“What’s the prognosis? How long does he have?”

This is one of the first questions we usually ask when we start to recover from the shock that our dog has something akin to Alzheimer’s.

The good news is that there is some evidence that dogs with canine cognitive dysfunction live just as long, on average, as dogs without it. You read that right. There is a study that showed that CCD does not reduce dogs’ life expectancy.

Statistical Life Expectancy of Dogs with Dementia

A group of researchers studied the life expectancy of senior dogs with and without canine cognitive dysfunction (Fast, Schütt, et al, 2013). In the study of 98 dogs, they found no negative effect on the longevity of the dogs who had the disease. The dogs lived normal life spans. Actually, the group of dogs with dementia had slightly longer life spans on average. The researchers theorized that this could have been because of the high quality of medical care they got due to their condition.

These were senior dogs, and 74 had died or had been euthanized at the time of the final follow-up. But only six of these dogs were euthanized primarily because of dementia.

So some good news is that CCD may not shorten your dog’s life. But it can affect your dog’s quality of life. My book on CCD describes the steps you can take to enhance your dog’s life and possibly his longevity.

But What About My Dog? How Fast Will the Dementia Progress?

Mixed breed hound dog with a face white from age
I don’t think of Zani as a senior at nine, but she sure went gray fast!

Average lifespan is one thing. The factors that affect our individual dogs are another. Researchers have recently identified stages in the course of canine cognitive dysfunction. Identifying the stage of your dog’s dementia can give you an idea of the possible progression of the disease.

The researchers took data on the occurrences of 17 different behavioral symptoms in a large group of senior dogs. They concluded that there were three stages of canine cognitive dysfunction and they called them mild, moderate, and severe (Madari, Farbakova, 2015). Check out my separate post about the stages of CCD.

Words From a Veterinary Behaviorist About the Progression of Dementia

In the U.S., board-certified veterinary behaviorists are vets who undergo years of structured training in animal behavior after veterinary school and must pass a rigorous examination before being certified. They are trained to treat behavior problems as well as underlying medical problems and often work in tandem with a general vet and a credentialed dog trainer. They are the specialists best qualified to diagnose and treat canine cognitive dysfunction.

Board certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. E’Lise Christensen, DVM DACVB was kind enough to answer some questions about the life expectancy of dogs with CCD in her practice and experience.

Is canine cognitive dysfunction a fatal disease like Alzheimer’s?
I haven’t seen information on that and I haven’t seen dogs die on their own of CCD. The reality is that families seeking help from veterinarians aren’t likely to have their pets die at home from this disease, but rather they will be euthanized due to the disturbing symptoms or due to another medical co-morbidity in my experience.

What’s the longest you’ve known a dog to live after a diagnosis of CCD?
Approximately two years, but since it’s a diagnosis of exclusion, it’s always possible that cognitive dysfunction is both under-diagnosed and over-diagnosed. For instance, some dogs with symptoms of cognitive dysfunction will improve markedly with great dental work and pain medication.  This suggests that perhaps pain is complicating their behavioral profile. Some diagnosed with CCD may die quickly because they actually have quickly progressing brain tumors.

Can medical, nutritional, and lifestyle changes positively affect the life expectancy of an individual dog?
I believe interventions can improve longevity/life expectancy because they may calm the symptoms and improve quality of life for both families and their pets. I see it in my practice as a veterinary behaviorist as well as in the general practitioner side.  If the veterinary clinician is astute and practiced with early intervention and proactive treatment, a patient who was scheduled to be euthanized for this disorder could be saved for potentially several months, if not longer.

However, really proactive treatment of cognitive dysfunction is still hard to find for clients. It can be difficult to find a veterinarian who knows all of the treatments for this disorder, unless he/she is a veterinary behaviorist. Knowledgeable clients who passionately advocate for their pets will likely have the best outcomes.

How early do you recommend medical or other interventions for a senior dog?
I think it’s reasonable to consider starting cognitive protection on every patient as early as age seven.  And that’s when we often implement supplementation, etc., in our practice, even if the patient has no clinical signs.

Focus on Early Intervention

Dr. Karen Overall (also a veterinary behaviorist) covers the title question in her book, Manual of Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Dogs and Cats.

Q: How long will the dog have left if he or she is treated?”
A: We cannot know the answer to this question, but the earlier intervention is attempted, the greater the likelihood of a longer and happier life. Overall, the amount of life left will increase [with treatment], but the Quality of Life will increase even more.

Some board certified veterinary behaviorists will do long distance consults via telephone or video conferencing with you and your local veterinarian. You can search the directory of members of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists to find some help for your dog and your family.

