Circling behavior in dogs can be due to a variety of medical conditions, some of the immediately serious. If your dog is walking in circles, please see your vet right away. In senior dogs, circling is often due to canine vestibular disease or canine cognitive dysfunction (a.k.a dementia or Doggie Alzheimer’s).

My dog Cricket had canine cognitive dysfunction and showed many of the typical symptoms of that condition. She paced, she stood in corners, she got stuck behind furniture, and she forgot what she was doing.  She also circled, and it was always counterclockwise. Here is a short video of what it looked like.

Video Transcript: Turning Circles: A Common Sign of Dementia in Dogs

>> EILEEN ANDERSON: When my 15 year old dog first started pulling to the left on walks, I thought she was just more interested in people’s yards. Then I thought it was because her back legs were weak.

But after a few months, I realized that she was consistently drifting left and starting to circle. Because of that and some other symptoms, she was diagnosed with canine cognitive dysfunction.

Circling can be a symptom of some other serious diseases and conditions as well. That’s why a vet visit is a must if your dog is circling.

Some dogs with canine cognitive dysfunction circle very obviously. It wasn’t so obvious with Cricket.

Can you see it?

Here’s another example.

I’ve sped up the following indoor clip to make the circling more obvious.

You can see that her left rear leg gets “left behind” but this was not diagnosed as a physical problem. It was most likely neurological, and part of the brain deterioration due to the dementia.

It’s important to identify signs of canine cognitive dysfunction early. There is medication that can often help, and actions you can take to help your dog and family cope.  Learn more at

Circling can be very obvious once the dog has an advanced case of dementia, but it doesn’t necessarily start out that way. Cricket was doing it for several months before I noticed. At the beginning she didn’t stand in one place and twirl; her counterclockwise movements was integrated into how she walked around. When I would see it, I attributed it to other things.

She even pulled consistently to the left when I walked her on leash. At first, I thought she was focused on the neighbors’ yards, but then I realized she wasn’t really focused on anything at all. She was trying to move counterclockwise.

Circling by dogs with cognitive dysfunction is categorized by some researchers as a “spatial orientation” issue. Related problems are wandering, standing in corners or small spaces, and interacting abnormally with ordinary household objects.

You probably can’t get your dog to stop this type of movement if she has dementia. But there are medications that help with canine cognitive dysfunction, and they can possibly reduce circling and other abnormal behaviors. If your dog is stressed or anxious, your vet may be able to prescribe something for that as well.

Remember: only a veterinarian can diagnose your dog, so if he or she is circling or performing other repetitive or confused behaviors, go to the vet right away.

Copyright 2018 Eileen Anderson

83 Responses

  1. Thank you so much for your article… In December my dog started to show signs of this disorder but by mid January when he experience two major seizures back to back it was clear he also had a brain tumor .
    We invested in our body and even tried and Anapril for a month but it had no positive effects.
    We miss our guys so much but were grateful for blog such of yours when we were looking for information .
    The key is to be aware of slight changes and consult your veterinarian without delay…

    1. Thank you for sharing about your guy. So sorry for your loss. And yes, the most important thing is to get to the vet. Thank you again for the comment.

  2. We have our dear Duchess, almost 18. She is a dachshund and has had dementia for a little over a year. Like many in her breed, her teeth are in poor shape. She also has reduced eyesight and is deaf. Our vet has wanted to do a dental for a couple of years but we were reluctant. One of his nurses recently told us to not consider a dental because of her age and condition, as she possibly would not survive the anesthesia. Our vet did agree with that statement. We have loved her so and yet have had to change some of her routines, such as keeping her away from carpeted surfaces in the house, carrying her down steps, etc. We have don what we can to make her life more comfortable. We really appreciated your video, as we have noticed that, like humans, she still has her good days where she remembers things, potties outside, and expresses happiness being around us. We thank God for her long and wonderful life and will keep a close eye on her to make sure her end days are not painful. What a blessing she has been…

    1. How wonderful to hear about Duchess and the wonderful care you are taking of her, John. Thank you so much for writing about her. I hope she still has many more good days with you. Take care.

  3. Our dog, Penny, is a 16 year old beagle/basset mix. She has had circling behavior for at least a year and also walks to the left on her walks. She can circle so much that she falls to a sitting position. The dementia is hard to live with because we have to lift her (19 lbs) to take her to the water bowl, lift her to take her to food or anywhere else. She cannot find her way. Hearing is diminished. She has been such a wonderful dog. We want to give her good quality of life and so far she seems fairly happy. Our vet has not encouraged us to use a medication, but I wonder if it might help, or have we waited too long? She is prone to have diarrhea when introducing anything new, so I hesitated to start medication. We walk her twice a day to keep her arthritic legs mobile. I appreciate your website and have found it to be very helpful.

    1. Hi Frances,
      It sounds like you are doing a great job with Penny. It wouldn’t hurt to ask your vet about medication; I hear you about starting something with an older dog, especially with a tippy tummy. But your vet will know about that. I’m glad you like the website. I really want to spread the word about this condition. It helps us so much when we can understand what’s going on.

    2. hi frances hows Penny doing so far ? are you giving her any medicaation that could help improve her condition. My 16 year old female japanese spitz is also in the same condition as penny , i can really relate to your story.

