Symptoms and Treatment


These are some of the commonly agreed upon symptoms of canine cognitive dysfunction. Many of them can be singly attributed to other conditions, but if your dog has a multitude of these, it’s probably time to go to the vet.

Small black and white terrier stands in a corner with her head close to the wall

  • Pacing back and forth or in circles (turning perennially in one direction)
  • Getting lost in known places
  • Staring into space or walls
  • Walking into corners or other tight spaces and staying there
  • Appearing lost or confused
  • Waiting at the “hinge” side of the door to go out
  • Failing to get out of the way when you open a door she is on the other side of
  • Can’t remember routines, or starts them and gets only partway through
  • Barking for no reason
  • Forgets cues and trained behaviors she once knew
  • Motor difficulties like difficulty backing up (aside from physical problems)
  • Startling easily
  • Less enthusiastic about toys or quits playing altogether
  • Performing repetitive behaviors
  • Trouble with eating or drinking (finding the bowls, aiming the mouth, keeping food in mouth)
  • Stops responding to her name
  • Has difficulty getting all the way into her bed
  • Trembling for seemingly no reason
  • Getting trapped under or behind furniture
  • Sleeping during the day
  • Sleeping less at night
  • Forgetting about house training
  • Has difficulty learning anything new
  • Less seeking of attention; gets withdrawn
  • Acting frightened of people she once knew
  • Has trouble with stairs
  • Getting generally more fearful and anxious

A small black and white dog is sitting perched in the doorway of a plastic dog grate. Her head and front paws are inside the crate and her butt is hanging out.

Prevention and Treatment

Selegiline (brand name Anipryl) has been shown to slow the progression of canine cognitive dysfunction. It is a drug that is used to treat Parkinson’s in humans. It is available now for dogs in tablets and chewables. If your vet prescribes it, try to shop around. Its price really varies. The doses for dogs that you can buy on cards are quite expensive. But it can also be purchased in generic tablets quite cheaply.

There is also evidence that a diet rich in anti-oxidents can reduce canine cognitive dysfunction.




18 thoughts on “Symptoms and Treatment

  1. Hello
    Thank you so much for your posting on CCD. My Tessie, a corgi mix, is 14 yrs. old. I work out of town, was gone for 3 days, came back home, and had a whole different dog. My husband has been ill himself, is retired, and really is kind of in denial about how our pets are aging.
    We got Tessie when she was less than a year old from a high kill pound, and honestly, I have never loved a dog like I do this one. In a few days time, suddenly, she has every symptom on your list except not eating and drinking, and she still loves to go outside and feel the sun on her face. But she stares at nothing, gets caught in corners, and doesn’t seem to know who I am. Her face is blank, she barks all the time, trembles and shakes. I took her to our vet the same day, whom I love and trust, and the dr. told me about dog dementia, and gave me a med, which seems to agitate her more. Yesterday, she had a seizure, so we are going to try Phenobarb.
    Tessie is a “down” dog, she has been paralyzed in her back legs with IVDD for 6 years, and my husband and I have expressed her bladder 3-4 times/day every day since. Our vet said she never believed Tessie would live so long as a down dog, and I never could get her to be in a cart, but she is healthy and has always been happy till now. She just isn’t there, and I have cried buckets this week, because I didn’t know what to do.
    My husband says as long as she eats and drinks and enjoys the outside, we can deal, but she seems so confused and blank to me.
    Your website has given me hope that maybe it isn’t as bad as I thought, and thank you for sharing pictures of your sweet dog. I would send a pic of Tessie, but I am not that computer literate.
    My email is tessiesmiles, because Tessie was a champ at the “submissive grin.” She learned early on that people went nuts when she grinned at them (with her teeth), so she did it whenever she approached ANYONE. Her smile is gone now.
    Thank you again. I needed a “fur mom” who would at least understand how I felt. I really didn’t know what the right thing was.
    Best wishes,

    Penelope Johnson

    • Hi Penelope,

      My heart goes out to you. That is tremendously tough. Have you asked your vet whether there is an acclimation period for the original med? I’m hoping Tessie can get used to it.

      You love her so much! I know the blankness is disturbing. Cricket didn’t have it badly, but I know some dogs who have. I hope you can figure out how things are from her point of view. I think the blankness bothers us more than them, but if she really completely doesn’t know you, that’s more difficult to handle.

      If it helps to know, Cricket went through a transition period where more things scared her and I think she was more agitated in general, but she got through that. For about the last year she has been much more calm.

      I would love to see dear Tessie. All you have to do is email it to Tell me whether it’s just for me or whether I can put it in our “old dogs” gallery.

      I hope Tessie can keep surprising the doctor and stay with you longer. I think I do understand how you feel. Not only watching so much of your dog disappear before your dogs, but to suddenly be faced with these tough decisions. Hang in there.



  2. My precious dog pippin is 16 and a wonderful companion to me.During the last 6 months she has been diagnosed with dementia.She has always been well behaved and a joy but now she barks all night and seems disorientated and bumps into everything. She is still eating but shows no interest in her toys.At what point do Isay enough is enough? She seems depressed and sleeps all day.She also has mammary camcer but the vet assures me she is not in pain.I dont know what to do for the best I love her but apart grom eating she has little quality og life how will I know when the time is right I dont know what to do

    • Kim, that is so hard. I don’t know. Here is a checklist, but I don’t know if it will help. You laid it out pretty well already.

      Have you asked your vet about medication? It can help a bit sometimes. It might widen her enjoyment of life a little bit.

      I’m sorry I can’t be more help. My heart is with you, though. Pippin is lucky to have you, and your great love and consideration for her really show.

