Symptoms and Treatment


Cricket dementia in corner 1These 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.


  • Pacing back and forth
  • Turning in circles
  • Getting lost in known places
  • Staring into space or walls
  • Suffering from disturbed sleep: wandering and/or crying at night
  • 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
  • Failing to remember routines, or starts them and gets only partway through
  • Barking for no reason
  • Forgetting cues and trained behaviors she once knew
  • Having motor difficulties like difficulty backing up (aside from physical problems)
  • Startling easily
  • Being less enthusiastic about toys or stopping playing altogether
  • Performing repetitive behaviors
  • Having trouble with eating or drinking (finding the bowls, aiming the mouth, keeping food in mouth)
  • Stopping responding to her name
  • Having 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
  • Having difficulty learning anything new
  • Withdrawing from other family members
  • Seeking attention less
  • Being frightened of people she once knew
  • Having trouble with stairs
  • Getting generally more fearful and anxious

Click for a printable checklist of the above symptoms to fill out and take to your vet.

CCD checklist thumb

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, especially if coupled with enrichment for the dog. Enrichment can consist of positive reinforcement based training, food puzzle toys, nose work, and anything that helps keep your dog using her mind.

The supplement SAMe has recently been tested for treatment of cognitive dysfunction in dogs with promising results. The original French study is here, and a subsequent Canadian study involving both dogs and cats is here.

Please pass the word about canine cognitive dysfunction. Many people only find out about the condition when their dog has a very advanced case. If caught earlier, medication and other interventions are more effective.



32 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.

  9. Thank you to all who have left your story to encourage those of us caring for our beloved dogs. Our doggie is a male Maltese Todd who just turned 17 in November 2014. He started bumping into walls in November and we thought it was bad eyesight. When he started turning circles until he just was exhausted we took him to our vet. Our vet described everything he was doing… Whining , crying, barking, talking constantly and we couldn’t figure out what he wanted. Appetite was very decreased.. Had lost weight. Our vet explained that the medicine might have dramatic positive effect, no effect or a little effect. He is on anipryl . During the first week we noticed dramatic change. Appetite increased, he didn’t walk in circles, didn’t bump into things as much, he could walk to the door to go outside to go potty some of the time. We don’t have our baby back completely but we do see glimpses of our precious doggie. He still gets up to greet us when we come home and tries to wag his tail:) he doesn’t cry and whine constantly. We are learning when he whines he needs water, to go potty or just picked up and held… Just like a baby.
    Dr has put him on a sedative at night so I can get a little sleep.. We are looking in to herbal forms to help calm him at night. To all of you reading this, treatment is worth it .
    We love our babies… They are part of our family . It is difficult to be a caregiver.. This website has helped me so much. I have been so drained and exhausted because the nights are so bad. But it does help to know others are going through the same thing. As I write this our doggie has been talking to my mom who lives with us. He has been her constant companion since she came to live with us. She is 85.. She has dementia too. My dad had Parkinson’s dementia. I am thankful for the medicine the vet has prescribed and thankful for the extra time we have with our little Toddy.

    • Debbie, thank you SO much for sharing your story about Todd. What a gift that he has more quality time to spend with you. When Cricket started Anipryl the changes were not dramatic, but the fact that she lived for almost two more years after that may well attest to the helpfulness of the medicine in her case as well.

      My mother had dementia too. You get quite a perspective when you have both human and doggie family members with these conditions.

      Thanks again for posting.

  10. Hello fellow dog lovers. Our 13 year old dog started showing signs about 5 months ago, maybe even prior. He has severe foot allergies and we are not able to give him any medications that would alleviate symptoms due to complications. We did try Valerian root extract in very small doses, and vit E – both of which had severe consequences. His incontinence just exacerbates any attempts made in this area.

    He has many of the symptoms listed, and we are wondering like many owners at what point it’s time to let him go. This site is very helpful, especially the checklist. I know nobody can tell us when he should go, but we’re navigating as best we can and would love additional perspective. We don’t think he’s ready yet, but believe it will be soon. Whatever that means.

    The toughest part is that physically he seems very fit, he is still quite enthusiastic about mealtimes, and at least once a day he likes a walk (we used to take him on 2 which he loved but he no longer has the stamina).

    Any ideas about progression? He paces frequently, eats snow outside for 30 min at a time, is up multiple times at night, is disoriented, has trouble walking, licks his pee or eats poop if he’s gone in the house.


    • Hi Katherine,

      It’s so hard when they are physically fit. I used the quality of life assessment lists, checking with them often. But with my little Cricket, it was the event of her having a seizure that I took as the “landmark.” I just wasn’t going to let that happen again, combined wit her other frailties. It was still so hard.

      Hope some others can chime in here. I think it helps to hear how others decide, even if the circumstances are different.

