Dog dementia

By | Feb 18, 2019

If your older dog fails to recognize you anymore and is spending his nights wandering the hallways, he likely has some form of canine dementia. Scientists estimate that there are more than 30 million geriatric dogs (over the age of 7) in the United States, and more than 15 million in Europe. (source)

Dog dementia, clinically known as Cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS) represents a group of symptoms related to the aging of the canine brain. These changes ultimately lead to a decline of memory function and learning abilities, alteration of social interaction, impairment of normal house training, changes in sleep–wake cycle and general activity. The initial symptoms gradually worsen over time. (source)

Potential symptoms:

Performing repetitive behaviors. Pacing back and forth or in circles (sometimes turning consistently in one direction). Disrupted sleep patterns. Sleeping more during the day and less at night. Night time confusion. Appearing lost or confused. Getting lost in familiar places. Staring into space or walls. Walking into corners or other tight spaces and staying there. Waiting at the hinge side of the door to go out. Failing to get out of the way when someone opens a door. Failing to remember routines or starting them and getting only partway through.

Exhibiting motor difficulties like difficulty backing up (aside from physical problems). Having trouble with stairs. Having difficulty getting all the way into bed. Falling off things.

Barking for no apparent reason or for long periods. Ceasing to bark when the dog used to be very noisy. Forgetting cues and trained behaviors she once knew. Failing to respond to her name. Startling easily. Getting less enthusiastic about toys or stops playing altogether.

Losing appetite. Having trouble with eating or drinking (finding the bowls, aiming the mouth, keeping food in mouth).

Trembling for seemingly no reason. Getting trapped under or behind furniture. Forgetting house training. Having difficulty learning anything new. Seeking attention less and acting withdrawn. Indifferent or frightened of people she once knew. Getting generally more fearful and anxious. (source)


Read the page, Canine Dementia – Signs, Symptoms, Treatments posted by Susan and Michael Cain. The treatment information is toward end of the article.

Is existing with dementia living with joy:

Dogs can exist with dementia for a long time, but that existence is without joy, eventually is filled with fear, and can’t be called living in any true sense of the word. (source)

…dogs function on an intuitive level most of the time and their sense of who they are as dogs is important to them. Their sense of identity gives purpose and joy to their lives and when they become confused about who they are that sense of purpose and joy is compromised. (source)

Other considerations:

Not every symptom indicates dog dementia. Other medical conditions prevalent in geriatric dogs can manifest in a similar way. Older dogs often have impaired vision and hearing, for example, which can lead to confusion and diminished interaction with the family. Senior dog issues, such as diabetes mellitus, Cushing’s disease, kidney disease and incontinence, can all lead to urination in the house. A physical exam, blood pressure measurement, urinalysis, blood tests, and a thorough medical history will help your vet rule out health problems with similar symptoms to CCD.

No matter how he changes, no decline in your dog’s abilities should impair your human-animal bond. Being aware of aging problems will enable everyone to make adjustments to include your dog in activities and make him feel loved. If your vet has ruled out other problems and determined behavioral changes to be consistent with canine cognitive dysfunction, there are steps you can take to make your dog’s (and your) life easier. (source)