “our Chance”, who was always the most loving and sweet dog we’ve ever had. But those are getting shorter and fewer. We are running out of options.
October 11, 2021
How utterly heartbreaking, Tammy!
We’re so sorry to hear about your pooch’s troubles. Just do what you can to keep him as comfy as possible and keep working with your vet — there may be other treatments that’ll provide better results.
September 17, 2021
Our rescue Staffy is 13 and is definitely exhibiting many of these symptoms. However she is also becoming intermittently aggressive (barking growling) toward my partner. We all live together so this is super stressful.
She’s had a lot of health problems in the last year and whilst our vet has been brilliant through that, but hasnt got much to say about this dementia.
I honestly feel awful thinking that maybe it’s time to call time for all our sakes, and I feel really lost and dont know what to do for the best.
I don’t expect anyone can tell me what to do but I felt I needed to share with someone!
September 20, 2021
Hey there, Elly.
We’re so sorry to hear about your pooch.
You’re right that no one can tell you with certainty what the right course of action is, but we certainly sympathize with you and wish you and your pupper the best.
Just try to make the best of whatever time you have left together.
August 23, 2021
My sweet Medusa, a 16-year-old Staffordshire Terrier has been diagnosed with Cushing’s Disease. She has been going through Sundowners Syndrome for a while now but I just figured it out. She doesn’t stand and stare or walk into things but she does pace at night, she has anxiety, and she doesn’t sleep much at night.
Thank you for this article. It is very helpful for me to know what is wrong and to know what to discuss with the vet.
August 23, 2021
We’re glad you found the article helpful, but we’re so sorry about your pooch’s problems.
Best of luck talking with your vet — we hope he or she can provide some help.
July 23, 2021
Sorry, I’m sleep deprived. I didn’t mean actually “fix” it. I’m hoping for a suggestion as to what I can do until I see the vet because I can’t take anymore nights like the last three. She has a script for trazadone that does absolutely nothing to help her. Sorry for this second post… I couldn’t find a way to update the first one.
July 23, 2021
No problem, Nan, and we’re so sorry to hear about your pooch’s struggles.
We wouldn’t recommend starting a CBD regimen without talking to a vet first, but note that CBD is not thought to be psychoactive. In other words, it shouldn’t “confuse” her.
Have you thought about anxiety wraps (like a Thundershirt)? This may help reduce her anxiety a bit.
Aside from that, it’s hard for us to provide much specific advice from afar. Just hang in there for a few more days and discuss the issue with your vet. Hopefully, he or she will be able to provide some solutions.
We wish you the very best of luck!
July 23, 2021
Hello. My 12-year-old poodle started behaving as if she has sundowners. Right now it’s the morning of the third night. It’s just horrible and I’m wondering how much more we (Maggie and I) can take. She trembles and pants, is constantly in my face and if I try to sleep or ignore her she climbs up onto tables and my headboard. I don’t need to go on – everyone here knows what we are going through. This is starting to affect my other sweet girl who is the happiest dog I’ve ever met and I’m scared this will ruin her happiness. I guess what I’m asking is, can I “fix” this behavior? Because I hate to say it but we can’t go on like this – we are all miserable. It’s breaking my heart. I can’t get in to see my vet for another week. I guess I can try CBD but I don’t want her to be more confused than she already is. Thank you all for being here and May God bless all of us with peace – especially our babies. They are so precious… it’s just not fair!
June 6, 2021
My sweet dog Ben is going through this now after just recently being diagnosed with Cushings Syndrome and also having heart disease since 3 years ago. It breaks my heart he just walks into walls or corners and then stands and stares etc… he’s getting worse and it makes me sad. Sending prayers to anyone who is dealing with this.
June 7, 2021
Sorry to hear about your pup, Tonya.
Please give him some scritches from us.
July 12, 2021
Our 17 yr old dorkie is suffering from sundowners and has for about a year. His pacing is getting so worse between 7-10 constantly pacing and panting. I read everyone’s comments and will be taking their advise. This is horrible!