      1. Thank you, Jerome, for your interest and, I’m sorry, for your personal understanding of this illness. Penny is about the same, some days are better than others. We are not giving her any medication for concern of side effects – namely diarrhea. We are more focused on keeping her weight at a “normal” level. Over the last 2 years she has lost about 1/3 of her body weight and now has stabilized at 19 lbs. Sometimes I wonder how much joy she has, yet we hold her and provide good, comfy places to sleep. As she ages, her sleep is longer and deeper. Also, I think that part of the dementia is a restlessness at night. Some nights she gets very “antsy” and won’t settle down. Finally, we turn off all the lights and get everything quiet and she gets better. Every day is a little different. We are thankful for every one. I hope your dog will do well. Thank you for your comment.

  4. I cried when I read this.
    The typical human signs of dementia, loss of vision and hearing were expected with age but many of the “symptoms” you mentioned I attributed to something else or ignored. Figured her refusal to do tricks was a silent protest and her soiling everywhere was out of spite.
    But……..The circles.
    The tethered counterclockwise circles in the yard.

    1. Dear Krysta,
      Have you talked to your vet about your suspicions? Remember, dementia is a disease and it’s different from normal aging. Your vet may be able to help. I hope you can get some help and improve things for your dog and for you. I know this is hard to deal with.

  5. My Boston, Zowee, has had seizures for about 3 years. Two weeks ago she started with the circling patterns, always to the left. She bangs into walls and furniture and most times, I’m not sure if she knows me at all. I don’t think she is in any physical pain, but I am sure she is scared and confused. She is 14 and 1/2 years old and my vet thinks I should have her euthanized because the quality of her life isn’t good. I am torn and completely at a loss as to what to do. I don’t want to lose her, but am I being fair to her and my other two dogs. I’m praying she will just pass peacefully in her sleep, but I’m not sure if I should wait.

    1. Dear Pam,
      I’m sorry you are going through this with Zowee. Have you tried looking at any of the Quality of Life scales? They are linked on this page. They are helpful to some people. I hope knowing that you aren’t alone in this situation helps a little, too. It is such a difficult decision. Hugs.

  6. Yesterday was one of the worst days of my life. I had to put my baby Bandit down. He was 18. He has been circling for about a month but it got really intense Friday and he just couldn’t stop for very long. I didn’t realize how bad it had gotten until he fell off of our deck because he was doing it. About 2 1/2 feet down. He didn’t seem hurt orthopaedically but he was changed from the experience. Lethargic all day Friday. He was also battling degenerative arthritis in his spine. No longer able to down down the stairs. Incontinent. Off balance. Blind in one eye and going there in the other. Hearing loss as well. So, an array of health issues. I could tell he was just done fighting. But I am broken hearted and lost without my baby.

    1. Christy, I’m so sorry. My heart goes out to you. You must have taken great care of him for him to reach the age of 18. Hugs.

      1. Hi Eileen. My Shitzu Sara just turn 20 on November 9, 2020. She has loss vision her in her right eye almost 2 yrs ago. On Wednesday I brought her to the vet as her one good eye which had diminished vision was weeping alot. She has an ulcer so now treating with antibiotic drops. Noticed yesterday and today that she walks in circles, bumps into things, will just stop walk or circling and stand there. I’ve had to bring her to her dish for food and water. I know that we will have to make the decision to put her to sleep as she used to love to go for walks and runs and hasn’t done this In the past couple of weeks. Thinking about when walk she alway leans to the left walking really close to the edge of the road or bush line. We are going back Monday to the vet to have hereye checked . I really don’t expect improvement. I think our old girls has dementia. And as much I would love for her to stick around longer this is no way of life for her. Thank you for articles and everyone sharing.

        1. Hi Lynne,
          How wonderful that you were able to keep Sara safe and healthy to her 20th birthday. I’m sorry about the recent changes in her behavior.

          This is such a very hard choice we have to make. Thinking of you.


    2. Sorry to hear of the tribulation and passing of your fur best friend Bandit. I learned a lot from your story as I have a 16 yrs old Pomeranian. I never had to put any of my fur babies down due to health but by reading your story I’m aware that at some point I will have to deal with it. Loosing our best friends is very hard. They always loved us unconditionally.

  7. Hi Eileen. I’m SO glad I found your site. We have 2 dogs, one being a 10-11 year old dalmation mix named Phantom. He was advertised online in a community forum as “free to a good home”. Long story short, he was going to end up at at Animal Control if no one took him. My husband, son & 14 y.o. son said we would take him.

    Not long after we got him, we noticed the constant pacing and standing in corners. We had never seen anything like that! We also suspected he had some degree of vision & hearing loss.

    We got him in to see our vet ASAP and he diagnosed Phantom as having a neurological disorder.

    His symptoms have progressed over the past few months, and the pacing now also includes a lot of walking in circles. We know he can hear to some degree, But we haven’t been able to figure out exactly what he hears and what he does not. He also has extreme issues with his vision, and it seems to me that it’s his peripheral vision that’s lacking – he can see where he’s going but he trips over everything in his path, including stepping in his food and water bowls. Phantom has weakness in his back legs which makes it difficult for him to stand for long periods and, once he’s down and then tries to get up, he has a difficult time especially since we have hardwood floors. Most of the time, once he is up, he is able to walk but there are times when he simply cannot stand on his own at all.

    He has accidents in the house, despite having just been out. And when he IS out, he gets stuck in and under our patio furniture and under our gas grill. Like your article says, they don’t seem capable of backing up and getting themselves unstuck. Inside the house, he gets stuck under tray tables and my wheelchair.

    He’s had 2 seizures in the past few months

    He’s not warm and friendly, but he will let you pet him and he has his certain spots he loves to have scratched. Phantom seems to respond best to our 14 y.o. Autistic son and I think it’s because our son is the one who usually gets him unstuck from places and gets him to stop circling and to lay down. My son also plays on the dogs’ beds and pets and talks to them.

