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Ask the Veterinarian/Strange Behaviour


QUESTION: I have a 10 year old Black Lab, who has dementia. Late at night, around 3AM she comes to my wife and I and wants us out of bed. We figure she wants to go out. But she doesn't. So we get up with her and she goes to bed. I do not understand why she wants us up?

ANSWER: Hi Harry,
A few questions, so I can answer your question a little better:
Has your dog got any other signs of dementia? Pacing, loss of training etc...
Do you think her hearing and vision are declining?
Has she got osteoarthritis? Is she stiff on walks or slowing down a bit?
Is it cold where you are?
Is she drinking more water than usual?
Does she sleep in the same room as you?

It may be that she is looking for some reassurance from you that you are still there. Usually around 3am the temperature drops a little, so she might naturally wake up because she is a little cold.


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: She paces,impatient, nervous. At times she acts excited like she wants to go for a walk or a ride,or even to the bathroom, while we are getting ready lays down and refuses to go. At times she can not be content and will go behind furniture, and into the bathtub. At times you take her outside, she will look side to side and will forget where she is at. She sleeps all day and restless all night, at this point she does not have accidents in the house.No problem with hearing or sight. She has over the last six months, she has increased her drinking and eating, significantly. We are in the summer and it is hot. She is stiff and difficult to jump up, and refuses to get into bed , and we wonder why after years she sleep with us , she will not get up on the bed, and if she does she does not stay long.

Is she getting treatment for arthritis? Sometimes supplements that contain greenlipped muscle can help like PAW osteosupport sprinkled on food. Often older pets are a bit unsettled because they have aching joints, particularly labradors who are prone to hip arthritis. The increased thirst can also be a sign of underlying disease like diabetes or Cushing's disease. Has your vet given her a health check and done blood tests recently? There are also medications that can help older pets who have dementia. I use one called Vivitonin quite often in older pets, with sometimes good results.

If she is mainly restless at night, it may be that she wakes up and can't see very well due to the darkness, often as vision deteriorates, nigh blindness is the first symptom. You could try leaving a light on for her or perhaps even the radio so can hear a constant sound.

Hope that helps.


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Eloise Bright


I am a vet with a special interest in dermatology, particularly allergic dogs and cats, behaviour and acupuncture. I work mainly with dogs and cats. If you are wondering why your pet is still itchy, despite good flea control, or why your dog licks his feet, I may be able to give you some solutions. I'm currently very passionate about behaviour and am doing some further education in this area. So if you have a troubling behaviour with your dog or cat, such as barking, leash reactivity, anxiety or a dog who is a little wild and difficult to control, I may be able to help you with some solutions.


I work in an area of Sydney where we see lots of allergic pets. I think behaviour problems are very common and I help a number of owners find solutions that will restore peace to them and their pets. Currently I enjoy answering questions, providing advice and writing pet care articles for

I graduated as a vet from Sydney Uni in 2006 and have since been completing my Masters in Small Animal Practice and am also updating my skills with a behaviour course through Sydney Uni.

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