February 17, 2021
My miniature poodle will be 19 years old May 2021 – for the last couple of months he has begun winding “up” around 8pm every night – crying and pacing until the early hours – once he falls asleep he sleeps for a few hours and then wakes up completely normal. This goes on night after night and I was worried this anxiety and lack of sleep will accelerate his decline. I have been sleeping on the floor next to him for weeks to keep him calm as he no longer wants to sleep on the bed with us and if he wakes in the night he immediately starts crying out, pacing around, and doesn’t really seem to be fully aware of where he is or what he’s doing. Although I have had him to the Vet several times in the last few months, and my vet is absolutely awesome, they are just not hearing me and are only focusing on his age as a problem. His senility is slowly progressing but he is otherwise in good condition. I was telling a woman at my office, whose mother has dementia, about his nighttime behaviour and she immediately suggested he had Sundowners, as all of his symptoms mimic her mothers (even though he is a dog). I did the research and have no doubt this is his problem. With this knowledge I was able to help him by turning the lights in our condo on before the light faded outside. By 8:10pm he is now asleep and once he is sleeping deeply enough I am able to carry him to our bed. We sleep with the lights on for now so he doesn’t become anxious if he wakes up in the night. He will wake up around 1am and I will take him outside so he can relieve himself and then are able to put him in his bed in the living room and he will sleep until we wake him in the morning (we can get a few hours in with the lights off at this point and I can now sleep in my bed). Thank you for taking the time to put the information on your page together – it is really invaluable and makes me hopeful that we can keep him comfortable for the time he has left with us and hopefully anyone reading this may also benefit by making small adjustments that they wouldn’t have otherwise thought to do. Thanks again and many best wishes to everyone awesome enough to be giving their old dog the loving care they need at this time.
February 17, 2021
We’re so glad you found something that works for your little fella! And we agree — sometimes tiny little changes (although sleeping with the lights on probably isn’t easy!) will make all the difference.
On behalf of your pooch, we sincerely thank you for everything you’ve done to keep him comfortable and feeling safe.
We hope your little guy continues to do reasonably well, and we wish you both nothing but the best.
January 31, 2021
Thank you so much for this very informative article. Our 13 year old CotonDeTule has recently started with most of the symptoms outlined. Very reminiscent of my Aunts Sundowning that we dealt with a few years ago. We are waiting for vet to call us back with blood work results. However, while there might be other issues our boy is definitely declining. Thank you for your valuable insight it will help us make Simba’s last years one last adventure to embark on.
January 31, 2021
Sorry you have to go through this Susan, I’m glad we were able to help.
September 16, 2020
My little Maltese girl is 13 and showing signs of dementia. She’s definitely a Sundowner. She screeches and cries all night. She seems to prefer the darkness rather than light. She’s on dog Xanax, but once she gets in a barking cycle, it doesn’t help. I get up with her and go into the den and watch television (at 3:00 a.m.) until she falls asleep. It’s sad to watch her declining like this.
September 14, 2020
My dog has just been diagnosed with the likely hood of having Sundowners Syndrome. Heart breaking for me as a beloved owner of my 14 year old terrier mix. He has had one episode, which took us to the vet, but since then appears to be his normal, though old, self. My question is, is this normal – one episode, but eventually more and more? Or maybe (hopefully) he was incorrectly diagnosed?
September 15, 2020
Hey, Lyn. We’re so sorry to hear about your dog’s diagnosis.
Sundowners is normally progressive, but we don’t want to give you any false hope. We’d just recommend calling your vet and asking.
Our fingers are crossed for you.
July 28, 2020
very helpful to read. My dog has just started experiencing many of these symptoms and its so sad. Not sure how to calm him down. Going to start Senilife and already started melatonin. He paces all night and seems extremely agitated and restless. This article really helped me understand what to do for him.
July 12, 2020
My silkie mix doesn’t respond to any meds including Chloracalm… she is up all night frantically digging in my bed or wherever she is. Constantly in motion, cruising the perimeter of the room, behind curtains, under the bed, crawling across my body and head (she shares a bed with me). Neither of us has slept in weeks … A little Valium just slowed her down but did not do anything for her waking patterns. She also has heart disease and diabetes, and I pray her little body gives out soon because I know she is miserable and I wouldn’t have the heart to end it for her.
July 13, 2020
We’re so sorry your pooch is having such a tough time, Diane.
Kudos for doing everything you can to keep her comfortable, and we wish you both the best.
February 21, 2020
Thank you for a very interesting and informative article. My baby has sundowner disease, not only in the evening but sometimes in the a.m.. some of your advice will be helpful, some we already do use. Again thank you, all help will make this easier, I hope. I love her so much!
October 25, 2019
I have a senior collie who is 12-1/2. She started exhibiting sundowner’s syndrome about a year ago. Vet recommended Senilife and Melatonin which have been very helpful.
October 27, 2019
So glad that they’ve helped! It’s rough seeing your dog go through that for sure.
July 28, 2020
oil? My vet has started this for my dog who started recently pacing and barking all night. I am really hoping it helps. Think I will try CBD too. I use it and love it. What brand do you buy?
