Canine cognitive dysfunction is a disease that is caused by brain changes in aging dogs. It’s similar to Alzheimer’s. A recent study identified three stages in canine cognitive dysfunction.

If your dog has canine cognitive dysfunction, these stages can help you understand the progression of the disease. The research may be able to indicate how much time your dog has.

Research on the Stages of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

These stages were determined in an observational study (Madari et al, 2015). The researchers took data on the occurrences of 17 different behavioral symptoms in a large group of senior dogs. They grouped the symptoms into four categories:

• Spatial orientation. This included such behaviors as disorientation, aimless wandering, and failing to recognize everyday objects.
• Social interactions. This included changed behavior towards family members, less exploration and other interaction, irritability, and aggression. There was also reduced response to commands or cues.
• Sleep-wake cycles. This included both insomnia and the opposite, hypersomnia, where the dog slept an abnormal amount. It also included abnormal behaviors during the night such as wandering and barking.
• House soiling. This included not only elimination in inappropriate locations but also the loss of the normal ways to signal elimination.

The researchers recorded the frequency of the symptoms in the different categories. They also noted when each symptom appeared. This information allowed them to divide the progress of CCD into three stages.

Dogs in the mild stage had generally not been identified by their owners as having any problems.  This finding implies that most dogs with mild CCD do not get diagnosed at that stage. The main problems in the mild stage were slightly changed social interactions with their owners and changes in sleep patterns (e.g. sleeping more in the daytime).

Dogs in the moderate stage tended to show obvious loss of house training and often were hyperactive during the night. Their owners definitely noticed behavior changes, and the dogs needed more care.

Dogs in the severe stage had problems in all four of the categories. Their owners reported behavior problems that were difficult to deal with. These included things like aimless wandering, barking through much of the night, lack of responsiveness to their family members, and house soiling.

A white and brown terrier stands with her face next to the wall. IT was not clear what stage of dog dementia she was in because she was also blindThe study also found that progress from mild to moderate cognitive dysfunction was rapid. About a quarter of the dogs who had initially been diagnosed with mild cognitive dysfunction had progressed to moderate dysfunction in six months. This portion rose to half the dogs at the one-year mark. This is roughly five times faster than the progression of human Alzheimer’s. The scientists remarked that that might be related to the fact that dogs’ lifespans are about one-fifth of ours.

The message for dog owners is that the symptoms of cognitive dysfunction typically worsen, and often pretty quickly.

How the Stages of Dog Dementia Progressed for My Dog

My own Cricket’s first symptom was a change in social interaction with one of her best human friends. At the time, we couldn’t figure out why Cricket suddenly acted afraid of her. We thought she had just gotten generally more anxious. Just as in the study, Cricket had a symptom, but I didn’t recognize it as such (and didn’t know about canine cognitive dysfunction). She was probably in the mild stage of dementia at that time.

In about a year, Cricket started wandering, standing in odd places, and losing her house training. This corresponds with the moderate stage. We were lucky that she never had bad sleep disturbances.

In her final year, Cricket had most of the problems listed in the study and was clearly in the severe stage. She wandered and circled, and forgot where she was going. She defecated freely. She had trouble remembering how to eat. She slept in odd places (see top photo). But she had lost the anxiety, probably through the help of the medication she was on, and did not seem stressed. She still had a good quality of life even when her capacities were diminished.

What Stage of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Does Your Dog Have?

Identifying the stage of a dog’s dementia can yield an idea of the possible progression of the disease. But remember, every symptom that could be canine cognitive dysfunction could also be something else. So, if your dog has not been diagnosed but you think she might have the disease, you need to speak to your vet.

You can’t diagnose your own dog. But you can observe her and gather information for your vet. Here is a printable symptom checklist. You can fill it out, print it, and take to your veterinarian if you are worried that your dog may have dementia.

If she does, or if she just needs more care because of age, my book has lots of tips for helping her.


Mad’ari, A., Farbakova, J., Katina, S., Smolek, T., Novak, P., Weissova, T., Novak, M., & Žilka, N. (2015). Assessment of severity and progression of canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome using the CAnine DEmentia Scale (CADES). Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 171, 138-145.

Mad’ari, A., Novak, P., & Žilka, N. (2017). Phenotypic Variability and Clinical Staging of Canine Dementia. In Canine and Feline Dementia (pp. 59-68). Springer, Cham.

86 Responses

  1. I did not know about CCD before I put her to sleep. She had symptoms of diabetes and possibly cataracts. I did a lot of research on CCD after I put her down and realized she did have CCD symptoms long before I noticed anything. She lived a good life for 14 years. She has been gone 6 months and I still miss her very much.

    1. Dennis, I’m so glad she had 14 good years. From what you’ve written today and before, I know how wonderfully you loved and took care of her.

    2. Maggie, my 15.4 year old westie-bichion female has been bumping into things,circling,and just in April lost her codependant.i fear ccd. She is the love of my life and the remaining member of my once family of 4. Can I bring her back from this.

      1. Pat, CCD is not curable (if that’s what she has). There are some medications that can slow the progression, and for some dogs they bring them back into life a little bit. I hope you can talk to your vet about this. I know how hard it is. I’m sorry for your loss in April, too. This sounds like a lot to handle. Hugs.