The two studies I cited almost seem to contradict each other. One says that dogs with dementia may have the same life expectancy as those without. The other describes the fast progression of the disease. More research will surely be done on both of these fronts. But the results aren’t really contradictory. What they do tell us, though, is that if our dog shows any signs of cognitive abnormality, medical help is in order. This can even be done as a preventative measure as Dr. Christensen describes.

In the end, none of us knows our dog’s exact life expectancy. But what we can do is be proactive about enriching his life and staying in close contact with a knowledgeable veterinarian or vet behaviorist for possible medical interventions. Dementia will present different problems to you, your dog and your family as it progresses. But there is help out there for many of those problems.

Text regarding dog life expectancy: Knowledgeable clients who passionately advocate for their pets will likely have the best outcomes. -- Dr. E'Lise Christensen, DVM DACVB


Fast, R., Schütt, T., Toft, N., Møller, A., & Berendt, M. (2013). An observational study with long‐term follow‐up of canine cognitive dysfunction: Clinical characteristics, survival, and risk factors. Journal of veterinary internal medicine27(4), 822-829.

Madari, A., Farbakova, J., Katina, S., Smolek, T., Novak, P., Weissova, T., & Zilka, N. (2015). Assessment of severity and progression of canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome using the CAnine DEmentia Scale (CADES). Applied Animal Behaviour Science171, 138-145.

Text copyright 2017 Eileen Anderson

Photo of Moira Copyright 2009 Jared Tarbell and used according to this license.

Photo of Zani copyright 2017 Eileen Anderson.

Photo of Hazel copyright 2014 Blanche Axton.

68 Responses

  1. It was 3 years ago that a veterinary neurologist who told us that we should give her 3 months and consider putting her down. We found a veterinarian who not only had a dog with CCD but had a friend who was a veterinary neurological resident. A diet high in Omega 3 oils and a combination of medications has given her a very happy 3 years.

    I do find that she gets worse in the fall and once again this year she’s more restless but I know to ride it out and see if she pulls out of this again.

    1. That’s interesting about the time of year; thanks for sharing. I’ve never heard of that before. Here’s hoping she pulls out of the restlessness and has another good year!

      1. Hi Eileen,
        Frosty got worse in the fall as the days got shorter. We think it’s because he is more confused in the darkness and the sun goes down before 5pm. We added a tranquilizer at 4 pm and he does fine now in the evenings. My Mom told me that there is a syndrome in humans with dementia called sun setting (my Nana has Alzheimer’s) and we think this is very similar. We’re hoping to see him pick up in the spring when the days get longer. He is over 15 though so we are taking it one day at a time.

    2. Our 13 year old Otto was diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) two years ago and CCD last year around this time. He was doing fine with the CHF after regulating the dosage of Furosemide & Enalapril to control the symptoms. Unfortunately last year about this time he started exhibiting symptoms of CCD (doggie dementia). They progressively got worse over the course of a couple months before we tried a small dose of Anipryl, which did not seem effective initially. Working with our vet we increased the dosage some, bought him some senior “brain food” and tried to stimulate him with certain “thinking” activities. It took another two months, but he seemed to suddenly snap out of it. That was sometime this past Feb. and we were thrilled to have our old Otto back, as well as some normalcy to our own lives. He is still doing well, but will say the fall and extra hours of darkness seems to effect him. It is also when both of his issues were initially diagnosed. At the worst of the CCD symptoms it was so eerily similar to what we saw with my father-in-law having “sundowners”. I don’t know how long the meds will control his symptoms, but for now we are thankful for what we feel is bonus time. Fingers crossed we will be celebrating his 14 birthday in Jan.

    1. I have a16 year old Bichon I do understand what you are saying my vet wanted to put him down 5 months ago I said no and took him to another vet he has improved.

      1. I have a 17 year old Boston. He eats constantly, but is very skinny. He’s going blind & deaf.. Walks around constantly. He was going down stairs to use the restroom, then started going to the top step & doing his business. Now he’s started going in the house, even with the door open. He walks like a “raccoon” head down & back end up. He never makes a sound. ???????

  2. Very interesting article. Thank you for sharing more about this condition.

    My 15-year-old Golden Retriever showed what I believe is a symptom of CCD this morning. The sliding glass door to the outside porch is generally closed. But this morning since the weather was cooler, I had the door completely open. My Golden Retriever stood at the exit where the door was completely open and barked. She didn’t realize that the glass door had been fully slid to the open position. She just stood there and barked. Then I watched as the cat came up behind Molly and walked out onto the porch. At that point my Golden Retriever stopped barking and followed the cat outside.

    1. That’s interesting! I hope it’s not CCD, though. That is a hopeful sign that Molly followed the cat. Lovely that Molly is 15!