    It’s funny that you mention “doggie Alzheimer’s” because I’ve often said it’s like he has Alzheimer’s. Our vet has never mentioned medication for any of this, even though he’s aware of everything that’s happened. I’m going to go have to call.

    I just wanted to tell our story and if you have any comments or suggestions, I am open to hearing them. In the meantime, we are just trying to keep Phantom comfortable and make sure he knows we love him!

    1. Dear Margaret,

      Bless you for taking in an older gent. I’m sorry he has these problems. It’s true that canine cognitive dysfunction is specifically related to Alzheimer’s in humans. Your hunch may have been correct. The right meds can make a world of difference for some dogs. I hope your vet is open to that discussion. Thank you for extending love to Phantom even though he’s not a warm cuddly type. It’s lovely that your son has rapport with him. Good luck.

    1. Yeah, Cricket was a counterclockwise girl. We used to joke (because sometimes you just have to see the humor in it) that she was really good at making left turns. So Phantom is a right turn guy!

  8. I was going to say that apparently Phantom hasn’t watched enough NASCAR (go fast, turn left!) LOL

    What kind/class of meds, specifically, would a dog take for this condition? Also, have you noticed that “doggie Alzheimer’s” is more prevalent in certain breeds?

    Thank you for everything!

    1. We made the NASCAR joke, too! Specifically, there’s that ventriloquist Jeff Dunham who has a puppet who is a NASCAR fan. When asked what he likes about it, he always says “They’re makin’ a left tuuuuuuuuurn!!” (You can google Jeff Dunham Bubba Love for NASCAR and see a video. I’m in the southern US and it’s a bit insulting to southerners, but in a good-natured way. Good comedians are equal opportunity insulters…)

      The drug that has been the most widely tested and is used in the US is selegiline, marketed for dogs as Anipryl. It’s actually a drug used for humans with Parkinsons. Nothing can reverse CCD (except maybe the stem cell research they are doing in Australia), but Anipryl works to slow it down in a lot of dogs and calm them down if they have anxiety.

      The studies say that there is not a particular breed that’s more vulnerable to it. But since it only shows up once dogs reach a certain age, you see more smaller dogs with the condition. Take care!

  9. I am wondering if your dog was ever tested for Lyme Disease. We had a dog that did the circling also he just walked around and around in a tight circle. Our yard is infested with ticks and I myself became ill and tested positive for Lyme in 2012. I am now wondering if our dog might have had Lyme also but he passed away before I became sick and learned about Lyme Disease.

    1. Hi Kathy,
      You are correct that there is some overlap in symptoms between dementia and the tickborne diseases. I live in an area where we have a lot more Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever then Lyme. To answer your question, I never got Cricket tested for Lyme. Her progression was pretty classic for cognitive dysfunction. But it is a great reminder that we can’t assume anything about these kinds of symptoms. The vet needs to run appropriate tests. I’m sorry you had Lyme and I hope you are doing OK.

    2. Interesting, never heard about the connection. When she came to me from the rescue, she had been with rescuer/foster mom for about a year. She does test positive for erlichiosis, has from the first time they tested her. She had 2 or 3 courses of antibiotics for it, was never physically symptomatic from what I know. Guess it does matter now. She finally settled during late afternoon into evening yesterday, after I had given her all meds/treatments I mentioned. But then she got worse again. She actually began trying to climb through a 2 shelf side table, presumably to get to the other side? Instead of just walking around the couch?! Never seen that behavior before :<( Last night was not good. She sleeps on the bed with me and other two dogs and was frequently trying to get up and walk across and onto me. Let's just say I am glad I am retired.

      1. Hi Virginia, I have a comment on here that goes into detail but I wanted to tell that 9ur 19 yo Dalmation mix constantly tries to walk THROUGH things – Tray tables, my walker & wheelchair, the grill and patio furniture. And he doesn’t seem to know how to back up, he just keeps going forward, making the situation worse for him. Then he panics and it’s like a freaked out bull in a China shop.

        I definitely feel for you!

        1. Thank you. Guess I did not realize this was common…your dog is 19?! That is amazing. I am worried esp because of her having 3 legs. Until earlier this year she has always had excellent balance. But now with arthritis in the remaining back leg (no surprise) she is falling more. I have wood and tile floors which isn’t helping the situation.

          1. Heidi my poodle is a diabetic going on 4 years. She takes 6 mil of insulin twice a day (shots). Special dog. She has been blind for almost 3 years. I have to carry her outside. She started this circling about 3 months ago. She doesn’t walk straight. Outside she handles it a little bit better. She knows where her food and water are but it takes her a while to get to it. As she circles to get to
            It. She wears herself outside circling and finds her bed and falls asleep. She doesn’t tell me when she wants to go out. I just know the minute she wakes up carry her outside even in the early mornings. I do have pee pads down so far she hits em pretty good. She has a great appetite always eats her food really good. She gets caught between the furniture and has a problem getting out of situations most if the time. I just sorta lost as to what to do or just let her keep doing this. She never barks or cries. Never had a dog like this. I am just as confused as she is and yes she has a hacking couch especially at night and early morning. Sometimes she throws up her food after coughing. Sorry to bend your ear. Hope it was ok to talk to you about her. Thank you for your time.

          2. It sounds like you are a wonderful caregiver for your Heidi.This is a good place to talk about it; lots of people understand. I’m sorry about how hard it can be.