  2. Sadly, I was uninformed about canine cognitive dysfunction. He was always a bit “off” even when young. At 6 yo he had a severe – almost deadly – reaction to his annual vaccinations. Good thing I was still at the vet’s office.
    I have read some information that much of this deterioration could very well be somewhat due to the many vaccinations, flea/tick remedies, soaps, sprays, and any procedures that require anesthesia. My poor dog had them all – I thought I was being a good dog parent. I over medicated him for sure. Seemed there were more and more vaccinations and pills and topicals to bombard his tiny little system with.
    I feel the last straw was the last dental he had.

    I apologize to his memory daily.

    1. Barbs,

      I’m so sorry. But I think you **were** being a good pet parent. We never know which dogs things are hard on and which will sail right through. And I know every procedure and RX you had done was for a good reason. Hugs. I know that you gave him a great life.

  3. I’ve been attempting to find a way to write to you Eileen because I just can’t thank you enough for what you and your book and all of your work and demonstration through Cricket did for me and my dog Henry in his last few months. Your guidance and teaching gave us some very precious time that we would not have had without you. You gave us games together, comfort for him, empathy for me, tips and tools, and per your suggestion, so many photos and videos that I will cherish always ( I wasn’t always so good at that and took so many that I now have forever and would not have had). Although other health complications caused his time on the CCD journey to be so much shorter than I had hoped, I couldn’t have done it without you and I was very much alone in it. I was prepared for all that happened and ready with whatever he needed because you, a stranger, was out in the world unknowingly giving me tremendous support. Every dog owner should be required to read your book as soon as their pup is born and every vet office should have a stack. I am lucky to have found it in my own because of my own commitment to providing the best care for my dogs. Thank you. I am forever grateful.

    1. Dear Ali, thank you from the bottom of my heart. I can’t even tell you what this means to me. It’s a privilege to have helped. I’m just sorry you didn’t have more time with Henry. Thanks again.

  4. Eileen, could the Miniature Schnauzer Club of Canada have permission to reprint this article in our newsletter?
    Thanks !!!

  5. Thank you for creating this blog and site. We have a dog with CCD and have found this site to be an invaluable, comforting resource!

  6. Our sweet little Jack Russell Terrier Jamie is now 16 and has had CCD for almost a year now. She’s in the severe stage now according to your staging. She doesn’t know who we are or where she is more than half of the time now. She has good days and bad days of eating. She soils everywhere, wanders around in circles and like a zombie, gets stuck in places, and stares at walls. It’s so hard for me to think about putting her down. We have had her since she was 6 weeks old. She’s our baby and has gone everywhere with us her whole life except for 3 vacations. She always slept with us in our bed until about 3 months ago. She doesn’t know who we are most of the time and also falls off the bed because she doesn’t know she’s on a bed. I pray that she just goes peacefully in her sleep but I don’t think that’s going to happen. It’s tearing me up that I have to make the decision to “kill” her. I am really struggling with this. However, I know that my Jamie wouldn’t want to live like this. I don’t know what to do. The hardest part of all is when she doesn’t recognize me and is afraid and shakes.

    1. Jacqui I’m **so** sorry this is happening. This is when it’s the hardest, and it’s something everyone has to make their own decision on. I will respect any choice you make because it’s so clear how much you love Jamie. Hugs to you.

      1. I lost my baby puppy 2 weeks ago. I was forcing her to eat for several weeks bribing her with any people food I could get her to eat. She lost so much weight. I kept telling myself she was just confused and not in pain much to my family’s dismay. I had talked to my vet 4 times in the last month of her life telling me it was time and that now I had to be ready. She had struggled with CCD for over a year. Our vet would come to my house but I’d have to give him notice. That’s what I wanted for her…to go home in my arms in her own house. On that last morning I was trying to get her to eat a crumbled up cheese burger I made her,or a piece of it anyway. She ate a little and then moaned. She had never ever moaned before. For the first time I acknowledged she was in pain and I would not let her suffer. I immediately picked her up and drive to our vet. I knew if I didn’t do it then I would not have done it. I walked in and they immediately took us in. She never left my arms and she died very peacefully. It’s still killing me inside that I did that but I know it was right. I had just wanted her to go on her own in her sleep but that wasn’t happening. The wandering, confusion, suffering, and feat are gone. I know she’s at peace. I have her ashes with me and it really comforts me to know she’s here with me though I know she’ll always be in my heart. It’s just so hard. She was my baby for 16 years. I still cry several times a day. I know it will get easier in time but for now it is still so heartbreaking.

        1. Dear Jacqui,
          I’m so sorry for your loss. This is the hardest thing to do for a beloved dog but often I believe it’s the right thing. I wish you peace with your decision and sweet memories of your dog.

  7. Our collie Tigger, not quite 11 yet, has been displaying “different” behavior for awhile now. He used to be such a cuddle-bunny and a very happy velcro-dog. He stopped coming up on the chairs to give us kisses over a year ago. We attributed that to back leg problems. He started pooping on the outside pavers, instead of the grass area. We thought he was just getting lazy. Then he started pooping in the house, not everyday, but a few times a week. We blamed ourselves for not catching his signals. We also figured out that he lost his hearing, which seemed to come on quite fast. We have to clap our hands to get his attention. I started to do research because of the ongoing pooping issues. We brought him to our vet and she confirmed that yes he has CCD. We tried a different pain med for his back leg problem (arthritis) and he became really ill with vomiting & bloody stools. Got him off the new medication and back on carprofen and he does much better now. He paces and drools a lot. It sometimes takes him 10-15 minutes to find his spot to lay down. We suspect he doesn’t know who we are. He’s lost or had 1/2 of his teeth pulled. We can’t take him for walks because of the arthritis. On the lighter side, he’s getting exercise with all that pacing. I’m not sure whether it’s fair to him to live this way. We just lost our other dog to a stroke a month after a vestibular disease incident.