      1. Thank you, Eileen. Yes each additional month Molly as is so precious. I have had her into the vet multiple times. He does think that she has mild CCD. At this point she is only on nutritional supplements, no prescription medication for it. I am modifying her environment and using many of the suggestions from your book.

  3. My 10 year old Red Cattle dog Sassi who was born deaf has been diagnosed with CDD, at sundown she runs the perimeter of the yard, panting incessantly. She forgets how to climb the stairs into the house. If I carry her inside she claws at the door to get out, I can usually bring her in around 10.30pm, but her panting continues. It is heartbreaking to watch her go through this. I am scared she will have a heart attack from the stress. I leave the TV on for her so that when she wakes she sees something normal. She is on medication but I don’t think it is working like it should. Back to the Vet on Friday.

  4. I’m so grateful to have found this website on dog dementia as I’m certain my 17 year old Jack Russel cross, Dixie, is at the early/middle stages – so similar to my mum who suffered with Alzheimer’s for three years before passing away. The pacing up and down, circling round and round, getting trapped in spaces that ordinarily she would have known she would get stuck in; facing into the corner of a room and not realising she could turn round or back up out of it; bladder and bowel control is a little problem now. She used to bark to go out but now just squats on the living room floor! And like my mum, her appetite has increased although she doesn’t put on weight. Dixie still enjoys rides in the car and extremely slow walks. I let her sleep a lot but it would seem this is probably not a good idea? I do wonder at times what her quality of life is. Sadly she now doesn’t have a sweet nature and can be quite tetchy and nasty at times. I still love her to bits though and want the best for her. I have mentioned all this to the vet but his response was to say “I had a dog like it once” and didn’t offer any treatment or suggestions to make life easier. I’m sure this website and different articles will be very helpful.

    1. Hi Patricia,
      I’m sorry your vet wasn’t more helpful. Any thoughts of trying another vet? There are meds and supplements that can slow the process in some dogs.

      “Disruptions” in sleep patterns is one of the symptoms and I don’t know that there is a whole lot you can do about it. If she is up a lot at night, you can try to get her to do more in the daytime, but it doesn’t sound like that is the problem.

      Good luck and I hope you and Dixie have many more good days.

  5. Our 11 year old German Shepherd is experiencing Sundowners. Around 9 pm, she starts pacing the house. She’s awake all night, as we are. Just really started about a week ago. Tried Melatonin, which worked for about 30 minutes. She’s fine during the day, but evenings/early mornings are a living hell. Does anyone know of something to calm her down in the evening – drugs???? We put her in her cage last night in our bedroom with a light on. She tried to tear the cage apart to get out. Help!

    1. Sally,
      I’m sorry you, your dog, and your family are going through this. It sounds terribly hard on everybody. Yes, talk to your vet. There is no shame in trying a prescription drug to help your dog relax. If your vet is not open to prescribing something (unless there is a reason having to do with your dog’s health, of course), try another vet or a vet behaviorist. The right medication (sometimes you have to try more than one before you find the best fit) can probably get your dog and your family comfortable at night again. My little senior dog (who does not have dementia) takes a small dose of an anti-anxiety drug. She’s not a zombie or zoned out. It just took a little experimenting to get it right. Her quality of life is 100% better. Good luck.

  6. My 18 year old Maltepoo is advanced stage 3 and is truly just a shell of who she was. She has all the symptoms on the list except for eating (she’s ravenous) and she still knows me. In fact, is terrified when seperated from me. That one thing is why I haven’t let her go yet. She still looks like a puppy but is completely deaf with arthritis. I keep hoping that she’ll go to sleep and just not wake up. The guilt of having to make the decision is more than I can bare. She has been my best buddy and has outlived both her Labrador brothers. All of the medications we’ve tried, and have tried them all, either have no effect on her mental capacity or anxiety and generally keep her drugged to the point of her being a zonbie. I was just counting her arthritis medication and told myself that when we only have 1 pill left which is 40 days,, I’ll call the mobile vet. I’m not sure I can but I think it might be time. I want her to still know me and feel safe with me when she goes. She’s spent her whole life trying to make me happy , I hope I can do this one last thing for her.

    1. Dear Julie,
      If it helps to know (or maybe you already read it here on the site), part of why I helped my little dog go when I did is that she still knew me. She had gotten so frail and had forgotten how to drink, and I felt like it was going to be downhill from there. I really didn’t want to wait so long that she didn’t know me. I felt like that could just cast her adrift. Bless you for your love and care for your dear dog.

