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  • Seeking attention less; getting withdrawn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. My 14 year old western has been diagnosed with dog dementia and just recently when in the garden has started walking into the plants chairs table or trees she seems very disoriented like she doesn’t know they are there. Her sight is OK she manages indoors only bumping in to corners. We now have to be with her constantly in the garden. It is frightening for us so it must be for her my poor baby

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      I’m so sorry, Lesley. She may adjust to it better than you think. But bless you for loving and caring for her so well.

      • Kathy says:

        I have two dogs going through this atm, one is 18 and other is 15. Hate seeing them like this. My Springer Teal has adjusted well. My wee jrt Tobys is more recent and he seems a lot worse. It’s Heart breaking. Wish I could take it away from them. Toby seems to be really struggling with it all, whereas Teal just sleeps a lot x

        • Eileen Anderson says:

          I’m sorry you are going through this with your two seniors. I sure know what you mean about making it all go away. It’s so unfair. Take care of yourself–I know you are taking great care of your dogs.


  2. Donna says:

    Eileen, I’m selfish. I can’t let her go. I’m up all night with her, so she doesn’t wake the rest of the house. I hand feed her and bring her to the water bowl. I hold her for hours, trying to keep her calm. (sometimes it works) My room mate & I have had many discussions with the vet. She is a little over 20 years old, blind, deaf and has kidney disease. She is a mini dachshund. Her last bloodwork in April, showed all her numbers stable. She has had CCD for over 2 years now. She doesn’t appear to be in pain. I’m noticing, the last day or 2 she is only sleeping 1 to 2 hours at a time, whereas she would sleep 4 to 6 hours at a time. How much worse will it get? Do I kill my little girl because she is an inconvenience?

    • Joe says:

      I am so sorry about your dog. I just don’t think she is happy at this point. Ultimately, isn’t it about her quality of life? I don’t know what I would do in your situation.

  3. Heather says:

    I have read though much of this. Our 14.5 year old Chihuahua is exhibiting signs of something. He startles and gets scared when I cough. He will shake and run away. He is spending time alone in his crate, which he never used to do. We had to put down his big sister earlier this year. However, he just started to act this way less than a week ago. We have him scheduled to see his vet. Wondering if it might be early stages of CCD. He still eats and appears fine, otherwise.

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Dear Heather,
      I’m so glad you made plans to take your chi to the vet. Let us know what the vet says. I hope you can find out what is going on. Most important, I hope your little guy has a lot of good time left.


  4. Anja says:

    Thank you for the clarity Eileen. I’m afraid my old boy, 17 yrs old mix, is going through this, and there might be other problems, but at this age I’m not gonna make him suffer by dragging him into the vet’s office for tests, because it’s very likely, seen his age, there isn’t much I can do for him anymore. He all of the sudden started pulling the leash, thinking he has to pee, but then doesn’t and comes back next to me to repeat the same behavior a few steps further. He’s also drinking a lot, he’s blind on one eye, deaf, and he’s got tremors and often seems disoriented indeed. It hurts me and deep inside I feel he’s walking his last miles so to speak. I definitely go for the quality of his life, which means I’m not going to let him suffer. He still enjoys his meals, drinks and cookies and belly rubs as well 🙂 He sleeps a lot. So it’s border line… I might go take him to the vet next week (Friday here) to have his heart and lungs checked out and ask the vet’s opinion. Certainly wish he could be with me for many more years, but yet we have to face the fact as well that no life on earth lasts forever. All I can do now is make him feel as comfortable as possible. My heart cries. He’s not my first dog or so, so I know and sense when the end has come near. Yikes… Gonna stop writing before I start crying. Thank you for your great work!

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Dear Anja,
      I’m so sorry you are having to get ready to say goodbye. I really like how you wrote about it, though, and it’s so clear you have your boy’s best interest at heart, front and center. I’m glad you’re going to talk to your vet. Take care, and give your fellow a cookie from me.


  5. Michele says:

    Hi I’ve had my Chihuahua For 15 years I rescue her off the streets so she could be about 16/17 years old for the past 2 months she’s been showing signs of doggy Dementia. Took her to the vet blood work came back fine everything looks good with her health it’s just the pacing in circles for hours. I have some good days and then bad days I don’t know what to do she eats and I help her drink water cause she’s blind so she needs me help it’s the circling that’s making me scared how long can a dog circle for will they get tired and go to sleep?

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Michele, I know it’s a month since you commented, so anything can have happened in this time. Dogs seem to be able to pace and circle for very long periods if they are physically capable. If your Chi is still with you, you could ask your vet about safe drugs to help. Take care, and I’m so sorry I took so long to respond.

  6. Marcie Rogers says:

    My sweet Maggie is 17 1/2. Maggie is experiencing pacing, walking into tight places she had never gone before and standing there, she stops and is having tremors and practically falling over. As I write this she is continually pacing going back and forth in the same direction. And she just stopped and tremor. What could this be is it a brain tumor, dementia or old age. Me and my husband hand feed her, snuggle her, anything we can do to make her comfortable and safe. I don’t want to make the choice of letting her go. Can this go away on its own will she go away on her own. How long does this last. It’s ripping our hearts out 😭

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Dear Marcie,
      First, I am so sorry that Maggie and you and your husband are going through this. Also, I’m so sorry for the delay in responding. I know time is of the essence with this type of problem, but sometimes I get behind on responding to everybody. If she is still with you, be sure and check with your vet. We can’t diagnose those kinds of problems ourselves. If it is CCD, it can last a long time, but usually people choose to ease their dog out of this world if they seem to be suffering. Hugs to you.

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