Resources for Owners of Dogs with CCD

Six Practical Hints for Living With a Dog With Dementia

Here are a few of the things I learned from life with Cricket:

  • Make a safe room. Just as you may have puppy proofed your house when your dog was young, now you need to make your house safe for your old dog. Make sure there are no spaces your dog might get trapped in. Remove things they may stumble over, slots they can’t back out of, and places where they might put their head through. (View the first section of the video to see what I mean.) Be sure you don’t have tangles of cables they can get trapped in. Your dog may forget how to back up. I think this may be why they get stuck in corners so much.
  • Use the corners. Speaking of corners, take advantage of that corner thing! Put their food bowls and water bowls in corners so they don’t walk through them and tip them over. I bought a water dispenser for Cricket with a little tank on it that was too big for her to tip over and stuck it at the end of a hall that she tended to pace up and down. I watched Cricket like a hawk to make sure she drank enough. She had a really hard time telling what the level of the water was, and would hover with her mouth about in inch above the water as I held my breath, hoping she can drink. Try to get bowls at the optimal level, and avoid really shiny drinking bowls if they appear to confuse your dog about the water level.
  • Toileting. Your dog may forget her house training or forget how to tell you she needs to go. You still may be able to tell, and you can work out ways to deal with messes. For instance, Cricket sometimes sat bolt upright in the middle of the bed in the middle of the night. I knew that if she did that she needed to go, and I lifted her right down to a pee pad that I kept by the bed. Try to learn your dog’s new signals.
  • Door Problems. Be careful around doors. Your dog will often be standing in just the wrong place when you try to go through a door. I have a pair of French doors in my house that Cricket often stooed in front of and looked through. Even though she could see me trying to open the door, she just stood there. Sometimes I opened the door just enough to put my hand through and threw a treat for her to follow if I could get her attention.
  • Other Dogs. Be ready to keep her separate from other dogs. She may not give out the right social signals, and other dogs may be rough with her or even aggressive. For instance, I allowed Cricket to be loose in the same space with only one of my dogs, gentle Zani who was only a big bigger than Cricket. But even so I had to keep an eye on things. Sometimes Cricket would head for the same bed that Zani was in and start to walk over her, and Zani would (understandably) yell at her. I always separated Cricket from all the dogs when I wasn’t home.
  • Enrichment. Clinical studies say that keeping dogs active in mind and body can help prevent or slow the progress of dementia. Do whatever you can to keep those problem-solving brain cells going. Take her on Sniff-faris. See if she can play with food toys. Try a Snuffle Mat. Don’t assume you can fight back the rising tide, but you can probably help her keep what she’s got for a bit longer.

Tips from Other Owners of Dog with Dementia

Be sure and check out the comments sections on all the pages. There are some great suggestions from other readers who have dogs with canine cognitive dysfunction. And if you have a tip, please submit it as a comment.

Articles about Dogs with Dementia

Cricket 2012 in doorway

General Resources for Senior Dogs




The Gift of a Gray Muzzle: Active Care for Senior Dogs–Kathy Sdao and Lori Stevens  This recorded seminar covers the many issues of having an aging dog: health issues, exercise, diet, keeping them eating, enrichment, and many more. The presenters are tops in their fields and a joy to watch.




Dog Food Logic: Making Smart Decisions for Your Dog in an Age of Too Many Choices–Linda Case This book covers nutrition for all ages of dogs and has some of the best information about feeding dogs you will find anywhere.



Dogs with an AARF Card, Growing Old Gracefully: Old Dogs Should Learn New Tricks–Interview with Dr. Gary Landsberg.

My Dog is Aging–Now What? More Training, of Course–Lori Stevens

How to Care for an Older Dog–Whole Dog Journal

Teach Senior Dogs New Tricks to Stay Healthy--The Bark


See resources on end of life and euthanasia decisions on the “When to Say Goodbye” page.

Fitness Course

Lori Stevens gives a fabulous course on fitness for senior dogs through the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy. Check the schedule to see when it will next be offered.

Closeup of face of black, white, and tan rat terrier with big ears

Copyright 2014 Eileen Anderson


  1. Katherine Selman says:

    My 16year old Shitzu female, Kiki, has démentia. She only has basic instincts now. Eat. Drink. Sleep. Pee.
    She stares at walls, has vision and hearing loss. She has no interest in any of us or our other shitzu. She gets lost in the yard, and we have to go get her. She is incontinent and just pees where ever she is. She was always my best friend sitting in my lap or wanting me to hold her. Last year we took her to the beach on a long road trip. She was great. No problems. Just the perfect little elderly dog. She can only be groomed now with sedation, and it’s just too hard on her physically. She cries the entire time I give her a bath. She has pain and pancreatitis. We may be having her put down peacefully soon. We feel our Kiki is gone and not there anymore. Now she is mostly scared and just pacing or staring into space struggling to get her legs to let her lay down. It is breaking our hearts to see her in this state. I feel we may be saying good bye soon. And hopefully we can avoid her having a scary and painful slow death. We have to have mercy on our pets. They don’t show their pain like humans do. They can have pain for years before we even realize. Our little Kiki refuses any type of pills and going to the vet completely stresses her out. So, we may have to say goodbye, but at least she won’t be scared or in pain anymore.