          3. Help my blind 17 y.o is walking in circles it’s gotten worse over the last week. He doesn’t seem to even know me ? Advice please

          4. Elizabeth, have you talked to your vet? I’m SO sorry this is happening. I’m also sorry to be responding so late. I realize I might be responding too late. Hugs and support for any decisions you may have made or will soon make.


  10. I am having a hard time watching my 10+? (age unknown, rescue) Doberman girl who obviously has canine dementia. I’ve had two small dogs with it over the years but they were more the walking into walls, staring, barking at night types. This has been gradual for about 2-3 months (when I got suspicious) and is now seemingly full blown. Physical exam showed no other problems. She started with “sun-downer” type symptoms but yesterday and today she’s been bad in middle of the day. Cloudy days, wondering if that is a factor, i.e. No sun like at dusk? Pacing, panting, circling, trying to get as close to me as physically possible. Constantly pushing at me with her head/muzzle. I swear if she could crawl into my clothing with me, she would. She’s been on the selegiline 8 weeks now. She actually has some anti-anxiety med here as needed, I’ve given her 1/2 dose twice in last two days. I’m trying herbals (valerian), homeopathy (Rescue Remedy), pheremone infuser. Making matters worse is she is 3-legged from before her rescue and her remaining rear leg/foot is showing the strain. She’s fallen any number of times. So she’s wobbly and frantic. 😢 She’s always had bed privileges but sometimes when she gets upset, she starts to just get up and walk – across my face, whatever part her foot finds first…I have 2 young dogs she used to interact with but not so much any longer. This girl had a rough go in her pre-rescue life, I’ve only had her 6 1/2 years. I feel like euthanasia may be an option if her behavior doesn’t improve and nothing else works. It’s so hard. She still eats well, likes to go outside (when it’s not raining!). I am just worried she is not enjoying life this way. Thanks, needed to vent.

    1. Oh my goodness, that’s rough. I hope the selegiline kicks in and can help a bit. That’s particularly hard about her being three-legged. There are definitely people here who can relate to what you’re going through. I can tell you love your girl so much. Good luck.

  11. My baby boy Titus turn 17 this year he’s a American Staffordshire pit he’s been circling and staring at corners for a while I just figured he’s old. Now he circles me or stands on my feet to be close when im inside. I grew up around vet clinics cuz my mom was a tech plus I was going to be a veterinarian until I started assisting surgeries and found my stomach couldn’t take it I haven’t taken him to vet cuz other than circles and getting stuck he’s pretty healthy if he’s not sleeping he’s walking back and forth on a trail 2 my friend’s place a few houses down. I give him a daily vitamin and Joint vitamin with all the food he wants hes been venturing more lately. I lost him for about 30 minutes last week . We live in park on a lake in the mountains . He walked down a dry creek that goes through our field then under the hwy. We found him on other side of the highway through the tunnels headed back this way. I don’t let him out yard at night cuz I don’t want him falling in the creek or getting attacked by mountain lion that’s been in our area due to all the fires. If there are meds that will help him I’m all for it. He’s been my only relative within a thousand miles for fifteen years since my divorce he’s my life!! I’ll do anything for him. please tell me what I should do.

    1. Hi Colin,
      Sounds like a trip to the vet is a good idea. There are meds that can help with some of the symptoms. No meds can “cure” dementia, if that’s what he has, but it can be slowed down and the dog’s quality of life can improve. It’s hard when their health declines in any way, but I think it’s especially hard on us when their bodies are healthy but their minds are affected. Good luck with Titus. He sounds like a marvelous dog.

  12. Hey there again! I finally asked our vet for a script for Seleligine after noticing Phantom’s symptoms getting worse. I was told by everybody to beware of the cost, with everyone saying it’s very expensive (a couple hundred dollars). However, I was quoted price of $43.40 by GoodRX for 60 5mg pills and my local Walmart honored that price. The vet’s office couldn’t believe I got it so cheap!

    Phantom has only been taking the medication for a few days now, so it’s too early to see if it’s going to help him or not. However, I had made a note for myself to call the vet’s office today to find out about getting some Xanax or another anti anxiety medication for him. Last night, he circled in various places for almost 4 hours straight! Not only was it hard on Phantom, but imagine trying to sit and watch TV with the constant sound of a dog’s claws and paws on a hardwood floor!! I would lead him to his bed, force him to lay down and would get him to put his head down as if he were resting, but then he would pop up a few minutes later and go back at it. And whenever I did get him to stop circling, I noticed that he was breathing extremely heavily and was just out of breath! I NEED something to give him whenever he has a manic episode like that.

    When I had him at the vet last week for his heartworm vaccination, his weight was down and I told the vet that I had started giving him more food because he was getting to be skin and bones from all the walking that he does. We devised a decent diet for him to hopefully put 10 pounds on him.

    And get this: both our dogs wear an activity tracker on their collars (the device & app are called Whistle, but I call them ‘doggie fitbits’). The devices simply track the dogs amount of activity versus inactivity on a daily and weekly basis and they send you emails with the statistics that they’ve gathered. The week ending November 4th, Phantom walked a total of 43.5 miles! MILES! In one week. And that is just inside the house & in our backyard. Let that sink in. Insane, right??