September 23, 2019
Our 12 year old has been showing signs at night. He cries to come in and acts super anxious, if we have to leave him out he has been chewing and knocking down our fences and getting in the neighbors yard. I’ve tried CBD treats, melatonin and nothing seems to work. Haven’t had a potty issues yet
September 24, 2019
Hey Laura – does your dog usually sleep outside? Maybe it’s time to try indoor sleeping, he might just be getting too anxious for sleeping outside. Alternatively, you could try a dog house that provides a bit more security and comfort at night if he needs to sleep outside exclusively.
August 13, 2019
We started giving our 13yr old German shepherd mix CBD oil and it has helped with night time anxiety. He can sleep most of the night. We were up 3-4 times a night to let him out to go to bathroom, now 1x a night. He does start pacing and panting about 4-6pm but that’s about the time we give him his CBD oil. Hope this helps someone give their fur baby an alternative medicine.
July 6, 2019
I’ve been supporting my 11 year old golden retriever through this the last year. He’s such a good dog and for him, he’s showing mostly confusion and anxiety. He’s constantly staring and panting like he’s asking for something but not able to communicate. When it was really bad he was barking at the walls at night. Our vet prescribed xanax as needed. I saw the most significant improvements when I switched him to Purina Bright Minds. He still shows symptoms from time to time and some evenings are worse than others, but he is no longer barking at the walls and he seems like a happier dog.
July 6, 2019
Hey, Ashley. So sorry your pooch is having trouble, but we’re glad the meds and food seem to be helping.
Thanks for sharing your pup’s story with us.
April 2, 2019
Hi I have a 15 year old sheltie this passed year he lost his hearing and now his eye sight it freaks him out it’s worst at night he runs bumps into thing all the time .
April 2, 2019
Sorry, Mary. That sounds heartbreaking. Just be sure to work with your vet and do what you can to keep your pooch loved and comfortable.
March 25, 2019
Thank you for this article. It provided a lot of great information. I believe this is what our senior dog is struggling with at night. It is exhausting and distressing for us to watch her go though this. We will try some of the ideas to see if they help.
March 25, 2019
Hey, Willow. Sorry to hear your pooch is struggling, but we’re glad we could help in some small way. Definitely try out the recommendations provided and let us know how they work out.
Best of luck with your furry one.
February 16, 2019
Thank you for all your insight. After four dogs, this is the first time dealing with this syndrome. It’s been exhausting and challenging, and your article helped me a lot.
February 16, 2019
Glad we could help in some small way, Debbie. Best of luck with your pooch.
February 4, 2019
My soon to be 8 year old Bearded Collie suddenly began trying to sleep on my head last week. As he had just started medication for a bout of nausea, I thought it might be the cause of his strange behavior. However, after reading several links on doggie dementia, I recognized other minor symptoms that have been around for some time (compulsively licking the carpet, for one) and have a better understanding of his nighttime need to attach himself to me. We just started him on Bright Mind dog food yesterday which contains some of the recommended supplements for this condition and hope that it will live up to its hype if even a little bit. My reading has given me a better understanding of what is going on and provided me with insight and strategies to help my faithful friend cope with his current challenges. As my heart breaks to see him struggle with this at times, it goes out to all of you who are dealing with the same situation. Thankfully, I am retired and can afford to lose some sleep and more easily provide the amount of attention needed to help him maintain as high a quality of life as possible as we deal with this. All dogs eventually go to heaven and so to, does any person who provides a loving home and companionship to the most faithful friends each of us will ever have. I will let you know when ever I find something that seems to improve his condition and am grateful for anyone that shares successful strategies with the rest of us. As he is currently sleeping comfortably by my side in a fully lit room, I am glad he is finally getting some rest and thank each of you that have shared your information. Bless you all.
January 12, 2019
Thank you for this information. We have been wondering about our Shih-Tzu for a while now, & since a friend’s husband has Alzheimer’s I started wondering about sundowners for our dog. Our sweet little girl started having seizures, with 2 in one week, when she was12 yrs old. 2 yrs ago. Our vet said it was most likely a brain mass (aka, tumor), so she was put on anti- seizure meds, & has only had a total of 7 seizures since. She also has congestive heart problems, & is on lasix, so we just keep her comfortable. She seems happy, plays a little, eats, drinks, poops, pees (a lot, & sometimes in the house, which she never did since a puppy.), & until something happens to change this, & she’s sffering, we just take it day by day.
December 29, 2018
Thank you so much for your helpful article
December 6, 2018
What can I do or give to decrease the aggressive behavior. He has not been aggressive all along. He is a 12 year ol Papillon.
He is on Silegiline, omega 3’s, coconut oil, [email protected] (L-theanine based gel for anxiety), and melatonin. Thanks in advance.