      Take care.

  11. Hi…it’s all so difficult. I finally had to make the decision to allow my little Taylor to pass over the rainbow bridge. The Vet decreased his prednisone, which I agreed with, but increased his Valium dosage. It didn’t help. After two sleepless nights, and a month of circling, which became more intense, I knew it wasn’t fair to him to have him live that way. It wasn’t a life, he wasn’t happy. You will know, your instinct will tell you.

  12. Hi all,

    When our dementia pup passes how long would you recommend keeping his body around for our other dog, and cat who both adore him? My husband and daughter are a little worried about this idea, because they are afraid of how they’ll feel having him in the house – but we also believe our cat and dog need some time with him to understand he’s gone. And we’ll watch them both to see how they’re doing with it – so maybe that’s the biggest clue. If you have any thoughts or experience here, I’d appreciate it.


  13. Thank you so much for your very informative forum! I never knew of CDS in dogs prior to reading your posts just today. I have a 16 year old rescue Chihuahua mix named Otis. Otis is truly the love of my life. I attributed his odd behavioral issues to old age, but it seems as if in the last week, Otis has turned a very bad corner with the disease. He has yet to be evaluated by his vet because I thought that this was perhaps “the natural end of life” for him and wanted him to be at peace at home, seeing that he does not seem to be in any sort of pain. Ive anguished over the possibility of having to perhaps put him to sleep, until a friend mentioned to me, just tonight about CDS. Your website has given me renewed hope that perhaps with a little medical intervention and plenty of love, caring, and patience, we can ride this thing out with grace and dignity.

    • Hello Michele, I’m sorry in the delay in responding. I hope little Otis is still with you, or that he has gone in peace if that was what was to be. Thank you for writing. I can tell how much you love him.

  14. Alright folks, here’s some interesting news. Our 13 year old dog has almost completely recovered. After 4+ mos of diarrhea we put him on an all rice diet. Turns out there is a correlation between diarrhea and dementia due to vitamin B1 being leached. Rice is fortified with B1, and after roughly 3-4 weeks he’s back to his old self – we’re not sure he has ANY residual affects of dementia.

    Please post info about the connection of B1 to diarrhea and dementia (I wish I had known). Btw, we were at our wits end since his extreme food sensitivities prevented any other sort of food tolerance, including his hypo-allergenic food he’s been on for 12 years – hence the rice.

  15. Why are you assuming that the dog is a female (“…her”/”…she”)? I have a Puerto Rican street dog (a mutt). I got him when I was 9 so, about 13 years ago. We don’t know how old he is, because the shelter/kennel didn’t know when he was born. For about half a year or so, he has been aimlessly walking outside his territory, not noticing that he’s walking out side the yard. He also sometimes barks without any reason, too.

    • Sometimes I assume he, sometimes she. On this website I use she. It seems only fair to mix it up a little, since English doesn’t have a gender-neutral pronoun. Good luck with your street dog.

  16. I rescued an older Jack Russell girl of about 10 years of age, over 3 years ago, history unknown, called Gypsy. I had a boy Jack Russell, 12, Jack & they were good pals. She soon showed signs of deafness & also signs I didn’t recognize that are dementia.They included waiting at the hinge side of doors, not wanting too much petting from strangers, vague stare occasionally & stiff gait. My vet advised Vivitinon, half tab twice daily which had an immediate effect on her energy levels! My boy Jack had congestive heart failure & we had the tough decision about 2 years ago. She missed him & against my friends advice as I’m a stroke survivor & disabled myself, I took on another older Jack Russell called Nugett, 12yrs! He’s a great dog & they’ve developed a strong friendship! Gypsy is worse but still likes walking but shorter, eats like a horse (or would, if let her), knows her mum & others, hates her new harness being put on but she can back out of old one (not so demented? ) & tires me out chasing her like a game to get it on! She might also have Cushings Disease but not confirmed & I don’t want to put her through the stress of a full day at the vets & more meds to find out? She seems happy in herself but does bark for no reason that I can see? Sleeps a lot through day & wakes up early evening, asking for food. I’ve developed a strategy & give her less at main meals then the remainder in eve! She’s a labour of love & I wouldn’t be without her until she’s not having a good life anymore, a day I’m dreading! Thank you, Julie.

    • Oh Julie, thanks for writing about your lovely Jack Russells. Also, kudos for adopting a senior dog! How lucky you, Gypsy, and Nugett both are. I don’t think Vivitonin is available in the U.S. yet, but it has been clinically studied in Europe and is prescribed in several countries, so I’m glad you mentioned it. (The active ingredient is Propentofylline.) You are doing such a good job figuring out ways to keep Gypsy health and happy. Thanks again for writing!

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