My ten year old labrador is displaying some curious behaviour. He seems to be getting lost in the house and garden, and sometimes fails to respond to his name.

He is also having the occasional accidents at home, which are becoming more frequent. All of this leads me to ask is there anything neurologically wrong? I know of expensive MRI scans which can test for this, is there any course of action/treatment I can explore first? I’d appreciate any advice on my best course of action.

Unfortunately, it sounds like your old boy may be one of the estimated ten per cent of geriatric dogs that suffer from a condition called Cognitive Dysfunction.

The early signs can be difficult to recognise. Maybe a little forgetfulness occurs. Perhaps owners think the patient is becoming a little deaf as commands are ignored, less interactive and a wee bit distant.

Pretty soon, things get worse. Affected dogs are often confused and disorientated.

Simple instructions don?t seem to register. Night-time pacing and unusual vocalisation are common, with patients appearing to turn night into day.

Many spend much of the day asleep or staring into space.

As you have found, toileting behaviour can become deranged. Often, kennelled dogs are quite far down the line before their loss of brain function is noticed.

Canine dementia?

In reality, the condition is much like human Alzheimers with progressive loss of ability. There may be other problems and it is impossible to exclude brain tumours and liver disease from the differential diagnoses so a chat with your vet would be helpful.

Personally, I would not spend hundreds of pounds on MRI scanning for untreatable conditions.

A quick blood sample to check organ function would be sensible and then I would explore possible therapies.