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. tracey watson says:

    my dog is 16 yrs old, i have had taz since he was 6 weeks. for almost 3 yrs taz has started to cry on a night, the cries have increased to all day and all night, he screams, howls, barks. this is when i am out or in bed, i have spent the last 2 and a half years sleeping at least 3 nights of the week on the sofa, if im there he is ok 99 percent of the time, he is almost blind and deaf, I dont think hes in any pain, he still eats fine, drinks fine. any advise would be appreciated.

    • Eileen says:

      Tracey, I hope you can check with your vet. They can verify that he’s not in pain, and possibly prescribe something for the restlessness/crying. It sounds like you are doing whatever you can to cope, but that’s got to be hard on you. So sorry. I don’t have further advice than that.

    • Ha Smith says:

      Hi Tracy
      Mum cocker spaniel is 12yrs old and is very much like Taz, it’s very difficult and I empa with you.

    • Sheila says:

      I’ve read the comments and found them all very interesting, Informative , and some, very helpful! My little maulti-poo has sundowners also as well as arthritis . I’m not sure what all he does have actually , I just try to pay attention to his symptoms and try different things to help each symptom. The most serious problem he has , that has affected our life also , is his night behavior . He is 16 now but started having problems about two years ago . He started out not wanting to go to sleep . He would just start panting heavily and walking around and staring into the night just like he was looking at something in the dark . It was actually kinda weird and scary . We started him on some meds and melatonin to help calm him and to sleep . It helped some . I even tried giving him Benedryl . He will go to sleep now, but only for a few hours . Then will wander around , sometimes pant , get back in bed, then get up , just over and over all night . He wants me to get up . Ill foow him around the house . He’ll get to the living room and stop and just look at me.It seems like he is telling me that its time to get up . Sometimes I just sleep on the couch because I’m just so tired of going back and forth . Recently I started letting him our to use it and he does not want to come back in and actually gives me a little growl when I try to pick him up to take him in . So finally one night I just said well fine then , you just stay outside, I’m going to Sleep! The best nights sleep I had in a very long time and the next morni g he was laying right on the patio waiting to come in . This began a mew routine . He sleeps a few hours inside, then the rest of the night outside! In the past he would have never slept out like that ! He would have clawed the door down to get back in! Another crazy thing he does . My elderly father lives with us, 90 years old. He sleeps with oxygen .His tank makes a little humming noise , and right in front if it is a carpet rug that I have by my fathers bed . My husband gets up first and let’s the dog back in . So when I get up, the dog has gone back to sleep on that rug , right in front of that oxygen tank . I always tell my dad that my dog has taken up with him and loves to sleep by his bed . He likes that . But in reality , I think it’s the hum of the oxygen Tank It must be comforting to him . But I was just wondering about this habit of wanting to stay outside during the night . I’ve not read where anyone else has experienced this with their dog. ( I live in the country where it is safe for the dog to stay out .) I am really curious if anyone has experienced this behavior .

      • Eileen says:

        Hi Sheila,

        I have never heard of that specific behavior–wanting to stay outside–but one of the symptoms of dementia can be behavior changes of all sorts. I am glad you have worked out a safe system where both of you are getting some rest. That’s interesting about the oxygen tank, too. It is so touching to me to read all the things that the wonderful dog owners do to take care of their dogs when it gets this difficult. Hugs to you.