    2. My dog was just standing in the middle of the floor a lot last year , & we all agreed he is getting dementia . We moved house 10 weeks ago and he is so far gone like the ladies dog pacing in the night . He has 2 tablets about 10.00pm there like a tramodol at first we thought he was going to settle but sadly after a week he was pacing all night , & going behind chairs & corners he runs up & down the stairs a lot at night time , we try to talk to him & cuddle him but sadly he jumps of your knee , he used to play chasing our other dog now he just stands & shakes , its heart breaking watching him . He’s 13 yrs old & a rescue boarder terrier who we have had for 9 years 🏠🐶😥🙏🏻 I feel forall the other people out there , & im phoning the vet today to ask for help to offer him some other form of medication . Bless You All

  7. My heart goes out to you. We just let Cleo go. I felt it was the last thing I could do for her. Because I was still conflicted about it I asked for an autopsy and it did confirm our decision. She had kidney failure that would have led to a painful death and multiple small strokes as well as a lung tumour that would have been symptomatic very soon.

    My vet said very few dogs slip away in their sleep although most pet owners wish they did. She said that the times it does happen the dog was way more sick and uncomfortable than suspected so not necessarily something to be wished for.

    Sending good wishes your way.

  8. My crazy little Chihuahua, Chachi, is 16 years old. He has recently over the last several months been staring at walls, more irritable while trying to sleep at night, stopped playing with his favorite toys, and started soiling around the house ( he is house trained ). He even sometimes screeches when people pick him up and sometimes they haven’t even touched him yet, and he is screeching as if he is scared or worried, maybe not recognizing who they are. He just had a full check up a few months ago and everything was fine, but I think I need to get him back in there because this not only came on so fast, but I feel like it has progressed immensely over the last several weeks. It is extremely sad and heartbreaking to watch this sweet dog I have loved and cared for, his entire life. He has been there for me more than me for him and I guess after reading all these entries, I feel like I just don’t want him to not know who I am. He has a little arthritis in his back and a narrow trachea that causes some issues, and I am afraid all of this combined is stressing him out beyond anything. I appreciated reading all the stories and tips and they have been kind of helpful. Thank you all for sharing.

    1. Dear Jessica,
      Thank you for sharing as well. I hope your vet can help Chachi. Sometimes at this point in the progression, there are meds that can work to calm a bit. I hope he keeps knowing you. Hugs.

  9. Our 13year old(estimated) rescue seems to have all of these symptoms. I was heartbroken just reading the various articles because I don’t know how far along he is, but it seems severe according to your list. But i’m most certain he has dementia. He has been wandering in circles constantly, getting stuck behind things, frequently pee’s in the house even after i put him out. He has also been losing his vision so I guess I took it as that for a while when he’d trip over things but it appears to be more severe, he also has arthritis so it’s a balance of not over working his legs but trying to keep him mobile and moving as I read that is key. He sleeps quite a bit but I put him outside regularly to just walk around and he perks up but he also seems to wander around lost, it’s harder for him to find the steps to get in so most times I have to go pick him up and carry him in. I have an appointment with his vet this Wednesday. I’m hoping he can still be treated to help w/ some of the symptoms and give him a little more time if the vet see’s fit.

    1. Hi Marisa,
      Sorry for the late response. I hope the vet visit went well and you got some help and guidance for your little guy. Good luck and let me know how he is doing.

  10. Thank you Eileen for this site. I’ve read through everything and feel like I’ve finally found a place to go. Our beautiful, proud, responsible pack leader “Frosty” is a Coton De Tulear with CCD. He is over 15 now and on the highest dose of segeline possible as well as a bedtime tranquilizer. He was diagnosed a year ago and we’ve been thru it all, up all night, pacing, defecating in the house, etc. He still knows and cuddles with us and eats well and likes to go on his walk. And he’s gentle and sweet and I think may be a bit like Cricket e.g. not being aware of his dementia and his anxiety seems to pass for long periods. He is no longer the pack leader, his brother who is 12 took over and is a grumpy pack leader but it’s working out ok. We too go with the flow- we’ve lovingly nicknamed Frosty “Mr. Inappropriate” because he does so many things he would never have done before – like walk over our youngest Coton as if she’s not there, standing on end tables, trying to eat food right out of peoples hands etc. We have had a good Fall with him- he’s sleeping a lot these days but he’s had some really good days and been very curious on his walks and good on his lead. However (you likely know what’s coming)- we fear having to make “the decision”. We’ve talked about it lots as a family and we think we’ll watch for daytime anxiety that can’t be relieved by us and would require tranquilizer medication in the daytime and that would be the time we make the “the decision”. We have no idea if this will feel like the right time or the right thing to do but it’s all we’ve been able to figure out. Any thoughts you have would be wonderful to hear. Thank you again for your devotion to senior dogs and their owners. Catherine

    1. Dear Catherine,
      I love that: Mr. Inappropriate. People who haven’t gone through this might not understand about the little jokes we have. I can tell you love him so much. My joke with Cricket was that she was “Making left turrrrrnns!” which is a line from a puppeteer who has a puppet who likes NASCAR because they drive in a circle.