  13. I am so sad. My Pom of 17 years, my best buddy was very sick. The last week we had brought her to multiple vets. She was doing the curcling severely. They kept saying they thought it was a brain tumor and the only way they would know is a $2,500 MRI. At the time I just couldn’t justify a $2,500 bill and if she shouldn’t with a tumor I couldn’t put her through surgery at that age.
    The last night she curcled the whole night badly. We took turns holding her outside. She would fall asleep outside in our arms (cold in Mn) but as soon as we brought her back in she would wake up.
    One Dr had given valuim which seemed to help but I was out and the last vet was so negative about giving pain medication I was crying and angry and walked out.
    We were exhausted and her seemed to bark in pain a few times that night and we brought her to emergency.
    I had read some brain infections can cause these behaviors and I wish I would have demanded from the vet they at least try some luquid antibiotics and given me pain meds for her. We ended up putting her to sleep last Sunday morning. I miss her so so much I don’t know I will ever be the same.

    1. Dear Kim,
      I am so sorry for your loss. And I’m so sorry about the difficulties you had with the veterinary care. That must have just been wrenching. But I know your dog knew you loved her and knew you were doing the best for her. Hugs. Again, so sorry.

    2. Dear Kim, what you have written is pretty much word perfect as to what happened with my baby he was 16 yep I didn’t want to put him through surgery MRI cost huge. Yes so sad and helpless watching him go round and round in circles he wouldn’t stop took him to the vet she said it really would be kinder to put him to sleep but I took him home they gave him a Valium to help him so I just monitored him for a few hours such hard work watching him lose control of his bowls circling he fell down and was circling on his bottom because he couldn’t get up so the same day I had the saddest drive of my life to take him there with my mum and her partner I was with him and kissed him just after he had passed said always love you. By reading your post has helped me so much because I wondered if I took him to soon to be put to sleep but I feel now I did the right thing for him but I utterly heartbroken as he has been there through some awful times in my life my litter warrior of strength he comforted me so much I am so empty its very tough to keep going but I will because he would hate me to be suffering so much. Thank you so so much for your post again .

  14. I, too, am so very sorry. I told my boy, Phantom’s, story above and we were really optimistic about maybe seeing some improvement if not, at least, a slowing of his symptoms after starting selegiline. It didn’t help, the symptoms progressed rapidly and it just got to where the only thing we COULD do for him was euthanization.

    We were trying to put some weight on him but his constant circling caused him to lose 6 lbs – down to 46 from 52 – in less than a month (we actually had to all but force him to eat but he didn’t eat nearly more calories than he burned).

    My son are I are still quite upset but Phantom is now free from such an unforgiving illness/disorder. He knew nothing about his current life and didn’t even have the innate instinct to eat because the lesion on his brain took control of everything.

    Take comfort in the good years & memories you’ve had. I send you hugs & love!

    1. I am so sorry Margaret. It is aweful to see our buddies go through that and not be able to fix them. I am still researching so many things and still cry daily. I miss her so much. I came across a cattle circling disease called listeria. I found out dogs can have it too. I brought various yhings up to the vet. Each thing I was told was rare and unlikely but they kept saying a possible brain tumor. Later, I found out that was rare too. Yet, they gave me steriods and gabapentin to give her. Within days she was not sleeping and excessive circling. I kept stopping her because I was afraid she would hurt herself. Later, I read fir dog dementia you should NOT give steriods or gabapentin because that can make it worse. It is still a struggle for me even though I know her pain is over.

  15. My 17 year old daushaund has had seizure about a year now about ever 8 weeks , the other night he had 4 back to back in a two hour time frame , now she is on predizone , no seizures but walks in circles more than before , he eats , drinks and does his business when I take him outside , all his blood work came back perfect except the liver level was up just by one point, I’m gonna love and take care of him and watch him carefully til the end which could be tomorrow or a month or two.

    1. Dear Betty,
      I’m sorry for my delay in writing you back. I can tell how much you love your dachshund. I don’t know if he is still with you, but I can see your love for him shining through. This is such a hard thing we sometimes have to do for our best friends. Take care.

    2. My boy, Phantom, had 2 seizures (that we know of) over a 2 or 3 month period. There were times he’d gotten trapped under a chair or table and, I believe, panicked and peed himself and other times that he had peed himself that made us wonder if he had a seizure. I wonder if seizures and dementia in dogs are related.

  16. How is Cricket now? What did you use to help treat her/him?
    I have a dog that is showing the same symptoms. Circling, confusion, stuck sometimes in the corner and hard to settle. She still enjoys food and comes to greet me when I’m close by and tries to follow me outside. I’m looking into medication options….of course there is the latter option but I feel as though she has a good quality of life left still…
    What did you do?

    1. Cricket passed in 2013. I tell the story in one of the posts on this site and also in my book. She did take medication that helped for about a year. I’m sorry you are struggling with this.

  17. My mixed bull massive is 9 years old. He went to vet he said he lost his vision. He also walks in circles and incontinent. This all happened over weekend. I’m sure he been losing his vision but we didn’t notice. His vet said other than his lost vision he’s in good health. But he’s not the same. My husband said it’s Because his vision gone…but he’s so confused…it seems like he dont remember nothing…he do recognize his name. I BELIEVE. Or he’s something talking….but when I talk to him…it seems as if I’m a stranger…I’m not sure

    1. Shun,
      Sorry for my delay in responding. I hope you still have your boy and things are going OK. Thinking of you.