      • Teresa says:

        Hi Sheila.
        My Border Collie has dementia as well. Like your dog, evenings are the worst. The pacing , the panting and also a wild eyed look, were very hard to deal with. My husband and I would be awake most of the night until my dog would literally drop from exhaustion. He wanted to go out at night but I wouldn’t let him because I don’t have a fenced yard and he would just run!! The vet came to our home a couple times and we tried to figure out what to try. I started with a gravol, helped one night, then tried Melatonin, only worked for a couple nights. The vet then suggested a nightly tranquilizer which I did try but it literally knocked him out that worried me and I stopped giving it to him. I called another vet where I had taken my dog before, as I was getting so I couldn’t deal with it anymore, and he suggested trying Gabapentin ..started him on 200 mg in the am and 100 mg pm, and within two days my dog settled down and started sleeping through the night!! That was over a year ago, Boomer is mow 14 years old , and still doing fairly welll, although I did increase his night pills to 200 mg.. He gets up sometimes just to move to another part of the house, but we are still managing. It may come to a point where I might have to give him a tranquilizer nightly, but I’m hoping not for a long time!! Not sure how helpful my story is but the gabapentin made a world of difference for my dog!!

  2. Christina says:

    I running on fumes from lack of sleep. My otherwise healthy happy 18yo shih tzu Oreo appears to have canine cognitive disorder CCD. Nights are awful for him. He “Sundowns” at 8pm and is restless all night….barks for us. Last night I was unable to comfort him….I usually hold him and rock him. I desperate for ideas for night time!!! Valium and Xanax don’t work.

    • Eileen says:

      Christina, man, I’m so sorry. That is one of the hardest things to deal with. Is he pretty active during the day? Have you talked to your vet about Anipryl? It is prescribed for Canine Cognitive Dysfunction and has a calming effect for some dogs. I’m sorry to say that I don’t know any other suggestions. I hope some readers who have dealt with this will chime in.

      • Jan Smith says:

        Hi Christina, my cocker spaniel, is much like your Oreo,and me and my husband are exhausted most days, due to disturbed sleep.
        I too am desperation help.
        Love my dog to bits.

  3. Tina Pollard says:

    Thank you Eileen for your practical & informative tips and advice on living with senior dogs. The videos are a great way to clearly demonstrate the signs of dementia in your dog. Your cricket was certainly a beautiful dog and your love & care for animals is evident to see. My 2 cavalier king charles spaniels Buddy & Truffles are both 15 this year and started heart med’s last year. I found Buddy through a local newspaper add for $50, my guess was the breeder thought that as he was born with 1 eye he wouldn’t fetch the same as a pedigree like my Truffles who was bought through a registered breeder. Buddy’s 1 eye has served him well all these years, he still loves to watch birds fly, he just cant chase them. Buddy recently suffered from a disc problem in his back & after a 2nd opinion, the right meds & with required rest is now back to short strolls and enjoying his favourite treat (bones). I have been slowly modifying my dogs room and yard (making it smaller) adding a small ramp to do away with the small steps as well as fencing off the garden tiers which had become dangerous for Truffles who has all the signs of doggy dementia. His hearing & sight have nearly all but diminished and his mobility is limited. He still loves his treats so i will introduce some of your advice & make it a little more interesting for him. The two dogs have always shared a special bond & give each other comfort. Like all concerned owners i am just looking to make their last years as comfortable as possible & give them the love & care they deserve.

    • Eileen says:

      Tina, thanks for writing! I am glad you are able to adapt your dogs’ space and lives so accommodate their needs as they grow older. I hope both your babies can continue with good quality of life for a good long while.

  4. liane says:

    My dog is 17 & he is waking me several times a night. he’s in good health but the vet says he has mild kidney impairment and the only thing he will give me is opiates. Almost as soon as he started taking them we got very close to the maximum threshold he could take and he still isn’t sedated. I can’t believe there is NOTHING else he can have to sedate him. There has to be something because I can’t face much more of this. I love him but he has eaten up my whole life since he got dementia and I can’t go on.

    • Eileen says:

      liane, I’m so sorry. I am not a vet, but there are other sedatives. Opiates, as you know, are aimed at pain relief and usually provide physical and sometimes mental relaxation. There is a whole other class of tranquilizers that work on the brain only. Perhaps your vet has a reason for not trying the others that has to do with your dog’s individual situation. Or perhaps it’s time for second opinion? Good luck. I’m so sorry you and your dog are having such a rough time. He is lucky to have someone who cares for him so well.