October 17, 2018
Our miniature American Eskimo suddenly started with all of the symptoms of Sundowners at age 13 1/2. We started giving him fish oil, coconut oil, ginko biloba, vitamin e, all of the Bs, and zinc and c. Within a week his hearing, responses to us and recognizing us, his pacing all night, and staring at the walls have all reversed. He still is having potty issues amd.will go outside 3-4 times, come in and potty on the floor. This is frustratimg.for us and we r taking him out more and þreating him like we r potty training a puppy, but last few days only small.improvement. He loves to walk but gets scared some at first of traffic or loud noises but I stop and re assure him and off we go again. He is healthy phusicallu, only slight arthritis so it’s so sad to see this. We both had to deal with the loss but now hes recognizing us, playing fetch and just netter. I’m going to order a supplement that contains the bulk of these supplements to simplify it at feeding time, but ar e thrilled with good the results and owe it to him to continue to help for all the joy and friendship he has given us.
October 17, 2018
I’m so sorry Julie – it’s so hard watching our dogs grow older. Great to hear the vitamins you gave helped, that is remarkable!
May 26, 2019
Hi i would b interested in the vitamins. My dog sees Vet soon. Showing symptoms of this and im trying to do all i can.
August 6, 2019
my llasapoo, the last couple nights is not sleeping at night, standing and staring off in the room. Night before last he flew into my lap and got as close as he could to me chest and neck, shaking, i help him tight and wrapped a blanket around him. i have a salt lamp that has helped til the last couple nights. Any ideas appreciated, email me at doriskae12(at)yahoo.com
August 6, 2019
I tweaked your email address just to protect you from the bots.
Best of luck with your pooch!
October 4, 2018
The “Thunder Shirt”, available online and in pet stores, has been magical for our 14 1/2 year old Aussie mix. We also bought the pheromone spray that goes with it and our dog now sleeps like a baby. It’s the best thing! I would recommend trying it for any dog suffering sundowners syndrome.
October 4, 2018
Great to hear Brenda – I’ve heard tons of stories about the Thunder Shirt helping with firework and thunderstorm anxiety. Interesting to know it helps with sundowners too!
July 22, 2018
Because that is the medical term used in the U.S. for humans. Sundowners is a medical term not something the writer made up.
July 23, 2018
Well that is disgusting. Petty and disparaging for those suffering from Alzheimer’s/age-related dementia, and usurping a perfectly good long-term Australian word. Here we call it ‘Old-timers’.
October 1, 2018
“Old-Timers’ sounds more ‘disgusting’ to me — it is taking the piss out of the name ‘Alzheimer’s’. When the day goes on, the SUN goes DOWN, therefore it is called, Sundowners. People with this particular brain problem get grumpier as the day goes on.
January 4, 2019
Old timers is demeaning. My mother had Alzheimer’s and now my daughters dog has it. It is Alzheimer’s. It is a medical term.
October 11, 2019
It’s called sundowning because the symptoms can be very severe in the evening and at night compared to the daytime. Its literal. Sun down. Sleep wake cycle disruption is one of the biggest initial clues to what is going on.
July 22, 2018
We just put our morkie down for this. After 2 months of trying every drug, supplement, and comfort idea, he was still up alllll night with angst, fear and anxiety. And sleeping the drugs off all day. We couldn’t watch him suffer anymore. It was heartwrenching …..
July 22, 2018
So sorry for your loss Nancy. It sounds like you did what was best for your dog – he was not living the happy life a good dog deserves 🙁
June 17, 2018
WHY “Sundowners”?? In Australia a ‘sundowner’ is a swagman/”tramp” who appears at sundown asking for a feed with promises to work on the morrow.
Why not just say age related dementia???
January 4, 2019
Why is Bob “my uncle”? Why are crocks something people wear here, but wrestle there? What the hell is vegemite? Cultural differences and slang vary so much that even accepted medical terminology can sometimes cross over into totally unrelated slang.
November 30, 2019
I adopted Queen Bea, Chihuahua at 18, 19 months ago. She is blind and deaf, so the dementia has added another layer of difficulty to her care. Keeping her calm and finding things to enrich her life is limited. She has a specific blanket that I don’t wash as often as I like, but the scent soothes her. We have found peanut butter is a delight, and lots of caresses, kisses and cuddles. I am feeding senior foods and look to add some natural remedies mentioned in the article. Any other added suggestions would be welcome. She is my love and I want her to feel that.
February 6, 2020
I’ve found hemp oil has greAtly improved her anxiety. No more howling for hours
July 28, 2020
what kind of hemp oill?
July 22, 2020
Thank you for adopting a disabled pet. She is a lucky baby.
February 5, 2020
Typically the symptoms are worse after sunset. That’s how it was explained to me by my vet and certainly how my dogs symptoms were. Eventually it evolved into full blown dementia and we had to put her down. But in the beginning? Only in the evening and often all night long.