  18. My 17 year old pomeranian just started the walking from room to room and standing in a corner. He had to have an updated rabies shot yesterday. This behavior just started today. My vet is out of town until Thursday. The emergency Vet costs more than I have at the moment as I just had to incur other expenses including the Vet office fee and shot. My dog is pretty much blind. He has had a teary eyed problem for a few weeks that the Vet said was probably just allergies. He did not see an infection. Hercules has drank water today but has not eaten. He peed on the pee pad. I got him to go out once but he was not walking at all well and I had to pull him along basically. I have a 5 year old Pom that is concerned and I keep telling him to leave Hercules alone. I did not see Hercules drink for a while so I used a dropper and gave him water and chicken broth. My poor little old man

    1. Dear Melody,
      I’m sorry about Hercules. I had to mix chicken broth or a little yogurt into my little dog’s water at the end, since she had no instinct to drink water anymore. She did fine on this, though. I hope you have some more good time with Hercules.


      1. Although our Phantom lost his instinct to eat, he drank well. However, I’m not sure I would have been smart enough to flavor his water with broth or yogurt if he had stopped drinking. Thank you for that simple trick/tip.

  19. I have two elderly (11 years) Chihuahuas who are both showing signs of dementia. One in particular more somthan the other. Both girls are epileptic and one, we think, is completely blind now, she, Kara, is the one who is showing stringer signs of the condition. As well as her epilepsy meds, she now takes Cognidine which was prescribed by our vet, which does seem to help her settle better at night, but not sure it helps with anything else, as she will often just bark and bark for no apparent reason and she does the ‘circling’ but we’re talking fully spinning, we call her the Whirling Dervish, as it’s that fast, although more often than not, she then has a fit, but this spinning is a more recent symptom. She is not aggressive though, except when fitting, when she’ll sink her teeth into anything close by, and my goodness she has sharp little teeth! She often gets disoriented though and finds herself stuck behind furniture, but she’s a sweet little monster and we live her to bits.
    Now Yoda is a bit different in her ‘symptoms’. I’m convinced she has the start of the same thing but my hubby says otherwise, he says “she’s always been a little odd”… but I think her ‘oddness’ seems different these days. She will walk up and down for ages at bedtime, just back and forth, until finally she will go to sleep. She has very bad back legs and often she’ll just poo anywhere if she can’t get up or if she gets excited, such as when I’m preparing her dinner. The mop is my new best friend!!!! I did start her on the Cognidine too but felt that she seemed worse, so stopped it again, but need to speak to the vet about it before trying again.
    Our vet is great and has recently put both girls on Cannabis oil in the hope of reducing their seizures and helping with Yodas back legs, but so far, after about six weeks using it, I’ve not noticed much, if any, difference but I guess it’s early days and I appreciate it’s not a cure.
    All in all both girls seem content, they love their cuddles and Yoda loves her food (Kara can be a bit of a fussy eater) so we will just see how it goes and keep loving them and their brother and sisters (we have 5 in all!) as long as we have them,
    Doggy hugs, Sharon in Spain

    1. Dear Sharon,
      You are taking such great care of your two girls, even though it sounds like a challenge! Sorry about Kara’s biting during fits; I’m glad you understand she means no harm. I had a big dog with seizures once and it was a real challenge.

      So glad you wrote. I hope you still have many good times coming with both dogs.


  20. I have a 13 yr old Jack Russ/Min Pin her name is Babygirl. She recently started to circle and seeing this new symptom has broke my heart. I had been treating her elevated liver levels and seizures not thinking anything about cognitive issues really until the staring into space started. Now that she is circling though I am wondering honestly how much longer she will be with me?! Does anyone have any time frame experience to share with me from when circling began to when they lost their pet?! I don’t want to let her go yet as she is still eating and drinking fine loving on me fine and using potty pad. She is just shaky stares off sometimes and circles at times. Any advice would be appreciated! Sad Babygirls Mom 🙁

    1. Dear Rachel,
      I know you posted more than a month ago, and I’m so sorry I haven’t responded until now. My Cricket circled (obviously) for a few months, and never did get to the really tight circling that some dogs do. If she is still with you, is she able to rest at all? Hugs to you.

    2. This was very helpful. Thank you. We have a 16 year old toy poodle that just started the circling. He started a few months back with the sidewalks. My question is; should we get the medical attention to prolong his little life and after this has started about how long do we have left with the little fella?

  21. Hello Eileen,

    I know you can’t give advice the way a vet could, but I want to tell you about Anniebell. She’s my 13 year old cocker mix that I’ve had since 2008. She had painful glaucoma in both eyes, so we took them out two years ago. She’s obviously gone stone deaf. She takes Gabapentin for arthritis in her hips and takes another pill for incontinence. She has a grade 3 or 4 heart murmur and now she circles. In the living room, round and round, every night, all night. It’s gotten so much worse in the past month. Since she’s blind and deaf, it’s hard to check for other signs of dementia, except for urinating in odd places in the house.

    I know she can’t be happy, she spends most of the day in my bathroom. It seems she still loves her walks and treats and gets excited when mommy comes home…but how will I know when it’s time?

    1. Dear Ashley,
      I’m so sorry that was happening, on top of Anniebell’s other health problems. Is she still with you? If so, you can check out the Quality of Life scale that I link on the “When to Say Goodbye” page. Also, to me personally, a big thing is whether the dog still knows me. I would not want to keep her on this earth if she had lost her connection to a person. I apologize for my late response.

      1. Thank you for making this site and sharing Cricket’s story. It helped me make the decision to let my girl go. She crossed the Rainbow Bridge today. She couldn’t hear me tell her I love her and that I was sorry. But I tell myself that she can see and hear now, and is running and playing in the sun.

  22. I have a 7 year old chuhuahau and he spins in circles get real paranoid and can not eat drink or settle down for like 6 hours I noticed this was happening a few times after I let him out side he is a rock kicker could he be setting bug spray ordered killer in his system? I actualy watch him lick rocks and 5 minutes later he was spinning?