      Oh gosh, I remember the walking over stuff. Cricket did sometimes walk over the one dog I allowed to be in with her….

      I’m so glad you’ve had a good fall. I don’t have much to add–you seem to have a great handle on the situation and a good vet. You could take a look at the Quality of Life chart in case that might help, but I have a feeling you have a pretty good sense already.

      If you’ve read a lot of the site, then you may have read this already. I don’t think a dog with CCD can necessarily “tell us when it’s time.” Much as we’d like them to. I think it’s usually up to us. But I trust you are going to to do right by your little fellow. Take care. Would love to get an update if you care to write again.

    2. Hi Cathrine:

      Can you tell me what dose of Segeline Frosty is currently on and his weight? We have a Lhasa Poo that has been on Segeline for two years now and currently takes about 6 mg a day. I am concerned we are reaching the limit since we have increased his dosage twice since starting him on it. It usually takes a little time, but so far he has bounced back each time when the Segeline was increased. Our Otto will turn 15 the end of Jan. (fingers crossed) and has a great appetite, holding his weight at apx. 15 lbs. Any information you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

  11. Hi,

    We adopted our Aussie Mix earlier this year. His name is Moose, and they estimated he’s around 5-6 years old. For the past month, he’s exhibited over 75% of CCD symptoms, but isn’t he too young? He had thunderstorm anxiety prior to any of these new changes; could that be manifesting? Our vet has prescribed Xanax, but the symptoms are still there. Is it possible that he could have CCD at 5 years old?

    1. Dear Daniela,
      I don’t know of any research about that, although every once in a while someone comes here with a younger dog with a similar question. Did your vet rule out other conditions that can cause these symptoms? Would your vet be willing to work with a veterinary behaviorist (specialists in these kinds of problems including thunderstorm phobia)? Good luck. This must be really tough on you.

      1. My border Terrier was 7 when he started showing symptoms and has had a definite diagnosis shortly after his 8th birthday. He is responding well to Selgian and Aktivait also his diet was changed to Purina Neurocare

  12. Hi Barb,
    Frosty is 14 pounds (going down slowly from 15-16 pounds that was his usual weight) and he is on 15 mg of Segeline. He started at 5mg, increased 4 months later to 10 mg, increased another 4 months later to 15 mg which is the highest dose he can get. He has been on this dose for 5 months now. He started being nervous and barking all night so we added Alprazolam .25mg at bedtime and he settled back to sleeping pretty well. Now that it is dark at 4:30 pm he gets agitated some evenings and we will give him an earlier extra dose at supper time of the Alprazolam which settles him down but also makes his balance worse so we only do it sparingly. It sounds like a lot of meds – but he has some really great days or parts of days still. He woke up this morning full of beans and wagging his tail, ran to the door to go out, ate his breakfast, went for a fun walk and licked one of the other dogs faces (which he used to do every morning when he was younger). He’s had a great day today so we’re still lucky to be enjoying his beautiful funny little soul for whatever time we have with him. Frosty is about 6 months older than Otto and was diagnosed in Sept 2017 when he began being up all night barking and lost his house training- which sound like the 2nd level or phase. He responded really well to the Segeline and the dosage increases – they always took a couple of weeks to really work. Good luck with Otto, sounds like he’s a lovely little Lhasa Poo!

  13. Hi Catherine:

    Thank you so much for all the information regarding your journey with Frosty and CCD. It sounds like it was a good day and so hope it continues. I was happy to hear that we are not at the max dosage for Segeline (Anipryl). I mis-spoke originally regarding the current dose Otto is taking since we increased his dose to apx. 7.5 mg toward the end of Sept., when he was starting to exhibit symptoms again. He seems to have issues in the fall, which may be due to the added darkness and/or time-change. Otto originally had issues at night (prior to Segeline) and was extremely restless/anxious and would pant continually . He would keep us up jumping off the bed and scratching at the door to get out until you opened it and then just stood there in a confused state. It reminded us of “sun-downers”, which we experienced with my father-in-law who had dementia prior to passing. Otto also developed what seemed like a separation anxiety to the point he would scratch at doors and sometimes furniture when we left. That is about the time we were at our breaking point between the lack of sleep and destruction so started him on Segeline. It took a couple months of regulating the dosage to see results, however eventually seemed like a miracle when our old Otto came back to us.
    Otto also has Congestive Heart Disease (CHD), which was diagnosed just over three years ago, but it has been controlled very well with meds. He takes his Segeline/Anipryl with meds for the CHD in the morning and 2.5 mg of Melatonin before bed with a senior “brain” vitamin. This seems to be working for now, along with keeping his routine as consistent as possible. I was glad to hear you are able to use Alprazolam (Xanax) with the Segeline should we have that need in the future. We take it day by day and make adjustments when needed, but know we too will eventually have to make a hard decision. For now we just try to enjoy our time with him as much as possible. It is wonderful to have the opportunity to connect with you and others to share our experience with CCD. Many people do not even realize it exists, including myself before experiencing it with Otto. Best of luck with Frosty!