    1. Dear Jackie,

      This sounds like a hard time for all of you. I’m sorry you are going through it. I can tell you are taking great care of him. It’s tough when the meds have side effects. Glad he is doing better. Have you looked at the quality of life ranker? It’s hard to think about, but it does give you some ways to consider things. It’s on this page, along with some other articles on the topic:

      They are under the heading, “Helpful Articles on Decision Making.”

      Take care. I know Tigger is in good hands with you. Hugs.

      1. I have a 15 year old Yorkie he a tea cup he only weighs 3 pd .he has always been at my side when I’m sick in bed he pulls his bed over to mine even though he is just two feet away from me at night .he even found my cancer in my neck years ago. He will not even let my husband in my bedroom when I m sick , God and my dog know me better than anyone. He has no teeth but back ones now he is blind and deaf , and just started keeping us up alnight ,he will go in circles for hours and run in to the same thing over and over he started having sizerars now , I just can’t lose him now , I have had to many deaths in my family in the last year. I just can’t lose my baby to. Please pray for us ty

        1. Kathy, I am so sorry. My best thoughts to you and your little soulmate. I know how agonizing it is.

  8. Thank you for this article. It’s very helpful. My dog is 16 and starting to “forget how to get back inside the house”. She does fine all day. It’s only at night. This started about a month ago. Again, Thank you for sharing your experience.

    1. You are welcome, Susan. I’m glad it was helpful. I hope you have a lot more good time left with your dog.

  9. Thanks for the stages of CCD info. My 14+ year old Chessie has had mild symptoms for at least a year or so. Recently she had her first seizure, then diagnosed a week later with pancreatitis which our vet’s prescriptions cleared up. She is on Gabapentin since then for pain. Her dementia symptoms are getting more obvious lately, and I’m guessing I’m going to have to make the decision based on her mental state more so than physical. Wishing everyone living with a CCD dog strength and comfort knowing we are making the best decisions we can and doing all the research.

    1. Thank you for the good wishes—I know tons of people here appreciate them! Same to you. I hope things go as well as possible for you and your girl.

  10. Thanks for all the information. We’ve been struggling with the night time anxiety and barking for about a year. Our little guy just turned 16. Tried so many different supplements and pills but nothing seemed to help but we got a prescription for Anipryl and it has made all the difference! Went from getting up and barking 4-5 times a night to now sleeping all the way through the night. Took about 6 weeks to see any change. He’s been on it about 2 months now. Hope this helps others seeking a solution. We also started him on salmon bites around the same tome to get him more omega.

  11. Tomorrow will be the 3rd week since I said goodbye to my beloved Sophie girl🐶.
    My fifth rescue each an only doggie.
    I am devastated. She was my first to have Cognitive Canine Dementia. The last 5 months were very hard, but I still believe I should have done more! I miss her so very much and making the decision to send her to the Rainbow Bridge aka HEAVEN, is the hardest experience in all of my 75 years!
    My saddness is so painful!
    I actually texted…I know…Saints Francis & Roch for Sophie Girl from time to time.

    1. Dear Roberta,
      I know you miss her so much. I also know she appreciates that wonderful life you gave her.


  12. Dear Eileen my dog was diagnosed about a month ago with CCD she has went down fast in the third stage I have decided to put him down Monday because I feel his quality of life has left him. He just wondering not knowing where he’s at and is disoriented most of the time. Very bad night wondering eating on and off but not normally. My very said it was time here also has Cushing’s disease. Here’s a have Russell, 12 years old
    I read most of your articles and they were very helpful. Thank you for all your knowledge. My heart is aching and broken.

    1. Dear Robert,
      I’m so sorry about your dog. I’m sorry I’m slow to answer and I guess you have probably already said goodbye to him. It sounds like you did him the ultimate kindness, but I know how bad it can feel all the same. Take care.

  13. My condolences to all bereaved. Today is the 10th week or 70th day since my beloved Sophie Girl went over the rainbow bridge to be my 5th rescue goin’ there.
    When I saw bluejays bobbing on tree brances in Sophie’s yard, suddenly I felt a tad better. I have named her the 5th color in the rainbow! She was loved and she loved unconditionally. Canine Cognitive Dimentia quantified her life but not the joy we reciprocated during the 6 years we were together. My rescue…who rescued who ..??? was aprox. 16 years old when we partd. Very hard, but joy & pain are part of the blessings!
    Best to ALL!.SAINTS FRANCIS , ROCH & Iforget the St. for felines

  14. My condolences to all bereaved. Today is the 10th week or 70th day since my beloved Sophie Girl went over the rainbow bridge to be my 5th rescue goin’ there.
    When I saw bluejays bobbing on tree brances in Sophie’s yard, suddenly I felt a tad better. I have named her the 5th color in the rainbow! She was loved and she loved unconditionally. Canine Cognitive Dimentia quantified her life but not the joy we reciprocated during the 6 years we were together. My rescue…who rescued who ..??? was aprox. 16 years old when we partd. Very hard, but joy & pain are part of the blessings!
    Best to ALL!.SAINTS FRANCIS , ROCH & Iforget the St. for felines