    1. I wish I could tell you, but that’s a question for your vet. You need to know why he’s spinning in any case. I hope you can get some good advice about this from your vet, Joanne.

      Take care,


  23. We have a 12 y old amstaff. He has a brain tumor that we treated with radiation 2 and a half years ago, tumor reduced and is stabile but he had one isolated epileptic seizure a year ago. He already passed the life expectancy of radiation treated dogs, every month was a blessing. He has difficulty walking but shows affection, huge appetite and we think he still wants to fight the cancer, however lately he started having these periods of running agitated around the room, whining for hours, circling and getting stuck in corners all typical signs of dementia. He is on cbd oil and occasionally diasepam when he can’t calm down for hours. Do you have any advice? It’s hard to let go when he still shows life…

    1. I’m sorry about your boy. I personally can’t advise you. But one question I’d ask the vet is whether there is a chance that the tumor is causing the problems. Dementia and brain tumors can have a big overlap of symptoms. I’m sorry for your situation. Wish I had a way to help.


        1. Hello Madam,
          My adult Labrador can no longer walk the stairs above and down.
          She normally face towards corner wall.
          From her eye’s discharge occurs.
          She no more plays.
          When she moves,she moves in circular direction.
          Everytime when she moves,she moves downwards direction.
          Can i know why there is a change in her behaviour overnight?
          During her first day of unusual behaviour:
          she couldnt walk and we had to bed rest her.
          2nd day she started to eat and move a bit and then from 3rd day her action were like standing in corner wall,moving circular direction and eye discharge and moving downard direction and also she couldnt walk the staris up and down.
          Your quick reply would be Appreciated.

          Leki Dorjee Wangchey

          1. Hello Leki Dorjee Wangchey,

            Are you able to take her to a veterinarian? It sounds like your Labrador has several problems at the same time. It’s very hard when they have these problems. I’m sorry that I can’t really help you except to say that I know how hard it is when a dog has physical problems. I hope you can see a vet. There may be some prescription drugs that can help.


  24. I’ve been there, both with dogs with vestibular disease – she recovered except for a permanent head tilt – not severe, and kind of sweet :>). It was not a fun time because she was just frantically trying to stand, panting, crying, etc. Heart racing. Ended up putting her on some significant tranquilizers to get her through it. Glad she was a small dog!
    I’ve also had 2 terriers (15 # each) and one Doberman with doggie Alzheimer’s. Eventually, for me, it came down to their quality of life. Yes, they could walk around, go outside to potty with me keeping them on a schedule, they ate. But they were constantly restless, wandering and crying, getting “stuck” in corners, etc. It magnified a LOT after dark (called “Sundowner’s in humans) and nobody was sleeping without drugs (including me. I just couldn’t watch their deteriorating behavior. Their confusion and crying seemed genuine. At one point my Dobe tried to crawl through a shelf on a tv table. None of these dogs had this at the same time, BTW, (years apart) so it wasn’t like something was happening in their environment. It’s heartbreaking to say goodbye but good to know their souls are at peace. Good luck.

  25. I have a 14-year-old collie. I noticed some time ago that she was having trouble getting around. I especially noticed that she had trouble going downstairs and would stop on the top two steps as if she was trying to get the courage to go down. She then started turning circles over and over and walking into corners and getting stuck under things like the back porch steps. This past week, everything got dramatically worse. We had snow and way to much rain this past week. She would start turning circles really fast over and over in the mud while I was pleading with her to come inside. She would finally plop down in the mud. She ended up getting filthy. She has now progressed to the point that her back legs have given out. She was needing help getting up then would go straight to turning circles. Since she could not get up on her own, she would end up soiling herself. She has now gotten to the point that now that she cannot even walk or stand when I help her up. The vet thinks it could be an intracranial or extracranial brain disorder. She is such a sweet girl and I hate seeing her go through this. The vet is going to do blood tests but I am not sure if she can be helped or not.