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Katherine, I’m so sorry. It’s so awful to see that happen to our dear companions. It sounds like you have a good handle on her quality of life. And you clearly love her so much! Here is wishing you peace with whatever decisions you make.

      • MRgaret hall says:

        We are in exactly in the same place, Poppy is seventeen, and has deteriorated with symptoms like these over the last six months or so. She doesn’t bark anymore. Yes it’s a hard decision one which I think we must make shortly 😥

    • Ginni Cioffletti says:

      Katherine, I am so sorry you are dealing with this. I am experiencing similar but (not yet severe)) symptoms are just past few weeks. Anxiety, restless, confusion. Definitely at the sundown stage. Better in daytime. However, I know things will not reverse. Vet started her on meds to see if it helps. It’s already disturbing our sleep. Never easy knowing what lies ahead. Just remember that she lives life day to day and doesn’t worry about missing her tomorrows. That has always helped me feel more peaceful.

  2. Crystal says:

    My dog was diagnosed with dementia a couple months ago. He has several of the symptoms but the most difficult one for our family to cope with is the barking for no reason. He barks if I have to leave the room and he is alone or even if I am in the room but occupied with a chore, he will go on the other side of the room and bark. He will often times go on for over half an hour before he finally stops. I have gotten him different brain games and treat toys, etc. and that gives us some relief for 10 minutes at most and then he seems to lose interest in the toy and will start barking again. It has made it very difficult to do any chores. Any thoughts on what I could do to get him to stop barking? He does not seem frightened and some have suggested to try giving him benedryl which makes him drowsy but I don’t want him to just sleep his life away. I would like it if he would cuddle up with me on the couch the way he used to, but on the rare occasion he does, it only lasts a short time and then he is back to pacing and barking.

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Dear Crystal
      The barking is one of the very hardest things to deal with. It’s hard on everyone. Have you talked to your vet about meds? There are medications that can sometimes help with that but don’t have such sedating effects.

      I wish I had more suggestions, but I don’t. I hope he does settle down on his own or that perhaps your vet can help. I know how hard it can be.


      • Joha says:

        Hello! My dog is 17 yrs old. She was diagnosed with CCD, and the most difficult thing for me to cope is with the barking. There is nothing I can do, that seems to help. The vet prescribed some meds that help her with the anxiety, but the barking seems an issue. Is there anything I can do to help her other than the anxiety medication.

        • Eileen Anderson says:

          Veterinary behaviorists are the “psychiatrists” of the dog world. They know about all the meds and supplements available, and many will do a consult with your own vet over the phone. (They can’t work directly with you unless you live close enough to go see them.) Dr. Chris Pachel in Portland, OR, has a consulting service over the phone that is quite reasonable. He may be able to talk to your vet about other options for your dog. Good luck. I know that barking, especially in the nighttime, can be a terrible problem.


  3. Linda O’Donnell says:

    Thank you so much for the information you provided. My husband and I have 3 miniature pinchers that we rescued and are our children. Our 16 year old Carmine is doing great but Delilah our 14 year old had gone blind and she was deaf when we got her and Phoebe is 10 and doing great. I learned and researched a lot once Delilah 4 months ago was diagnosed with Dementia. The last month I was getting 1 to hours of sleep and needless to say so was the others in the house hold with exception to my husband who moved to one of the guest rooms. My health was deteriating and I am a cancer survivor for 3 years. 5 pm to 5 am she was barking excessively could not get comfortable even when I would hold her the barking would stop but she was restless. 2 am yesterday morning since I was up I found your article and it let me know it was time I had done everything I could. I had my husband read the article when he woke up and we both agreed it was time. I called our vet and he knew we were making the right decision because he knows how well we care for our dogs. She went peacefully in my arms wrapped in her blanket and I left her on the table wrapped in her blanket peacefully. So thank you . We all got 10 hours of sleep last night and our other pups seem to know why she is not here. Especially Phoebe who was always trying to comfort her was stressed out.

    I can’t thank you enough for your words to let us know when it is time.

    • Kim Willbanks says:

      Today, I am where you were. Thank you for your post. It gives me confirmation that I’m doing the right thing for my little Theo, who is a 17-1/2 Maltese. He has every symptom, except he still eats and drinks. God bless you

  4. Eileen Anderson says:

    Dear Linda,
    I’m so sorry for your loss. I am glad you know in your heart that it was time. Much love to you and your other sweet doggies. I know Delilah would thank you if she could.