  15. My 13 yr old Golden, Mattie, has Dementia and is spending more and more time stressed. My vet has her on Trazadone and Melatonin at night and CBD oil and now has added Xanax. She eats and chasing her food ball around but will all of a sudden stop and get panicky looking around and trying to hide. She pants heavily at least an hour each night usually from 5-6 probably when her meds are starting to wear off. Any suggestion?No accidents in the house yet but seeing her stressed is tough. I have no idea if it is time. but I do know that the only time she seems ok is when he meds have kicked in. Is it cruel to keep her medicated all the time? She is totally healthy otherwise- all labs, etc were great. I just don’t want to be selfish but on the other hand I don’t want to so this too early.

    1. Hi Christine,
      I’m sorry Mattie has dementia. It’s especially upsetting to see our dogs frightened and stressed from this disease. I really love hearing that she still plays, though.

      This is just my opinion; I’m not a vet or a doctor. But I see nothing wrong with keeping a dog comfortable with meds. I have a dog who is on twice daily psychiatric medication. It’s for a panic disorder, not dementia. But from what I see, it helps her be comfortable and be herself.

      Have you spoken to your vet about your concerns? My vet helped me a lot about this.

      Give Mattie a treat for me. She’s so lucky to have you!


      1. Just wanted to check in and though it has been a long year we are still hanging in there- Mattie turned 14 in October. She has torn her ACL and is still on all of her meds but is still with me. We have our good days/nights and bad and when we are having a bad time and I think this is it I am calling tomorrow and then she seems to rally! I know I won’t have her much longer but am grateful for each day that we have. Best wishes and wagging tails to all! Chris and Mattie

    2. Hello, I have been reading up all info I can about doggy dementia. Your post and replies are very touching, and, and so true. My daughter maggie ,17y old westie/bichon has everything you spoke of and its killing me to think i,I ,may need to make a choice. Please help

      1. Pat, I’m so sorry about this terribly delayed reply. I haven’t been able to publish or respond to any comments for several weeks. If your dear doggie is still with you, have you checked out the Quality of Life Scale? It can help one get perspective sometimes. Other than that, keep reading, and stay in contact with your vet. And remember, canine cognitive dysfunction is a medical condition. It’s not just normal aging. It’s good to take it seriously as a debilitating condition, just like we would diabetes, with all its side effects, heart problems, etc. I wish you peace about any decision you make. I’m sure you will do right.

  16. Mattie and I are still hanging in there. Some days are better than others for sure but we are coping for now.
    She is still on all of her meds and the vet added Xanax which has seemed to help. She still pants quite a bit at night and I spend my night wearing ear plugs and sleeping with the pillow over my head with the radio on- as crazy as that sounds but it is getting me through.
    She sleeps most of the day and evening and goes to bed and sleeps until 1 or 2 and wakes up panting heavily. And still has anxious moments.
    I wish I could be more helpful but I wake up everyday wondering if this is the day and I dread that, so much.
    Good luck with your girl.

    1. Chris, those are great coping strategies. I apologize for this late response. I know a lot can transpire in 6 weeks with our seniors so I don’t know if Mattie is still with you. I hope so, and I hope you are still having good days together.

  17. Best wishes to ALL fellow DOGGIE LOVERS!
    Just thought that a term for us does NOT exist!
    So tentatively my daughter-in-law whom I love, and still grieves Brando , came up with a possibility.
    How about… DOGGOW?
    I am a Doggow for SOPHIE GIRL, over the RAINBOW BRIDGE 6 months

    1. So sorry to chime in on your alls decusions. And I love the quote “who rescued who. Such a wonderful story Sophie sounded like a very special pup. We lost my rosie she had cushions disease at 16.8 we had to make the discussion, she was passing out even on her way to the water bowl. There were other issues like COPD as well for the little min-pin. Bailey her sister has had all of the classic signs CCD it started 9 mts ago I used to work for home health so I recognized the symptoms of sundowning just like in humans. She is at the last stage now, she bit me one night while I was trying to take her thunder jacket off she had been doing circles for hours while on medication tight circles really fast so I knew she didn’t know what she was doing she was, in a trance like state. I think its very difficult to watch the decline and the change in behavior, we can manage the symptoms as parents with the guidance of a vet. But we can’t cure it..although we’ve tried to love her through it but I know it’s time to let her go. The articles and post’s have let me know my husband and I are not alone. thank you so much: may God Bless and keep your memories forever close to your heart ❤

  18. Hi. I adopted a 13+ year old dog from a rescue 8 days ago. He was neglected and abused his entire life and is severely malnourished in addition to having major neuromuscular issues. After evaluation by my vet it was determined he has severe CCD. If he is not asleep, he spends all of his time wandering aimlessly, getting stuck in corners, behind doors and furniture or stuck staring at walls. He urinates etc inside all day long. From 7 pm to 130 am he wanders and he barks literally without stopping . He also tried to bite me when I attempted to get him unstuck from staring at the wall. He has severe dental disease and this makes food and therefore meds difficult. I’m not sure what to do now. His quality of life seems so poor and my other pups are terrified of him

    1. Dear Katie,
      I’m sorry for this very late reply. You took on a dog that nobody else would, and it may have been too late to give him quality of life. I hope it wasn’t, but bless you in any case for trying. I know whatever decisions you make will be good. So sorry about this hard situation. Dementia combined with other serious medical conditions just seems so unfair. Hugs.