  3. My Herbie is a 16.5 yr old dachshund. He spends most of time lost in the house. When I take him outside he just stands in the yard and stares. He still tries to follow my foot steps through out the house. I carry him to puppy pads when ever he will let me because he really does not being held to much anymore. However every night when we go to bed he lays his head on me and falls asleep. When we wake up he likes to be rubbed and massaged. Once we are up he once begins seem lost. Today he did not notice when I put his food dish down. He still has a hearty appetite, drinks water. Last year I adopted 2 female dachshunds that he pretty much ignores and rarely inter-acts with but has never been aggressive with. I give him his own personal space from them as well as supervised time with them. He is on Sentile and Neutrics that I got from the vet. At first these seemed to help but this week has been bad. He is also on holistic formula calming trmt and aggression trmt. He scored 48 on the quality of life scale. I can not imagine life without him but also want him to have some quality of life. Right now that is minimal.

    • Dear Audrey,

      It sounds like he still knows you, which I think is one of the most important things. You’ve described some good pleasures in his life. Even at his age, he can have a bad week, then things may pick up. Best wishes to you and Herbie.

  4. Thank you for your kind words of encouragement. Your website has been the most helpful that I have come across. It is so helpful being able to communicate with someone who understands

    • And thank you for your kind words about the site. I do have some experience with how tough it can be.

  5. I found your website while researching dementia in dogs. I have an almost 15 years old toy rat terrier, his name is Jimmy. He always had little quirks that came with spending his early years in an abusive situation. I noticed some changes in him over the past months but kept putting it off, thinking “he is an old dog. He is just getting old.”
    He is waiting for me at the vet right now. I can only imagine my fears are going to be confirmed. I don’t know what to do. I can’t imagine life without him.

    • Imelda, you didn’t say how bad his symptoms are, but his life may not be over, not for a long shot. Cricket stayed with me and had a good life for almost two years after I realized what was happening.

      Fingers crossed for you and Jimmy.

      • Jimmy was pad trained – he forgot to use his pads. He will wake up howling every morning. I carried him to his pad and he will get so confused that he ran away and made his way back to his bed, where he will then use the bathroom. He couldn’t find his way to his bowl – I had to carry him to his bowl and then he would eat. He was very disoriented and withdrawn. He would run away from me and get very scared of familiar situations. It was very heartbreaking.
        His vet put him on Anypril 2 mg and he has improved big time. He is more social, he runs to me to be pet and seeks attention all the time. He has his moments of confusion, but overall he seems a little more stable.
        Thank you for your kind words!

        • I’m delighted to hear an Anipryl success story, and even more happy for you and Jimmy. I hope you have some more good time together!

  6. My Mae, a nineteen year old Jack Russell Terrier, has nearly all of the dementia symptoms that are listed in the article. Because she has lost bladder and bowel movement control, she wears diapers that are regularly changed. She has a huge appetite – low salt chicken stock with her dry and wet food, chicken breasts with her medications, and diced apples for her treat.
    Sometimes, I have to travel, and I found a wonderful kennel, Anderson Acres whose staff does an excellent job providing the loving care for my precious girl, Mae.
    My Junior, who was a Jack Russell Terrier and Mae’s companion, died four years ago. Junior was seventeen when he died with advanced dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Mae experienced severe separation anxiety with the loss of Junior. Junior and Mae were with me since they were six weeks old; I miss Junior.
    Caring for dogs with dementia requires compassion, patience and understanding dementia. As Junior and Mae’s caregiver, I provide them with a clean, loving, healthy environment so they live their final days with dignity and grace.

    • Thank you so much for sharing about both your dogs with dementia. It sounds like you have done and are doing a wonderful job caring for them. How lucky that there is a kennel that can care for her well. I didn’t travel for Cricket’s last 18 months because it just would have been too hard for her. She had always stayed at my home with in-home care, but she lost her ability to feel safe with anybody but me. Thanks again for your comment, which may give some others hope.

  7. I had my dog at a Vet. more than six months, I suspected my dog had dementia but all she said was maybe he has it. I had blood work done(383 dollars) and had a hard time even getting the results. Every time I called the Dr. was busy. I even e-mailed her and never got an answer.
    After one month I went into that office and another Dr. showed me the results. I was very dissatisfied with that. They wanted me to have exrays but I told them I was going to take care of my dog the best I could since it took me so long to get the results, I n the past few weeks my dog is really showing signs of dementia, he’s walking all night,doesn’t want to walk anymore, and after reading about Cricket, I got to thinking he’s afraid at night when it’s dark. Right now it is 9 AM and he’s sound asleep by me and real still, I think walking all night he’s so tired.

    • That sounds hard, Dorothy. To my knowledge they don’t diagnoses dementia with bloodwork (or X-rays) but those tests can rule other things out I guess. Maybe another vet could help? The medication they have for dementia can be helpful for some dogs. Best of luck, and sorry you are having a hard time.

  8. My dog Taylor has been with me for three years. I adopted him as an older dog who had been removed from his previous home by animal control. He came to me deaf and blind in one eye, but quickly adapted to his new home of five cats. In retrospect, many of the signs of dementia were there but I didn’t recognize them not knowing his history . I also thought some of his behaviors were due to his deafness or lack of sight.
    Within the. Past two weeks he started exhibiting almost all the signs of CDS. My vet put him on anipryl and Valium but I haven’t seen much improvement. Finding your site is giving me hope that I will still have more time with this beautiful little guy. He has brought such joy to my life in such a short period of time . Thank you.

    • Joanmarie, bless you for adopting an older dog. Aren’t they wonderful? I understand about attributing things to his sensory problems. I sure did that with Cricket for a while. I just had no idea about dementia in dogs. I really hope you can have some more good time with him. Feel free to send in a picture of him if you like for the gallery. Best wishes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>