  14. My parents dog died yesterday. She was 12. She was thought to have doggie Dementia. She had seizures, accidents, didn’t respond to us much, stopped eating 4 days before and when taken out just sat there. And with not eating she didn’t poop. She drank some water but we had to give it to her. We had her cremated and will get her ashes Sun or Monday. She went fast she just started with seizures 6 months ago. But my mom couldn’t get her to respond to her and she adored my mom. She slept next to my dad and took naps in the recliner with my dad. She was spoiled. She ate half of my moms dinner lunch etc. we took her on family trips etc. she loved car rides. Is this normal for a dog to go so quickly? A year or less.

    1. Steffanie,
      It seems more common for it to go on for 1-2 years, but it can develop pretty fast. (I’m not a vet; I’m just answering from the studies I’ve read.) It seems like the seizures would indicate things were moving pretty far long. I’m sorry for your and your parents’ loss.

    2. Steffanie,
      It seems more common for it to go on for 1-2 years, but it can develop pretty fast. (I’m not a vet; I’m just answering from the studies I’ve read.) It seems like the seizures would indicate things were moving pretty far long. I’m sorry for your and your parents’ loss.

  15. My 17 year old Chihuahua has been walking in a very obvious circle consistently when she’s up which is mostly at night. She seems to think that she needs to pee every other step she takes. She stares at walls, she is very snappy at everyone except me and hubby. she is blind in one eye now and seems as if her earring is going. She is confused. She consistently licks her private part for a long time. She tries to eat her poo/pee every time she goes. She now has accidents in the house even after she was just taken outdoors. Everything that has been mentioned is her to the fullest degree. I know if I take her to the Vet they will say it’s time. Just like everyone mentioned our pets are like our kids or family member.

    1. Dear Angie,
      I love chihuahuas. I’m so sorry this is happening with your girl. I think it’s the hardest decision we have to make with our dogs. Take care.

  16. Hi Angie, our Frosty was that bad when first dx and he responded well to segeline and we’ve had a good year with him. He definitely has issues but they are manageable and he is sleeping through the night and only having occasional accidents. We know this will wear off as the disease is progressive but it has given us time to adjust to the dx. Wishing you comfort and peace .

  17. Hi Eileen ,
    I want to thank you for your informative website. Our almost 16 yr old aussie, Fancy, first started showing signs of CCD in 2016 at the age of 13 with sleeplessness, pacing, wandering out of the yard, and no longer going to door to be let out. In May 2017, she had an episode of vestibular disease. She mostly bounced back and we manage both with lots of TLC. Now I think the symptoms of both diseases are affecting her quality of life and as much as it hurts, our family is having end-of-life discussions. I’ve found your website extremely helpful as a resource for our family discussions, but it is a very difficult decision when Fancy doesn’t show any outward signs of pain. We only want what is best for our beloved Fancy pansy.

    1. Dear Renee,
      That’s quite a challenge to take care of a dog with both of those problems! It’s a testament to your love for Fancy that she has done so well. I’m sorry you are facing the hard, hard discussions. A lot of people here know something of what you are going through. Take care.

  18. Cleo was just 14 when she was diagnosed. The vet gave me an article describing research done by Dutch veterinarians. It said that the life expectancy of the dogs they followed was not shortened. I went into the experience with that attitude and Cleo lived another 3 years and 7 months. Kidney failure was the final blow. 17 years and 7 months is a decent lifespan for a bichon shih tzu,

    It wasn’t easy but they key was a vet who had a dog with canine cognitive dysfunction.

    We call it sundowning in Alzheimer’s patients. Cleo certainly got worse in the fall also but didn’t get worse daily near sunset as a human would. I never did know for sure why she was worse in the fall but her life was more restricted as the weather got colder. She loved lying in the sun and going in and out of the house at will was curtailed once I couldn’t leave the door open.