  19. Thank you for your kind words. We are still hanging in there. Her anxiety seems better and the meds are helping. She has now ripped her ACL and is going to therapy for that- which is also helping. Poor baby can’t catch a break!

    She still wants to play and I still get the tail wags that I so dearly love- so for now we are status quo.

    Best to all,

    1. Oh no! That’s so unfair about the ACL! I hope she’s not in pain. But even PT probably counts as enrichment.

      All in all it sounds like you’ve still got your little girl. I’m so glad.


      1. I am blessed to say that, yes, I still have my sweet buddy. And I am thankful everyday.

  20. Right now the pain is still to raw to … there a way to communicate with you more privately

  21. My sweet🐶girl went over the 🌈Bridge 7 months ago. All of the doggies in my neighborhood know I am still grieving. One named LULU , runs to me on her daily walks & rubs her scent on my lawn! SHE KNOWS! Sophie was about 16 and I was blessed to have her 6 years. Who rescued who???
    Bless YOU ALL! Sophie had CCD & failing age related issues. Prayers & BEST TO ALL OF MY DOG LOVERS!!

  22. Hi I live in Scotland and my best friend my border collie called Bracken has been with me now for 20 years I have just come across all your lovely people comments on ccd I have been thinking very strongly about having her put to sleep because she is showing major signs of what you are all described I am much happier now that I have learned a lot from your page she still gives me no indication she is ready to give up and I think after reading your page I will give her a bit more time she sleeps well at night and will always wake me to go out we do have occasional accident in house but nothing to major sorry to have went on but I am just so pleased to have found other people to speak to and I would never let her suffer as she’s been too good a friend she was diagnosed with kidney failure three years ago but I have looked after her well and I think that’s what will sadly take her in the end 😢😢😢😢

    1. Dear Lesley,
      I’m glad the comments here have helped a bit. I’m really glad Bracken (lovely name!) is still doing well. And at 20! I hope you have more happy times together.

  23. Eight months ago today, my beloved Sophie Girl went over the 🌈 Bridge. I am so sad! 🐶 was about 8 when we met and I was privileged to be her mom for 6 years. The doggies in my neighborhood are helping me , but honestly this is a sadness I has no equal in my 7 decades. Wishing YOU ALL WELL & I must admit my periods of happy memories & gratitude for Sophie are lengthening! Wishing YOU ALL THE VERY BEST WITH WISHES OF SUPPORT!

  24. Your undying love will keep sophie in happy memories always. I lost my boy jasper 1 year ago in april and I still see him watching for me from the top of my recliner. My girl maggie is doing her best with ccd and yesterday in the back yard I layed on the grass and called to her, she didn’t hear me, but she wandered closer and i knew she saw me as I was given a kiss. She bounded away turning in right hand circles . How much longer does she have ? I can only thank the lord for giving me this day.

  25. My Cricket, (Best name ever!) is a pug minpin mix who is 2 months shy of her 18th year by my side. I am here reading about this because she is in the severe stage. 😞 She thankfully has been quiet and sleeps most of the night, but if she wakes up her hackles raise and she shakes. She has stellar bloodwork and decent xrays. She won’t stop drinking obsessively, urinating constantly, pooping with abandon and walking around in it. She has the entryway of my house covered in potty pads. She paces. She gets lost. She doesn’t care about getting petted any longer and only worries about water and food. It’s breaking my heart. I also herniated a disc trying to pick her up and put her back in bed the other night. I’m at my wits end. It’s been getting progressively worse since March when I took her for labs for urinating in the house 2-5 times a week. Now it’s 2-4 times a day. I find myself crying over cleaning pee and scrubbing poop out of tile grout for hours every week. I want to keep her safe and happy but I don’t feel her happy spirit any more. I feel like it’s time but I am struggling with the decision. Thank you for this post. It makes me feel less alone.

    1. Oh Lindsay, I’m so sorry you are going through such a tough time with your dear Cricket. Wishing you peace with any decision, and sending good vibes for your back.


  26. Hello Everyone…
    My little Sparky is also struggling with CCD, I think. It has been about two years now that he has been circling and lost in the house. My vet says it is just a problem with an old dog but I know differently.
    Sparky started swelling inside the house frequently when I was not home just down the hall at work. I took him to work with me and he would just sleep under the desk. Employer and health Department did not Go along with this idea. I tried using a belly band for him but it stayed wet all the time because who was quite incontinent. I discovered that you could make belly bands from kids diapers by cutting off baby elastic on the sides and placing them around his belly rather than over his tail. This is working wonders for my carpets! He still has a bowel movement every night during sleep and usually one during the day but it is pretty dry and easily taken care of. I also put a disposable bed pad under him at night to make sure he doesn’t soil his bed.
    Thought I would share this idea with you because it has worked so well for us. Blessings to you all and your senior fur babies!

