Symptoms of Dementia in Dogs

Types of Dementia Symptoms in Dogs

There are many behavior changes in your dog that can be signs of canine cognitive dysfunction (dementia in dogs or “doggie Alzheimer’s”). These are the types of symptoms you may see:

Changes in social interactions
Sleep disorders
Loss of house training
Changes in activity level
Memory loss
Inability to learn

Specific Dementia Symptoms in Dogs

Here are some of the specific symptoms of canine cognitive dysfunction :

  • Pacing back and forth or in circles (often turning consistently in one direction)
  • Terrier with dementia standing with head under chairGetting lost in familiar places
  • Staring into space or walls
  • Walking into corners or other tight spaces and staying there
  • Appearing lost or confused
  • Waiting at the “hinge” side of the door to go out
  • Failing to get out of the way when someone opens a door
  • Failing to remember routines, or starting them and getting only partway through
  • Barking for no apparent reason and/or for long periods
  • Ceasing to bark when the dog used to be very noisy
  • Forgetting cues and trained behaviors she once knew
  • Exhibiting motor difficulties like difficulty backing up (aside from physical problems)
  • Startling easily
  • Getting less enthusiastic about toys or stopping playing altogether
  • Performing repetitive behaviors
  • Having trouble with eating or drinking (finding the bowls, aiming the mouth, keeping food in mouth)
  • Losing appetitePhoto shows 4 different dog dementia symptoms: the dog standing with her head in the corner, wedged in a tight space, and two photos where she is perched sitting in odd places
  • Failing to respond to her name
  • Having difficulty getting all the way into bed
  • Trembling for seemingly no reason
  • Falling off things
  • Getting trapped under or behind furniture
  • Sleeping more during the day and less at night
  • Forgetting house training
  • Having difficulty learning anything new
  • Seeking attention less; getting withdrawn
  • Acting frightened of people she once knew
  • Having trouble with stairs
  • Getting generally more fearful and anxious


Copyright Eileen Anderson 2015

This symptom list was carefully researched and professionally edited. It is under copyright, both on this page and on the printable PDF. Please don’t copy and paste the list or parts of it into blog posts, articles, or other documents. That’s a violation of copyright. Instead, please link to one of the versions at this website.  

Sources of the information on this page can be found on this symptoms reference list.


  1. Brooke J White says:

    My pekingese was a rescue and he must be at least 15 years old as we’ve had him for 14. He’s never been “high energy” – but he’s exhibiting all the symptoms. How long can a dog live with dementia? He is still very enthusiastic about eating but he seems to forget he already ate a lot of the time. I think his hearing and vision are also impaired but the behavior ticks all the boxes for dementia. He spends all his time in my husband’s home office but my husband is traveling and the dog seems more disoriented than usual. We just can’t figure out what sort of time we are looking at for his remaining days. He sleeps 90% of the time and it’s been that way for the past year or so.

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      It’s really hard to know about the time. I know that one of the studies says that dogs are generally considerably worse in a year, but that doesn’t mean the end. My Cricket lived a good life for two years after her diagnosis, and probably had dementia before she was diagnosed. Have you talked to the vet?Good luck with your little fellow.

  2. Kellye says:

    My almost 16 year old English cocker is hearing impaired. She has ccd and has become a bit aggressive with giving her food and startling…i understand all that
    She thinks I have food in my hand ALL the time…that is strange to me

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Hi Kellye,
      I’ve never heard of that peculiarity before. But anything can happen when things start going wrong in the brain, I guess.. I hope you still have some good days with your cocker.

  3. My dog is pacing a lot, has been house trained for years and now goes in the house, what can I do to make it easier for him? Very limited hearing and does not see well either, hes about 16 yrs old, I just feel helpless on what to do.

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Hi Karen,
      Have you been to the vet about this, to make sure what is going on and to discuss any treatment options? Losing house training is a common symptom of dementia, but it can be connected to other things as well.

      When my little dog lost her house training, I made her a room in the house where she couldn’t get stuck or run into things but which was also easy to clean up. Lots of little rugs, bathmats, and yoga mats, and a little cache of the cleaning supplies I needed most often. And I took her outside a lot. that didn’t guarantee she wouldn’t go inside as well, of course, but it helped with the quantities, I think. Good luck, Karen.

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