  19. My dog has been diagnosed with dementia today. Shes an elderly dog (14), and it has come as quietbat shock to us. She began showing common symptoms of deteration in her hearing as well as having little energy and having accidents in her bed. She is after getting 2 injections and has a 2 week course of tablets. At the minute she seems slightly confused and hasnt moved from her bed sinfe. I was just wondering if theres anything I should be doing during her treatment to make things easier on her?

    1. Hi Dervla,
      Have you talked to your vet? I hope your dog has perked up since the treatment started.

      From the non-medical standpoint you can observe her current capabilities and make things as easy as you can for her. Make sure the surface in your house is easy for her to walk on. Make sure she eats and gets hydrated. If she gets lost, put down more than one bed. Take her out or take her to a pee pad (whichever you normally do) frequently to eliminate. Keep a close eye on her so she doesn’t get stuck anywhere.

      I’m sorry you are going through this. I hope she does better.

  20. My 16.5 year old Chihuahua/Terrier has shown symptoms of Dementia for the past 3 years. She has been in diapers for over a year. She walks for 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the evening before bed. My vet says as long as she isn’t in pain, she can just live like that. My spouse and friends think its no way to live. She truly isn’t with us mentally. But i see the joy in her when she is walking diaper less outside in the grass and when i cradle her in my arms. For those moments i cant make the decisions about her last call.

    She has recently started grinding her teeth, i have started brushing them more often and had a visit to the vet. He can not access her situation more closely without putting her under, which i don’t feel is safe. But of course i’m torn because i need to find the underlining issue.

    Does anyone have any experience with this. What have you done, what would you do?

    1. Val Ann,
      My deepest apologies for this late reply. I was unable to publish or respond to comments for several weeks. I’m sorry, since your question was pretty critical. I don’t know if your Chi/Terrier is still with you now. I have never heard of the teeth grinding problem before. That’s got to be distressing. Did your vet suggest any calming meds or supplements? That’s the only thing I can think of. It’s smart to be cautious about anesthesia. But another thing the vet can do is bloodwork to check whether anesthesia appears safe. (Again, I don’t know if your dog is still with you or if my comments are relevant.)

      I’m so sorry about this.


      1. Hi Eileen,
        Thank you for thinking of us.
        Sadie was experiencing phantom leg pain, she was dragging her leg in a circle, because she only seemed to walk in circle after 3 years with dementia. We had a great system that was working well. On March 28, 2019, we gave her the peace I’m sure she would have asked for if she could. We have her cremated and she is always with me. When I think about it, it makes me sad, but I know we did all that we could to keep her with us, I know I was selfish, but she was so loved and cared for so I’m okay with that.

        1. Dear Val,
          I’m so sorry for your loss. Even when we know it’s the “right” decision, it’s so hard. Sadie was so lucky to be loved and understood by you. Thanks for letting me know what happened.


  21. Our female 15-year-old chihuahua-dachshund mix started having accidents in the house a year ago. Shortly after, she started continuously walking in a set pattern in the house, staring at walls and no longer associating going outside to go potty. The last four months have been extremely horrible for me. Even if I carry her outside once an hour, she will still do it in the house. She will walk in it before I find it and then it’s everywhere. I am a recent widow and my grown children feel it is “time” due to the toll it’s taking on me. She still eats good, gobbles down treats and has energy. Her liter-mate brother has been attached to her like glue their entire lives and I know letting her go would take a toll on him too. Does her good physical health indicate she will live another year or two?

  22. Hi Judy, my chi/ terrier Sadie lived for 3 additional years after showing signs of the same symptoms you are describing, we lived for a whole year using an open top kennel and puppy pads. We tried to time her potty breaks closer to when we would leave the house, most times returning to here poop stomps, I’m sure she thought were doggy art pieces, haha.
    We started using honest company diapers, and organic diaper rash creams. We didn’t cut a hole out of diapers because things made their way out too easily, we covered those diapers with a washable doggy diaper to make sure they would stay on. We have a camera set up so we could watch her when we were gone. And changed her often. But she still managed to get a rash. We would let her walk circles outside to air dry…It definitely made the potting part more bearable. After 2 years in a diaper, we had a great routine. She had excellent blood work results, ate so well and walked for literally 2-4 hours a day! She start grinding if her teeth and with out anesthesia we couldn’t find the root of the problem. I started grinding her hard food and she still wanted to eat! She was 16 1/2 years old and started having what we thought was phantom leg pain, she would drag her back leg and cry! Once I saw her experiencing more than mental pain, we decided she was no longer comfortable and had to let her go on March 28th 2019. Hardest day of my life, but to see the calm in her face let me know she wasn’t suffering mentally or physically anymore.
    I know it’s a tough job to handle, we couldn’t go any where or stay away very long, but her love was the most priceless gift I never wanted to lose.