  5. Kathleen Sheridan says:

    Our dog Lucy is 14 and has reach the sundown part. She also barks and licks the carpet all the time. Has anxiety, cannot hear. But she acts like she sees things and then gets startled. Is she illusinating?

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Kathleen, I don’t think anybody knows. I know that my Cricket startled for no apparent reason a lot. Humans hallucinate, but only in the late stages (and the stages go farther for humans than they do for dogs, if that makes any sense). I’m sorry this is happening to Lucy.

  6. Julie says:

    Yesterday I had to have my 13 year old dog put to sleep. Three weeks ago he suddenly slipped his lead and ran off. Something that he has never ever done in his life as he always walked to heel and never went far from us. Thankfully we found him, but from that moment he was a totally different dog. His body clock has completely changed – he was asleep all day and then constantly pacing up and down in the evening – kept wanting to go out in the back garden and he just used to walk around and come in or just stand out there staring into space – at times he would bound in as if he had been spooked. When he did sit down he was constantly panting as if he’d been running. If he was laying down and we called him he couldn’t determine where the sound was coming from. Night times he used to sleep on our bed but the past week he suddenly started to show aggression when we used to pick him up to put on the bed. The last two nights – he paced and paced and paced. He distanced himself from us – didn’t interact – stopped bringing toys to play – he had no “life” in his eyes. Vet told us yesterday that it could be sudden onset dementia and even though they could try a few things the outcome really would be the same as it only gets worse. His anxiety level was through the roof. He used to come to us to be picked up but as we bent down he would run off scared . The past three weeks we had seen our dog change into something that was too heart breaking to watch and we didn’t want his mind to be tormented any more as it was being tormented enough. So we made the decision to have him put to sleep for his peace of mind. The hardest thing we have ever had to do as the house is so empty and our hearts are broken. Last night we both kept saying had we done the right thing but I think we have as we have taken away his suffering even though it has caused us to suffer. Like I said it really started just over three weeks ago when he ran off and the decline was very quick. God bless you my boy. I miss you, and I just hope that you forgive me in letting you go.

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Julie, I’m so sorry about what happened to your boy. How confusing and tragic! I hope you have no doubts about your decision to help him pass on. You clearly did it out of pure love and caring for him. I’m so sorry, though. That’s so fast for that all to happen. I euthanized my dog with dementia the day she had a seizure (she had already declined and a lot of other things had happened; it wasn’t just the seizure). Even though I had been worrying about it for two years, it was still way too fast. So I can only try to imagine how hard it was for you. You are very brave and your boy was super lucky to have you.


  7. Amy says:

    Thank you so much for all the info you, provide. I am in the middle of deciding what to do for my 14 year old yorkie. She’s had cognitive issues starting slightly about 2 years ago. Staring at the wall was the first sign. She also has arthritis (I give her CBD oil for over a year now, has helped) making her desire to go on walks virtually non existent now. But maybe it’s also because of the dementia? Now I just let her out, she does her thing most of the time, but sometimes will pee, want to go in, and then poops a few min later in the house. Or vice versa. Also now pees occasionally anywhere as well. And taking her out in the dark seems to freak her out. She’s become a little more difficult with eating. Not liking what she used to love.Not finishing her meals right away or at all. But will eat most things I eat, so maybe its the dog food she doesn’t like? I don’t know. Her pacing has become worse. My vet prescribed an anxiety med which does help, most of the time. She shakes and freaks out in the car. So I won’t take her anywhere anymore. She’s not who she used to be as you said with your dog but she’s still here. Loves her greenies and treats for sure. I just don’t know if its time or not. this is agonizing!

  8. Sharon says:

    I have a 15 year old mixed breed that is showing a lot of signs of dementia. Sadly I cannot afford to taker her to the vet. She was showing signs of sundowning last week but this week it’s not just at sundown it’s happening during the day. She can’t get close enough to me and refuses to be far away, she used to be a barker but now barely barks at all, she pants 75% of the day, paces half the night, has started to get into small places she can’t figure out how to get out of, trying to burrow into my bed and bedding, stares into space and at the walls. I have also notices her eyes are starting to get a haze to them. Most nights she won’t let me sleep until after midnight. When she takes a deep breath it’s like she shutters. She also is startled easily and bolts upright out of sleep. Because I am seriously low income, is there ANYTHING I can do to help her? Besides sending her over that rainbow. I know the day will come sooner than I want but I don’t think we are there yet. She is my love and she’s had me for 14 years.

  9. Patrick says:

    I have a 13 Year old Daschound he is not sleeping at night but sleeps alot during the day. He wanders and paces around at night too. I would appreciate your thoughts and ideas on this issue and offer any solutions.

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      You need to speak to your vet if you haven’t already. The mixed up sleep cycles can be a symptom of cognitive dysfunction but can also be related to other diseases and conditions. Your vet may be able to prescribe something to gently calm your Doxie at night.

      Good luck. I think the night wandering, and barking, are among the hardest behavioral things to deal with.


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