  26. This page has helped in feeling not as alone or guilty in my pursuit to keep my angel on earth. 17 year old Princess, with me through my 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s – Chased deer and coyote, climbed mountains with me, traveled to Hawaii a dozen times, Colorado, and many road trips… not to mention over 20 film shoots, including 4 she had roles in. Dementia at the end killed my heart, and eventually complications of kidney and infection were too much to reverse. Seeing that others have gone through the pain of witnessing their dog begin dementia and all that entails has helped me a little bit in the grief I’ve felt since releasing her to heaven a day ago… I feel so guilty that maybe there was a way to keep her on earth longer, seeing something earlier, doing something to prevent undefeated time from wearing down her precious organs… but really, when our soul companions reach that truly advanced age – we really must consider the quality of life, and that we can’t make them live forever 🙁 … I was caring for her 24/7 at the end, helping her poop and eat… refusing to put her down… she eventually let me know the pain was too much and started pressing her face to mine and staring into my eyes with very soft breathing… then she’d give me little howls that truly broke my heart.. She didn’t chase cats anymore, got stuck behind furniture and I turned my entire living area into a safety pen for her so if I wasn’t right next to her, she wouldn’t fall and hurt herself… finally, I went to CVS to get her some medicinal items, and when I returned she was on the ground trying to get up, and had “rug burned” off all three layers of skin on her elbow… it was a horrific wound… vet said they’re was no way of treating it and with all her complications, to put her down… I hated facing it, I sobbed uncontrollably and felt my heart shatter into a thousand pieces. Guilt overcame me, was there something I could’ve done a year ago to avoid this body wearing down, the immune system, her brain… why did I go to the store, shouldn’t I have paid for a sitter even for 30 minutes?! So much pain and guilt, even though I loved her like a family member/soul mate, and would’ve done ANYthing to prolong her life. At 16 she was still killing the game… it went south so fast. From the outside it was obvious to people that her quality of life was in question… for me, as long as we shared loved, she could poop 1000 times on the carpet and I’ll clean it 1000 times, no question…. but alas, they are so special and so loving and so loyal – we never want them to go… I had to help her stop feeling pain, disinterest, confusion, and eventually possibly not knowing me anymore. So yesterday I held her and stared into eyes as she gently passed. I freaked out after she was gone and couldn’t control panic attacks and screaming out loud… I’ve been so F’d up about this, I don’t know how to cope… I began doing more research on any condition she had to see if there was anything more I could’ve done… even as small as providing a hydrating IV for her last day to ease her functions or maybe spring her back to life… or forcing a vet to administer things they felt she was too old for. I wanted to know more about dementia and if I should’ve done something more… in the end here, it seems all of us have shared this pain, and all of us had to face that our angels couldn’t suddenly be cured and live 10 more years even though we’d sell all our property to do so. All we can do is get a little more time and make sure it is quality. In my heart, part of me wishes she could’ve just passed suddenly, instead of going through dementia and all that it brings…. but I spent so many years of life in utter joy and love… in the end she wore down before me and I at least had her recognize and love me before she passed. She would’ve suffered more and existed only in some form of pain and confusion. Really sucks… really breaks the heart. Thank you for sharing your stories… I don’t feel as alone in my suffering and time I spent caring for my aging angel. All dogs go to heaven 🙂

    1. Dear Chris,
      It’s very natural for us to have regrets and go back and examine our lives for things we could have done differently. But I hope those doubts are truly passing away because it’s clear you were an amazing guardian and friend to Princess. Your love for her shines through. I bet you couldn’t possibly have done a better job of caring for her.

      I wish you peace in your heart and I am so sorry for your loss.


  27. Thank you for writing about this. My Zukee is a 11 year old Havanese. Her liver enzymes are high and now this. I have controlled the stomach bloating with the Pet Wellness Gold and the liver with the Milk Thistle. I just started from Pet Wellness the Old Friend for Seniors. The vet and family friends say that it is time, but I am not ready. The vet told me that she has no pain and is not suffering, she is just not living. She pees on the pad and knows when the treats are coming, when I put ice cube on her water. She understands this. I am grateful that so many people have gone and are going through the same thing. She is losing weight, now 8 lbs., but I am giving her Rebound and Under the Weather (full of vitamins). I want to learn how to make her life easier, but I am taking a little of my own life. She paces constantly at night, giving me very little sleep. This is like having a baby and I look at it this way, even though I am 60.
    Thank you again for your blog, support and understanding.

  28. I am seeing this with my 11 year old chihuahua Lulu.I had been noticing for the past several weeks that she couldn’t see well at all,walking around walls and corners in my house and getting lost so I’d just pick her up and hold her and put her in her bed when she got tired out but now she’s been walking in tight circles in the middle of the night.I woke up and watched her do this for four minutes or so completely bewildered as to what was going on with her.I called her name and it was like she didn’t even hear me so I went and picked her up and settled her on my chest in the bed with me.She had a couple of sessions of twitching her legs and stiffness but I finally have her calmed down and back to sleep but I am crying as I type this.I will try to get her in to see the vet in the morning but I know the end is near for her and I am not ready to say goodbye.

  29. Just found your site. Lots of answers for me. I have a 161/2 year old cockapoo. She walks in circles before she lays down. Walks tru the house at night like she’s taking her own walk. I will continue checking for more help . I’m having a hard stressful time because I know her time is getting close. She is my Rock, and such a baby . I pray her time will be fast and peaceful!

    1. Sue,
      Thank you for writing about your cockapoo. I’m sure any decision you make will be the right one. But I know how hard this time is.

      Take care,

  30. A little late on this comment, but I see people do come here still. My Lab mix has a meningioma, that shrank substantially thanks to radiation treatment. Now 18 months later and her circling is pretty constant- although at the dog park she will follow the path straight.

    My Neuro vet said if she is still eating a lot and walking fine it isn’t “time” yet, and that the circling is an “autopilot” situation resulting from her neuro problems, and not indicative of pain, for anyone wondering. I assume constant tight circling with no ability at all to walk straight may be different.

    1. Phil, thanks for letting us know. I do hear that brain tumors have similar symptoms but I haven’t talked to many people whose dogs had them. I’m glad your dog is still with you!

      As you say, I think the circling has to be judged on a case by case basis. I’m glad your dog can still walk straight as well.

      Take care,

  31. Hello,
    Just finished reading all your comments. This journey is hard. I just lost my mother to Alzheimer’s 4 months ago after taking care of her for 13 years in my home. Then I started seeing some similar characteristics in my 10-year-old chihuahua: the circling, the disinterest in toys, and it was confirmed Suerte has CCD. The doctor started her with pain medications but I did not see that it helped and disrupted her bowels. At this point, I take one day at a time just like I did with my mother, and keep her comfortable. She used to sleep in our bed but the pacing never stopped so now I put her in her kennel and she seems to calm right down.
    I enjoyed reading everyone’s comments.
    I did not know I would be going down this road again so soon

    1. Elizabeth, I am so sorry. My mother had Alzheimer’s as well. There are commonalities that help, but unfortunately also the double heartbreak. Hang in there.


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