  5. Judith Collins says:

    Our baby “Bear” is a 17yr old Jack Russell, he is almost blind and almost completely deaf. For about a year now we’ve had to clap our hands to get him to come to us as he no longer responded to a whistle, however now, even though he can pick up the clapping he is confused as to where it is coming from even if we are right in front of him, so touch is the next best way of getting his attention or guiding him to where he needs to go. He barks for everything he needs or wants, or to get our attention, particularly when his body clock tells him is time for his tucker. My husband and I feel that we manage his dementia quite well. We cared for my mother who had Alzheimer’s and let me tell you that the symptoms and behaviours are almost identical, this has helped us to understand Bear and what he is going through.
    Many symptoms or obstacles for the demented are. Lost, confused, disoriented, perception, restlessness, agitation, repetition which I know you will say that’s happening to my dog.

    I have placed some suggestions below that have worked for us with Bear and my mother too and I hope that some of them might help others in some small way.

    Use your intuition as a guide to help you guess what your dog is attempting to communicate,
    Ask yourself is there a need that is not being filled.
    When Bear wanders aimlessly we first check if he needs to go outside for toileting, after that if he continues, we take/guide him to his water bowl for a drink, after that if he continues, we guide/take him to his bed sit down with him with give him some petting and talk to him and that usually settles him down.

  6. Judith Collins says:

    Use distraction.
    We call it in the zone, where Bear seems to become fixated and will just sit and stare at us or into space he will do this for half an hour or more… Once we see his is in the zone for too long, we get him out of it by leading him to his bed or distract him by making him do something else have a little game, give him a cuddle, give him a little treat, whatever it might be to snap him out of it.

  7. Judith Collins says:

    As much as we would like to change the furniture occasionally or shut a door that might normally always be open, or move an ottoman to butt up to a couch or put a pot plant in a different corner…. whatever the changes might be, we don’t do this because it is confusing for the demented, it’s strange, it’s unfamiliar, their territory is not the same, it’s not recognisable. The same goes for their water bowls and where they eat and sleep. No out of the usual place obstructions, is best.

  8. Judith Collins says:

    Have an effective daily routine Waking time, going to bed time , eating main meal time of the day, it really helps to maintain the same daily routine for the demented dog as their body clock knows better than us when it’s the time of the day or night that they would or should be doing these things so it’s less confusing for them if these events happen at the same time every day, otherwise if it’s not it will cause the wondering, barking un necessarily and other strange behaviours, it’s less confusing for them..

    Keep it quiet, no loud crashing or banging noises, no large crowds, no yelling, and no loud music. This can be very frightening for the demented dog.

  9. Judith Collins says:

    Bear sleeps in the back quarters inside the house and about a year ago he started with barking in the middle of the night, we would get up take him outside for a wee, tuck him in and go back to bed and he would start barking again, this went one for a few weeks until we came to the conclusion that he was waking up getting out of bed and losing his way getting back to his bed, so we decided to put some “SOLAR LIGHTS” on the floor either side of his bed a bit like a guiding light and sure enough we have not had that problem ever since. The reason for the solar lights is because they are portable, cheap to use and you can place them wherever you want, in this case close to the bedding.

    • Eileen says:

      A big thank you to Judith Collins for these wonderful, practical suggestions! I am sure they will help many people and their dear dogs.

  10. Gene says:

    Over fifteen years ago, my wife at the time brought home a little Jack Russell Terrier puppy we had gone and looked at together. He was small enough to fit in the palm of my hand. He was overwhelmed by his new environment. I remember the first few weeks we had him – he would hide under the end tables and it took him a while to grow confident enough to come out and play. But once he did, it was clear he had a huge personality and he would curl up in the bed between us and wanted to be as close to us as he possibly could.

