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Possible Sundowner’s Syndrome In A Dachshund

My neutered wire hair dachshund and I are very close. He is always at my side, and when I go out of town he goes with me. He’s very loyal and he’s also very lovable. Kirby is almost 8 years old and started this behavior about 2 years ago. It doesn’t happen often and seems to happen late at night before bedtime, and it’s random. It all started out as a little growl when I would move him to go to bed. But it’s grown from a small growl to a full-blown snarl to almost an attack. He gets a very wild look in his eye and puts his head up and stretches his neck, almost as if he’s possessed. When I try to calm him he gets worse. There have been a few times when he’s bitten me, but then he seems to be really sorry afterward. He only acted this way with myself and my two daughters when they come into town who he loves as well. Just recently a friend of mine came over and got a glimpse of this behavior, but it was mild. Everyone else would never believe me as they think he’s the cutest and sweetest thing that ever walked the earth and in no way capable of acting like a demon, this includes his vet. Also, when this does happen I cannot snap him out of it. Then after all of this, he will go to sleep and wake up being the angel. What do you think is wrong with him?. He’s a very healthy dog and nothing shows out of the ordinary when he’s had a blood panel.

Rebecca S. – Texas

Hi Rebecca,

I would need a lot more information but generally speaking, this sort of thing is some confusion in a dog’s head with regard to who’s sleeping in whose bed and adjustments need to be made in the message sent to the dog throughout the day (when you’re not in bed together).

The problem here is that there would normally be outbursts triggered in other ways as well. You’re saying night only and for the first six years, all was well. That too is very odd. Dog’s don’t typically pull this Jekyll/Hyde after six years of stability unless there’s a significant change from the dog’s perspective in a relationship, environment and/or health.

Although your dog is very young for this to be a consideration I’m wondering (and this is a huge stretch) if this isn’t something similar to Sundowner’s Syndrome? It’s tough enough to diagnose in a person so I don’t know how you would with a dog. Do some reading on it and see if anything else seems familiar.

In a nutshell sundowner’s is an end of day agitation experienced by older people suffering from dementia/Alzheimers. Some theorize that serotonin levels are depleted during the day and recharge at night, hence the daytime angel, nighttime devil nature of the symptoms. Others think perhaps just a low threshold for stress and the day used it up. The latter might be complicated by things not showing up in blood work that would still draw heavily on your dog’s coping skills.

If you haven’t already I’d have the vet look for other issues as well.

  • x-rays
  • dental
  • eyes


John ‘Ask The Dog Guy’ Wade
Embracing Science and Common Sense

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