  23. I am going thru this now with my 15 year old shih-tzu. He has dementia, some arthritis in his hind legs, blind and deaf with gum disease. His sundowning is getting worse and he sleeps about 20 hours a day. Watching him walk into things, including me, looking lost and confused is very difficult. Everyone has opinions on if it’s time or not. The quality of life quiz score was a 32….they say 35 or above is quality of life. So I’m stll on the fence….

    1. Bless your heart. Good for you for doing the quiz, though. It’s not the be all and end all, but they have good things to consider. It sounds like it told you what you already know: on the fence.

      I hope for a peaceful decision for you and some good days for your sweet boy.


  24. Having got my dog 3 years ago he was 4 years old then I didn’t know what he had, but I found out. He has ccd, and epilepsy . In a short time it was a WoW, now I’m playing catch-up.I new Ace before I got him but I didn’t know he was going to be this bad. So i have a lot to learn.

    1. Hi Calvin,
      There’s some new information out about epilepsy and CCD sometimes appearing together. I haven’t read it all but will probably write about it here. Good luck with Ace. I know he’s lucky to be with you.

  25. I adopted Jack 3 years ago when his owner died. He is now 15. I didn’t think much of it when he got stuck behind furniture at first. He was an older guy when we got him and I just thought he had forgotten he was in a new home. In July he started walking in circles and just standing and crying out. The vet prescribed a pain killer and a med for anxiety. This last week has been rough. He has gone to the groomer his whole life. He no longer recognizes riding in the car and he doesn’t remember how to behave on the grooming table. I had to hold him the entire time at the groomers. He started with sundowners as well. I got about 3-4 hours sleep last night. We will go to the vet again this week and see about new meds to alleviate these symptoms. I fear we are farther along in the progression of the disease as he struggles to eat and has started soiling in the house. His behaviors have deteriorated a lot in 2 months.

    He and I bonded really quickly when he came to us. I love him dearly. My husband refuses to consider euthanasia unless the vet feels Jack is experiencing pain. We shall see at the vet’s in a couple of days.

    1. How lucky Jack is to have come to you. I hope you have many more good days together. I know how hard this condition can be.

  26. Reading all these stories and seeing my dog who will turn 17 in 1 month just makes me so sad. She is doing pretty much everything I read in most of the stories here. I feel like I am giving up on her if I put her to sleep but I know she will only get worse each day. I often think I am being selfish because I have to give her several baths a week and clean up her messes .this has been going on now for probably 6 or more months. One day I’m ready to let her go and then the next I feel like I am taking the easy way out by putting her to sleep. This dog has meant so much more to me than any other dog and it’s also starting to cause strife between me and my wife. I keep hoping she just won’t wake up some day but know that’s not likely. I’m so torn between continuing on as things are or letting her go.

    1. Shawn, I’m so sorry you are having to think about these choices. You are clearly a wonderful guardian and owner to your dog. Be sure and talk to your vet about what’s your dog’s symptoms in case there is anything they can do to help.


      1. It’s odd as I sit here tonight seeing your comment as I
        Am thinking about the appointment we have tomorrow to end her suffering. I think she has been ready for quite some time, I haven’t been ready but I need to give her the peace and comfort she has given me for well over 16 years. In some ways I just don’t feel like she is the dog she once was. The last 6-8 months have been extremely difficult on me. Just having a quite evening spending time with her and thinking of all the great times she and I shared. I will need strength tomorrow to get through this but in my heart I know it’s the right thing to do for her.

  27. I have an 15-year old who is diagnosed with CCD. Within the past couple of months he would started acting lost in the house. He was also sometimes restless at bedtime. It was a painful discovery, but despite those issues he still enjoys going for walks and being petted.

  28. We have a 16 year old yorkie with CCD. It sounds bad to say, but our lives with our 14 year old daughter have been put on hold and were considering putting her down. We homeschool and have other children and grandchildren in other states and traveling with her in this condition seems like a huge under taking. She gets scared and confused in strange places, but based on the research she cold live another year or so. Does anyone else put senior dogs down when they get CCD before theyre immobile? :/

    1. Denise,
      I did say goodbye to my dog while she was still eating well and could walk. She had a seizure and was getting more and more fragile.

      It’s super hard to balance our own family’s needs with the needs of our dear dogs. I hope you can find your way to a decision.


  29. I’m so glad to have found this page. Will share what I’m currently experiencing with my soon to be 17 year old Pomachon whom I bottlelfed as a puppy.
    Having read so much I just need to process and digest it all right now.

    Thank you for being here.

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