    As time went on I became more and more attached to Marty. He loved to play fetch and for me to chase him around the house, and he would wait until I got right up on him and then he would scamper away and hide behind a doorway waiting for me to find him. We would play this game until we were both tired out and then he would lay in my lap while I read a book or watched TV. He was a spoiled little dog. He had so many toys and was always lavished with attention.

    Soon Marty was almost eight years old, and my wife and I had decided to divorce. We had never had any kids, so Marty had become like our child. I kept Marty with me after the divorce because my wife knew how much I had grown to love him. He kept me company through many lonely nights and weekends. As long as Marty was there with me, I never felt truly alone. He would climb up to the window and watch me leave for work each morning, and he would be there waiting for me each night when I came home. I’d see him looking out the window, and as soon as he saw it was me he would jump out of the window and run to the door where he would be waiting for me. He would be so excited that his whole little body would be wiggling.

    Marty has been with me through several job changes, relocations and losses. He has always been the one thing I could depend on and the one constant in my life. When things get crazy and stressful, he brings me back down and helps me manage my anxiety. I have taken the best care of him that I possibly can. He was diagnosed with cancer in 2011. I got him surgery and radiation, and travelled fifty miles each way every Monday and Friday for a month to being him to the University of Georgia Veterinary Hospital for his radiation treatments. Nothing was too much trouble or too much money, not for this little dog who has been there for me through so much.

    He came through the treatments like a trooper and the cancer has never returned. Now, though, we are facing a new challenge, and this time he won’t be able to beat it. Marty has been diagnosed with canine cognitive dysfunction. He will be 16 years old in August, and he is still my baby boy. But now I take care of him, in exchange for all the years that he took care of me. He sometimes seems confused, he will pace a lot in the evenings, he walks more slowly and he can’t handle stairs anymore. Sometimes he will get stuck behind furniture and get upset, and I will help him out. He still loves treats though and he still loves to be petted. He is still the sweetest boy, but I can tell he is winding down and that he is now truly in the twilight of his life. Every day that we have together is a blessing.

    I have Marty taking several supplements like Cholodin and Senilife, and I spoil him every day with treats and spend as much time with him as I can. I love him so much. I can’t help but think about how empty my life is going to seem without him around. He has been with me the entire time I’ve been on my own. I don’t know how I am going to live without him. I know I’m lucky to have had him for so long, and that he has had a full life, but it seems like the time has slipped by far too quickly. I feel guilt about the times that I took him for granted or didn’t pay as much attention to him as I feel I should have. I hope he knows how much I have loved him. I am not ready to say goodbye.

    • Eileen says:


      I feel privileged that you have shared your story here about Marty. I am a loss for words. I am so so sorry you must anticipate the loss of such a great friend. Thank you for telling his and your story.

    • sherry s says:

      gene i dont know you but i love you for all the love and support you have gave your little boy, i wish more people were like you and me, i too love my little boy that is 16 and he also has ccd i too give him cholodin and also found that a little t shirt sleeveless from petsmart seems to help him in the evenings he cries a little and then falls asleep , also give him pure coconut oil on his food and my vet told me to give him krillex treats he loves this and it has i am sure has also helped him this has omega 3 and its a treat for them please try and send me a update i hope your baby lives many more years for you and keep up the good work thank you for taking such good care of and loving such a sweet fur angel sherry s nashville tn

      • Eileen says:

        Thanks for your nice comments to Gene. I’m glad you have found some things that have helped your dog. None of them are guaranteed, or even likely to help with CCD except perhaps the coconut oil and that would not work quickly. Again, I’m glad you are doing well with your dog but I don’t want to raise false hopes for anyone else. The things that are most likely to help with this condition are listed on the Treatment page and none of them are dramatic cures. Also, garments can make a dog appear to be calm when they are actually intimidated and uncomfortable (it’s often called “shut down,”) so we all should take care with trying those things. I’m sure you know your dog; I’m just urging people to take care.

