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:

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

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  • Seeking attention less; getting withdrawn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.

373 Comments

  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.

  4. Stephanie Garrett says:

    My 12 1/2 year old Pie Bald dachshund has taken to groaning &/or cooing (like a pigeon). He doesn’t seem to be in pain though; could it be dementia?

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Hi Stephanie,
      I really don’t know. Changes in barking habits are on the symptoms list, but I don’t know about other vocalizations. Have you checked with your vet on this? Sorry I don’t have a better answer.

  5. Andy says:

    Hi, I have a 14 year old rescue Jack Russel who has most of the symptoms. Unlike your dog he hasn’t forgotten to drink but seems to have forgotten to Stop drinking! As he has lost his house training this has become a real problem. Do you know of anyone experiencing a similar problem that has restricted the amount of water available?

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Hi Andy,
      I could see where that would be a real problem! Since that can be a symptom of other medical conditions, I would recommend a trip to the vet. If it turns out to be behavioral, that is, there is no underlying medical condition, ask your vet about whether it’s OK to restrict water and how to do so. It can be tricky and we don’t want your old fellow to get dehydrated. Good luck! In the meantime, you can experiment with a belly band or diapers, but they have to be changed often.

  6. My dog 10 year old jack russell has suddenly started protecting his food, this happens mostly in the evening, he will stay in his bed and i can hear him growling or barking to himself. My son brings his younger Jack Russell up who eats husvgood. Wondering if there is a connection

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Christine, I hope you can see your vet about that. Any kind of odd behavior change like that can happen from different kinds of medical conditions. This includes dementia but some others, too.

      Good luck. That must be distressing.

      Eileen

  7. Samantha says:

    We are dealing with this with our 15 1/2 year old JR/Yorkie mix and it is breaking my heart. He has his good days and his bad days. Tonight is one of his bad days. He is just walking aimlessly around the house and nothing we do for him helps on his evenings like this. In the last year his hearing has declined as well as his vision.

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Hi Samantha,
      I’m so sorry you are going through this with your terrier. It sounds like you have been to the vet about this. I hope you still have some good times with your fellow. Take care,

      Eileen

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