    1. I have a 11.5 year old Australian shepherd her name is Boo. The past few months her behavior has changed a lot. She pants heavily at times for no reason, her eyes get big like when she hears fireworks but no fireworks, im guessing anxiety, she walks in front of me and lays in front of me when im vacuuming or cleaning when she would avoid the vacuum before. Every day we go for a 3 to 4 mile walk and in the past she would be kinda wiped out from it and just hang out the rest of the night, now if she dosent refuse to come in the house she follows me around whining to be let outside and then she just lays there. More recently she refuses to come in the house, sometimes flops down in the driveway and i have to pick her up to get her in. A few weeks ago we were at the vet and tried to talk about the possibility of dimentia and the vet didnt seem to want to talk about it because as she said there isnt anything you can do about it anyways. Vet says she is healthy as a horse, and her recent change in behavior is because aussies are smart and she is being stubborn to get what she wants. I think its more than that when i see her eyes wide and paniced looking for no reason, panting and sometimes shaking. Any advice beside stay patient?

  27. My little Coton boy – Frosty- is 16.5 years old and was dx with CCD at age 14. He is on 30mg of selegeline and Xanax nightly and sometimes a half pill in the day. He has lost a lot of weight and paces and gets stuck constantly. But in between these things he is very relaxed and happy. He is in diapers and we clean up after him daily.
    However we realize we are close to the end, he is very fragile and startles at a lot of sounds. We do a quality of life assessment of him every month to ensure we are doing what’s best for him and have frequent discussions with his vet.
    He has been a wonderful family member and we will be heartbroken to have to decide when it’s time. But I am very happy that we have been able to manage this for 2.5 years. It has made us very appreciative of his good days. We just have this one last, but very difficult, period to go through that honestly we are dreading.

  28. Our beautiful boy King Kenny 14 yr old jack.the love of my life is showing signs .. no more rambling thru the forest as he startles and runs fear if losing him ..closer shorter walks in familiar places now some wetting inside and staring confused moments also from fiesty tough boy to scared of his brother and sister..he was the boss for so long ..we don’t care about accidents but tonight I popped out for 5 mins came back to terrible howling ..

    1. Nicky, I’m so sorry. I know how hard the whole thing is. I hope you can talk to your vet about King Kenny.

      Take care,

  29. 🌈🐶 Circa 17 months ago, my SOPHIE girl went to heaven. She was my 5th blessed companion in 40 years.
    Sophie was my first baby with
    CCD ,aka Cruel, Canine , Dementia.
    I chose euthanasia for the first time & I believe that is why I grieve so long!
    I have 2 grand doggies, and neighborhood dogs seem to know I need their pets and licks!
    Bless YOU ALL,

  30. Hi – I have a 13 1/2 year old mix, Baxter, who went in for a physical about a month ago and everything was “normal”, no bloodwork was done and he seemed to me that he was having vision problems. I took him to a doggie eye doctor who said his eyes were healthy although he did have age related changes and they suspected CCD. This problem came on rather quickly. At first i thought he may have had a mild stroke, but now he is getting “stuck” in corners, etc. My question is – can CCD come on rather rapidly? We didn’t notice any changes in him and then all of a sudden we noticed and seems to be getting progressively worse.
    I so thank you for an answer to this! I can’t find one anywhere and I am already looking for vets to come to the house for him.
    Thank you again

    1. Hi Roxanna,
      I wish I could answer that! But only a vet can really answer your questions. I will share with you that a couple other people over the years have described sudden onset, though. Hugs to you, and I’m sorry not to be more help.

  31. ROXANNA & EILEEN, Roberta here.
    There is a reason our BEST FRIENDS deserve the title of “BFs”.
    Always in our hearts. The MOST difficult of all was my caring for SOPHIE GIRL🐶
    on her journey with CCD prior over the
    🌈 bridge. Sophie shitzu mix was an adult when she came to us. We were privileged to have her 6 years. She was our 5th doggie gracing us at our ages of 38-77. ALMOST 40 YEARS OF DOGGIE LOVE! We are sans BFs now. My heart is slowly healing! & I AM BIG TIME LYING!

  32. Thank you for sharing this. My Lazy who is a 12 1/2 year old cairn terrier mix, has been displaying signs of, not knowing who we are, walking aimlessly throughout the day and night, sits either staring at the wall or me, been going to the bathroom inside, doesn’t know how to get from behind the couch. I don’t want him to suffer, i know it’s not fair to him.

  33. Hello Melissa… its sounds early stage & our babies are not hurting though. I Truely Do know how your Feeling & I am Sorry not easy to see! We Love our Babies!…
    My Darling Sofeeyia Over 14 year now… showing sign of Dementia…took her to Vet…yes she is slightly developing Dementia…but Also going blind which has Similar Symptoms!
    It breaks my heart see My Sofeeyia wen she gets in that state!

    Per my Veterinarian ” keep thier brain simulated in taking short walks close to the same time every day. Play with…& talking, there are puzzles Also to help Simulate thier lil brains”
    Yes our Babies will have accidents on the carpet…but thier fault! When I see My Sofeeyia pacing I distract so she snaps out of it! I had to block half if my dining table My Sofeeyia would .not know how to get out from behind it!
    Melissa As long as they are eating, playing & most of the percent of the day without symptoms… still have “quality of life in them” we just need to Love them as we do & lots n lots of Patience!