  11. Kara says:

    I have a 17-year-old Jack Russell mix suffering with dementia as well. I recently changed jobs and now that I have more time at home with him, it is heart breaking to see the symptoms.
    He is definitely having sun-downers symptoms, wandering aimlessly to a door or wall repeatedly and just barking from sunset into the evening. He used to wake me up at night, especially during storm season but I think his hearing has deteriorated over the last year and a half, so he doesn’t notice thunder much anymore. But when he had a lot of difficulty with it, my other dog developed a fear of thunder.
    He, like so many other dogs described here, is otherwise healthy. Still house trained, eating, drinking as he should, just losing his sight and hearing and always confused.
    I just want to comfort him. I just pick him up and put him in his bed when he begins obsessively pacing or when he starts barking at the wall. I wish there was something more I could do for him. I can’t afford medication, I have used melatonin treats, Rescue Remedy, lavender, calming collar and we still use the Thunder Shirt from time to time. I haven’t noticed enough relief or improvement to bother with any of them much anymore though.
    I appreciate that this site is here to relate to others going through this.

    • Eileen says:

      Dear Kara,

      I’m so sorry you and your guy are going through this. Just a heads up: some medications for anxiety can be gotten generically, and even selegiline can be sometimes, if your vet can help with that. They are much cheaper that way, in case that makes a difference. Anyway, hang in there. Some of us also know how hard it can be.

  12. Graeme says:

    Hi Kara
    We have a 17 yo Moodle who has very similar symptoms to your Jack Russell and after several different medications without much success now have her on a cheap human sedative at night. This has helped her through restless nights and gives us and some neighbours some peace as well. Your vet or friendly GP should be able to prescribe these and a recommended dose.
    Good luck

  13. Betty says:

    I am going through the sundown type symptoms with my 13 y/o dog as well. She gets anxious, restless and begins pacing as soon as it gets dark out. Somewhere between 10-15 times a night she barks to go outside. I take her outside and then she stands there looking at me. I feel horrible and helpless for her. I’ve always tried to go the holistic/alternative route for my pets and myself so I am looking into Melatonin to see if it will help. I will admit that I have used Benadryl on a couple of occasions now but I’m not sure it helped. She’s recently had bloodwork so I know her body is functioning well and that’s why I’d rather not use heavy meds on her that cause liver and kidney damage. If I decide to try Melatonin (after I research it’s safety), I’ll make sure to post the results. I do know that Benadryl is safe for use in dogs but owner’s should always talk to their vet before starting it just to be safe. So I thought mentioning Benadryl might help as an alternative for others in this situation with their loved pets as well.

  14. Linda Camellino says:

    None of the articles from people has mentioned how long the dementia lasts, ours has had it for a while and not sure when the end will be. She is a rate terrier and is eating very well, and drinking water. Will there be an appetite change when it is time?

    • Eileen says:

      Linda, it can last up to several years if the dog is otherwise healthy. There is sometimes an appetite change, or the dog just gets more and more frail.

  15. Dianne says:

    My baby Niza (pronounced Neesa) is a rescue who rescued me too, the most amazing loving being myself and family ever has known. She is now 15 and I from this very thurough article know she very much has Dimentia, came on quick and strong. 1.2 Wks ago her annual she was pretty great. Doc agreed. She does all that your sweet Cricket does now, bad. It’s Sat afternoon so I can’t get the medication until Mon when they get my message. It hurts me to see her so anxious. She is also blind from cateracs for years and almost totally deaf. My husband looks at me now like this might be what should be the reason to let her go. I never had children, she is it. I won’t let her suffer, but it’s been the two of us longer than anyone and through so very much, I am holding her like a baby listening to her awesome breaths… I can’t envision it. I will do what’s best for her.. but I wish there was a way to let her have a few more happy rolls on her rug and happy hellos 🙂 She is our joy and I love her so very much.

    • Eileen says:

      Hi Dianne,
      Hang on until Monday! I can tell how close you are to Niza. I know about the breathing thing. <3 Bless you and hang in there.

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