Dog Dementia: How to Know the Signs and Symptoms

Is your beloved dog behaving weirdly lately? Does he or she forget their route back to home or not enjoying playing with their favorite toy? Have they stopped greeting you at the door?


If these changes in attitude persist for days, then there are chances that they are suffering from canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD) or dog dementia, the dog version of Alzheimer’s.

Dog dementia occurs when the accumulation of proteins in the dog’s brain builds up causing severe damage to the nerves. Eventually, the brain will start losing its functions, and the dog’s memory learned behavior and motor functions are affected.

The following are the common symptoms that your dog will exhibit if they have canine dementia:

  • Appearing confused
  • Decreased activity level
  • Inappropriate barking, whining or howling
  • Disturbed sleep-wake cycle
  • Generalized anxiety
  • A decreased threshold for aggression
  • Staring at walls or in space
  • Altered social interactions
  • Repetitive behavior such as pacing back and forth
  • Disorientation like getting lost in the house or forgetting the way back home
  • Forgetting the daily routine

Even though these conditions can be painful for the dog, and stressful for the owner, but fortunately they can get by with these behaviors with the assistance of their owners. There are some simple steps that every owner with an aging dog could follow to alleviate the effects of dog dementia in their pets.


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Early Recognition

Recognizing the early signs of dog dementia is key to providing your ailing pet with timely treatment. Watch for the changes in your dog’s behavior. Even if you witness mild versions of the symptoms, don’t take them lightly or shrug them off as just them getting older.

Early signs of dog dementia can be subtle, and therefore difficult to detect. But it’s important to be vigilant, especially if your dog is above 11 years old.



Research has shown that 28% of dogs 11-12 years old show some signs of cognitive impairment while 68% of dogs 15-16 years old showed symptoms of dog dementia.

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Changes in Hearing and Vision

Hearing and vision loss is a common problem in aging pets. This can sometimes result in anxiety among pets and their owners because they simply don’t know how to deal with dysfunctional hearing and vision.

For pets, it’s easier to get disoriented if they lose these faculties. It can become extremely more challenging to move around, respond to their owner’s call or get social with other pets.

Dogs with impaired hearing can be trained to recognize and respond to hand signals, and they can learn sign language. As far as poor vision is concerned, pets are quite adaptable, and they’ll learn their way around furniture and other objects in the home.

Cataracts are a major culprit behind vision loss in dogs, but the good thing about it is that it’s highly treatable. So, if your dog is suffering from cataracts discuss the surgery options with your vet.



If you have not followed a daily walking, feeding, playing or bedtime schedule with your dog before, if your dog is suffering from dementia, now is a good time to start. Sticking to a strict schedule for all of their daily routines will be the best thing you can do to ease their trouble.



Following a set schedule for walking, playing, eating, and sleeping will provide orientation to a confused dog suffering from dementia.

Rainbow Bridge



Manage Anxiety

Losing their way in the home, and impaired hearing or vision will create a degree of stress in a dog as they will suffer from anxiety. For some dogs, this can become even more severe when they wake up in the middle of the night to find themselves alone or when they have trouble finding their way back home.

Homeowners should pay attention to favorite things of their dog, and understand what soothes them. It could be something like good music, aromatherapy, playing with their favorite toy or just a simple walk. Utilize one or more of these methods to help to ease their anxiety. You can also discuss anti-anxiety medication with your vet if the dog is exhibiting extreme stress and wandering.


poodle dog playing on grass


Dementia Drugs

Dementia specific medication is available, and sometimes in extreme cases of canine dementia. Veterinarians will be able to administer the medicine to a dog which can provide minor relief of the symptoms.


Veterinary Behaviorist

Just as in humans, behavior therapy can also be provided to dogs. Consult a veterinary behaviorist, and they will assist your ailing dog. They can also help you how to re-orient your confused dog, and how to help control and lessen their anxiety.


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Daytime Activities

It’s a good idea to engage your dog in more daytime activities. Arrange social interactions for them and games for them to play. This will be helpful for their physical and mental stimulation. Day-time activities and exposure to the sun will further regulate their sleep-wake cycle.

Before you jump to any conclusions that your dog is suffering from CCD, discuss the symptoms and behaviors thoroughly with your vet. Some symptoms of dog dementia overlap with other diseases. 

Similarly, diabetes or kidney issues could be behind vision or hearing impairments. Your vet will be able to understand the symptoms better, and conduct different tests to diagnose the disease, and provide the proper treatment.



Related Article: Diabetes in Dogs