Resources for Owners

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

DVD

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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.

Book

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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.

Articles

 

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.

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

64 Comments

  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 cold..so 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.

    “WANDERING AIMLESSLY”
    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:

    “IN THE ZONE”
    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:

    “NEW, STRANGE, THINGS ARE OUT OF PLACE”
    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:

    “ROUTINE”
    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..

    “ATMOSPHERE”
    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:

    “LOST AND DISORIENTED IN THE DARK”
    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:

      Gene,

      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. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. Lynda L. says:

    Eileen thank you for starting this blog. Our Casey is a16 year blond cockapoo. . He is almost blind.I know now that he has dementia because of all the previous comments .Casey will no longer let us pick him up.Casey was such a lap dog.He always wanted to be up on the chair or couch next to my husband or I. He never played faverites.He would spend an hour with Ken and jump down and come to me,spend an hour and go back to Ken.My heart breaks every time I look at him now.His time for Heaven was a good 4 months ago but my husband will not let go.We have found a solutation for the time being.Casey gets half of a baby asprinie 81 miligram ,but cut in half,so that is 40.Along with that a half of a zanax 0.5mg (perscription) which makes it 0.2-1/2mg. Today for the first time we melted the two half pills in a little bit of water .then got it down him using a doggie liquid medicine dropper .I hated to force feed him the pills mashed in food.He only eats if he wants to and he did not like that procedure. Well,that did not work because he had no food in his tummy so he just went to sleep. Tomorrow it is back to the old way. It is a hassle but as soon as the pills take effect he stops jerking.He can walk, get himself up and down (on the carpet) not in the kitchen. Still sudden sounds,like just moving pots and pans around or tossing a spoon into the sink makes him fall and still when light hits his eyes he jerks his head.We had to stop taking him for walks last october .Just for reference. Casey weighs 14 lds.Our first zanax came from the vet.They gave us 5 pills for $7.00. Since we had our own zanax from our Dr.We give Casey some of ours.Much cheeper. Hope this helps someone out there.

    • Eileen says:

      Hi Lynda,

      I’m sorry about the changes Casey has gone through. I’m so glad you have a medication combo that’s helping. FWIW, many vets will order a prescription for you from a drug store at the generic price. (I want to caution all other readers that you must check with your vet about any medications or supplements, even over the counter ones, you want to give your dog.) Anyway, Lynda, I hope Casey still has some good days with you and your family.

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