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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 32844
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 45 years of experience.
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Having a problem with my 10 year old pedigree Burgos dog (spanish

Customer Question

having a problem with my 10 year old pedigree Burgos dog (spanish breed) she is keeping us awake at night and will stand in corners of the room and will scratch on the floor until we come to reassure her, we cannot crate her as she is too large, she weighs approx 35 kilos, has a good appetite & during the day is generally good & behaves well. Someone has suggested she could have doggy dementia ... is there anything medication wise you could suggest as we are sleep deprived and its wearing us down
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Dog
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 2 years ago.

I'm sorry that your question wasn't answered in a timely manner. It does sound as if Poppy is suffering from sundowner's syndrome - a form of cognitive dysfunction in dogs and people. It's conjectured that the dark and quiet of night magnifies the sensory loss in these patients which results in their anxiety and subsequent aberrant behavior. Other indications of cognitive dysfunction include disorientation, changes in social and interactive behavior - becoming "needier" or, conversely, more aloof - changes in locomotor and sleep cycle behaviors, and loss of "housetraining".


This is a progressive disorder and usually prompts euthanasia when owners are unable to control inappropriate behavior. If additional medical problems exist - brain tumor, e.g. - the onset of seizures may prompt euthanasia. You might find that a long-acting benzodiazepine such as clorazepate will be helpful for Poppy. Please consult her vet as to the availability of this or other benzodiazepines which have become more highly regulated in the UK and United States.


Ancillary care involves physically and mentally stimulating exercises such as swimming, massage, and range of motion exercises, encouraging relaxation, ensuring that Poppy is taken out frequently to minimize the cost of elimination "mistakes", encouraging re-establishment of daily cycles by feeding at regular hours and at least a few hours before bedtime, and administering a benzodiazepine before bed. Specialized diets rich in antioxidants may be of value such as Hill'sPrescription Diet b/d. The monoamine oxidase inhibitor selegiline(Anipryl) is the only drug licensed for use for the treatment of canine cognitive dysfunction in the States. Many of us aren't impressed with the studies supporting its use, however. Vivitonin is often prescribed in the UK. I'm similarly unimpressed with its value.


Cognitive dysfunction in dogs is just as difficult to manage as is Altzheimer's in humans. I wish I had some magic for Poppy. Please respond with further questions or concerns if you wish.