    You will just know in your heart!…

    God Bless you & your Barbie🙏❤🙏

  34. It’s so heartbreaking there hasn’t been more advances in dementia for either dogs or humans. My Meisha has been through the ringer in the 8 years she has been my child, she came to me heartworm positive and had no problems with the treatment. Yay! Then came an ACL tear we treated only with acupuncture, successfully treated with 11 sessions. Yay! Then her toenails started sloughing off, onychodystrophy, successfully treated. Yay! During a routine physical the vet found a swelling in her abdomen, emergency surgery for an enlarged spleen that was about to rupture. Pathology came back benign. Again, tragedy avoided, Yay!! Then the bomb dropped…cancer. The vet found a lump in the roof of her mouth, did a biopsy and CT. The mass was most likely malignant and not a surgical candidate. She is the best dog I’ve ever had and I was not giving up on her. After radiosurgery and numerous supplements, the cancer was miraculously gone!! Yay!!! Because the tumor shrunk and left a hole in her mouth connecting to her sinuses, she could not eat or drink as it would just get sneezed out through her nose. So, the vet put in a feeding tube and she was doing great and enjoying life. She has overcome so much but ultimately it is dementia that will be the end. I am beyond devastation and don’t know when to say enough is enough. She still tells me when she has to out to potty, even though sometimes doesn’t quite make it. She had an appt last week for euthanasia but I couldn’t go through with it. Any advice to put my mind at ease when that day comes?

    1. Oh Susan, Meisha has been through a lot but what a fabulous caregiver you are to have brought her through it all?

      The thing that helped me was to take dementia seriously as the debilitating condition that it is. I didn’t wait until Cricket was at rock bottom, and I have gotten some criticism for that. But I did euthanize her when it was clear that she was headed for rock bottom. There weren’t going to be any more good days, just going from barely OK to worse. My thought was that it was a kindness not to make her stay around for that just because I would miss her so badly when she was gone.

      Only you can decide when it is time, but I hope you can have peace with your decision, however you make it.


  35. Hi All – I sit here in tears from reading these posts & because of my own dilemma. I ‘m hoping someone can help. Our 18.5 yr. old daughter, Suzy, won’t eat from her bowl anymore. She has dental issues but will eat the cat’s food, treats, & when hand fed – piece by piece. We know she’s in the final stages of her dementia, but this is new. (I’m retired now & stay home as much as possible, however my health is such that I can’t hand feed her all the time.) Is it a spacial thing or something else? Thank you all for loving your babies as much as you do. They really ARE our children, aren’t they?

    1. Hi Rebecca,
      I’m so so sorry you are going through this with your baby. I am not a vet or dog expert, just someone whose dog experienced this. My dog “forgot” how to drink water, but not how to eat, so I made her meals into soup. That’s kind of the opposite problem, though. Can Suzy bite her food at all, or will she just not put her head into the bowl in the first place? Sometimes it helps to build a mound of food, or to use something sticky so the food will stay in her mouth if she does take a bite. Do you think it helps when the food is smelly (I’m thinking about the cat food.)

      Have you talked to your vet?

      Again, I’m so sorry. There are a lot of people here who understand the pain of what you are going through with dear Suzy.


  36. Thank you Eileen,

    The tower idea is great! All of our kids eat dry food, so although my nose doesn’t a big difference in scent, hers might. If the tower doesn’t appeal to her, I’ll try mixing in with wet food. I’ll let you know if either methods work.

    Our vet is about as interested in addressing CCD as one poor mommy’s was in another post I read here. I wanted to tell that woman to find another vet, but out here where we live, in the Ozarks, good “pet” vets are few & far between. They seem to be more focused on livestock & horses. I shudder to think of how many times I’ve heard, “They shoot horses, don’t they?” Which is why your site is such a blessing & I truly appreciate all the hope you’ve given to so many.

    My pain is inconsequential – Suzy’s & her quality of life are all that matter to us.
    Thank you again,

  37. My 14 year old pug mix Max was diagnosed with CCD nearly two years ago. He has gone through all of the stages you described and is very obviously in the severe stage. He’s been having urine accidents for quite sometime, but the last couple months he’s also been pooping in the house. He also just stands and pees on his feet or after he pees just walks right through it. Lately I’ve noticed that he’s been crying in his sleep. He’s completely deaf now and has limited eyesight. He takes gabapentin for the arthritis pain in his back legs. Over the last 4-5 months he’s lost quite a bit of weight (he was a little overweight) and his spine toward the bottom of his back is a little raised. His heart is still strong and he seems to be trudging along, but I worry about his quality of life. Is it time to put him down?

    1. Tina,
      That’s a question that none of us can answer for you, but you can read the stories here and sometimes they can help you get some perspective. Also, if you haven’t, check out the Quality of Life scales on the When to Say Goodbye page.

      I’m sorry you are having to make this decision. This disease can be such a tragedy. A lot of people here understand.


  38. Am experiencing this now, with our first dog. I have had a few dogs in my life (parents dogs) but this was my/our first family dog with wife and son. It all seemed to start like this: Sometimes he wouldnt listen, like he counldnt hear at all, then he seemed like he couldnt see at times, he used to always sleep with me, now rarely, he was always up on couch or bed but now he seems reluctant to jump up (he misses a lot), he wanders, stares into space, runs into every day objects, drools (never did he’s a Beagle), accidents on floor started too (need to be awake when he wakes because he is out of it for the most part and seems unaware of his location), of course at first we were not happy, but when saying he was bad he looked like he didnt understand (luckily this only happened where we told him he was bad like 3x – feel guilty cuzz HE IS NOT BAD) he is/was the best acting pooch I have ever had in my life, not a barker, only to alert, never messed in house even if we had an emergency and had to be gone for 8-10 hrs, only once in over 10 years did he leave yard, all around great pet/friend/family member. Loved going fishing and riding in vehicle, good little fella. I am trying my hardest to make everything as comfortable as possible because his disorientation gets so bad it cant be good, I see a look in his face that is bewilderment and fear, it cant be good. This doesnt happen a lot but we have a couple months before snow melts and I can get him outside to see how he acts on leash etc and decide how to handle this. It’s not easy, I even told family I didnt want a dog because the pain of loss really hurts me. I hate people in general so I love my pets extra, it’s rough. He was a rescue from the pound, we have been friends for 10+ years, he is approximately 13-14 says vet…. Sad

    1. Joe,
      I’m so sorry. Your love for him sure shines through. I hope for many more good days for you and your little fella.


  39. I recently just lost my 190lb English mastiff to cancer he was 9yrs old I also have my 18yr old toy poodle who has dramatically changed I think sometimes he doesn’t know who iam wonders around all night stares at nothing doesn’t play anymore and growls and barks at nothing I call him and he doesn’t seem to hear me what do I do im not ready to let him go

    1. I’m sorry for your loss and now the sad and difficult situation with your poodle. Have you talked to your vet about his symptoms?

      Best thoughts. I am so sorry for this double heartbreak.


  40. Well we went to vet yesterday for an appointment to let my boy go…. Issues at vet

    I will never ever ever ever ever go to Roscommon Vetrinary Clinic @ 116 Lake St, Roscommon, MI 48653 ever again. My boy is currently home and we are going to another Vet in another town….

    Lets just say they showed 100% they dont care….

    I dont want to do this but I cannot see my little boy all wrapped up in protective gear and diapers, which would not help him enjoy life just keep vet bills down, satisfy a selfish heart and he doesnt know where he is at 90%+ of the time, thats no life for a dog and he is only getting worse so I have to let him go but I so dont want too….

  41. Today is the day we are taking our 14 year old mini schnauzer Griff in for his Euthanasia. It was a tough decision.
    He started showing the symptoms of dementia closer to 3 years ago – forgetting potty cues and and going in the house. Forgetting tricks and commands.
    Cut to a year ago he would still look up at us sometimes with recognition, but he’d pace in circles a lot. Add to that he was developing arthritis, his heart murmur was getting worse.
    We made our decision a week ago. With the dementia he’d pace the house, and with the arthritis he’d fall. His meds weren’t effective, and the ones that could have been effective couldn’t be prescribed due to liver and kidney issues. We came home to him on the floor of our bedroom, the one place we felt safe keeping him when we left. He had fallen, gotten trapped, and had laid trapped for who knows how long. He was shaking, vocalizing, and covered in drool – which is how we knew he’d been like that a while.
    He no longer has a stable walk. His pacing and instability guarantees he will fall every day, even on carpet. His fortgetfullness of potty cues leads him to potty indoors, walk though it, slip in it and fall…and the stiffness and weakness in his legs causes him to just lay there…trapped in his own mess – if we’re not home to help him.
    His only remaining joy is food. He has forgotten how to eat it the right way, drops it all the time, or sometimes forgets he has it in front of him…but he still eats with gusto…even when his back legs give out during his meal.
    He no longer plays, no longer greets, sometimes I’m not even sure he recognizes me – It doesn’t seem like he looks at anything with recognition anymore. If I had to describe my dogs life right now, I’d say he just exists. That’s really not a life.
    I made myself watch videos of him from a year ago, two years ago, and three years ago. When you see them everyday, it’s harder to really see just how bad they’ve gotten. But when you have video evidence of them enjoying life a year ago, even during old age, and you can see the differences in what just a year can make…the realization of how far they’ve deteriorated smacks you in the face.
    This weekend we took him to see our family. Invited friends over to see him and say their goodbyes. They all brought treats and love. This morning he will have bacon for breakfast – his favorite food since the day he came into our lives.

    And a little after noon, we will take him to the vet to sleep. And I hope where he goes next has lots of squirrels for chasing, because he hasn’t gotten to do that in soo long.

    1. What a lovely tribute to Griff and your love for him. I’m so sorry for your loss. Thank you for writing.

  42. OZZY My mix Pomeranian/American eskimo is more than 17 years old and started developing dementia a year ago , he is been deaf for about 3 years , sleeps most of the day time and walks in circles around the dinner table or kitchen so fast , while walking he makes stops to eat and drink water and then continues speed walking and the after a few minutes he starts barking and trying to puke his latest meal.
    Some times he just stares at nothing or goes to a corner and stares at that corner , normally he poops while walking in circles and steps on the poop and makes a mess , right now he is using diapers (baby diapers size 3 with a dog diaper wrapped together)
    I really don’t want to let him go yet since he is not suffering ” I think” but once he starts to show pain or his life deteriorating then I will have to stop been selfish and let him sleep , it makes me sad just to think about , he is older than my two youngest kids , he is my kids as well , he is a tough boy .

    1. Nelson,
      This sounds so hard. My little Cricket did the walking round in the poop thing, too. It sounds like you have worked out a clever diaper solution. I’m sorry you are having to think about this decision. It is such a hard one. I wish you many more good days with your dog.


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