Images of Dementia in Dogs

These videos and photos of my dog with canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD) have prompted thanks from hundreds of dog owners who thought something was little “off” with their dog but didn’t know about the disease.

If your dog is showing any of these symptoms, you should take him or her to the vet right away. CCD is treatable, but there are also other diseases that can cause similar symptoms. You need to know what you and your dog are dealing with.

Video: What Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Can Look Like

This video shows different behaviors that are typical of canine cognitive dysfunction. They include the dog getting stuck behind things; forgetting what she is doing and (poignantly) repeatedly greeting her human after she forgets where she was; getting confused about the door; and circling.

Video: Dog Turning Circles

A video that shows both subtle and more obvious circling behaviors.

Photos: Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Gallery

My little Cricket lived for a long time with dog dementia. Besides the classic standing in corners and staring at walls, she often just stopped in strange positions and zoned out. She especially couldn’t get in dog beds correctly and would stop and rest in very strange positions sometimes.

182 Comments

  1. Rose from Utah says:

    Well,where to start to “just” contribute to this website in hopes to help others.
    BARBIE , Shiba (4/10/2001): My worries with her started in January 2017. I dropped her off and her late brother for a routine scheduled dental cleaning. To my horror, I get a phone call a couple of hours later telling me both dogs have abnormal labs and they can’t clean their teeth. Not making enough RBC for her (other issues for Kenny). The vet tells me that she has cancer and to make her comfortable or to consider putting her to sleep. I’m a very protective pet parent and I ask a lot of questions. To complicate things almost like a switch a little after her 16th birthday she no longer is interested in playing with us or into toys or running around the house like she’s still a puppy. She starts exhibiting all the classic signs of canine dementia: withdrawn, anxious, not sleeping through the night, pacing, getting stuck in corners, behind furniture, chewing on door hinges, starring into space, accidents, etc. The vet gives her Selegiline, she has me try different specialty brain food and we switch her to that. We start adding salmon oil to her food and drops of vitamins with iiron. We take her once a month until I want to do more and the vet tells me to put her down.
    I asked her many times if she could have something else other than cancer (besides the obvious dog dementia). She tells me no but I insist to refer me to a specialist. I do my own research in my area and I take Barbie to a vet oncologist. They do a bone marrow aspirate and she does not have cancer, so I’m referred to an internal medicine vet. It’s been almost a year since Dr. Thompson has been seeing Barbie every week to check her labs and check up on her. Over the course of these visits Barbie takes Melotonin (so she can relax and sleep at night and I can too), Cyclosporine (it suppresses her immune system since it’s unknown why her RBC count is low), Xanax (1/2 a tablet in the morning and at night) this helps reduce her pacing/anxiety), weekly B12 injection, and her new medication weekly injection Aranesp (man-made protein that helps produce RBC).
    On top of that I sleep in the family room where she also sleeps to make sure she doesn’t get into trouble at night. We have Barbie-proofed our house with gates everywhere, all the kitchen chairs are in the formal dining room (where is blocked off by two retractable gates. Her food & water bowl is about a foot or so away from the wall (to allow her to circle it, otherwise she steps on it). We have over 30 pillows that are lined up on the wall and in front of the entertainment center and fireplace. The end tables are also in the formal dining room (she was getting stuck under chairs and table legs. All doors on the main floor are always closed for her protection.
    I mention all this because I think it’s important to mention what it entails to keep a dog with dementia safe and what works for me may help someone else. She still eats and drinks on her own and still loves to find treats and loves peanut butter since that’s how we get her to eat/swallow her medications. I love websites like this one that give pet parents options and a way to share stories/tips— every little bit helps. I’m 100% committed to giving Barbie the life she was meant to have. And the way I see her condition, is no different than if I was talking about my mother or husband— I WOULD CERTAINLY NOT PUT THEM DOWN BECAUSE OF DEMENTIA ALONE. Oh yeah, I forgot, she sports diapers that have to be changed a few times a day (she looks cute but with diapers, also comes daily hiney washings). I think I’ve tried every diaper made in the U.S., I LOVE the brand VET’S BEST.

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Dear Rose,
      Thank you so much for sharing how you care for your dog. You did a great job being persistent about her medical condition.

      We all have different experiences and your decisions are coming out of yours and mine are coming from mine. I would possibly euthanize a dog because of dementia alone, because I’ve seen how far it can go. I would never do it for my own convenience or because of preconceptions about it. One of the messages I try to get across in my book is that the dogs are often NOT suffering even though their behavior may be odd to us, and that there are many things we can do to enrich their lives. But you could say that I did euthanize my dog Cricket “for dementia.” She started having seizures. She was already very very frail. I was completely good with continuing to care for her, but I felt like her quality of life had turned way down and it was only a matter of time–days probably–before she would be miserable. I didn’t want to wait for that.

      Again, thanks for your comment, and I really think we are on the same page about this. Everybody who comes here loves their dog, that’s for sure, and sometimes the decisions are harder than others.

    • Renee says:

      My dog has dimentia he keeps going to the back door then back in living room he does that quite a lot do they do a lot of standing

  2. Pam Young says:

    I just had the diagnosis for my 14yrvold Hungarian Puli Freddie. He is in the early stages. He gets ‘lost’ in the garden, stands by open doors waiting to come in, he has ‘eaten’ the concrete edges of the fire place. He wasn’t sleeping so I have him on Naturvet Quiet Moments. He eats and drinks and he still knows me but this week I noticed if I leave the room even if someone is still with him he starts to bark. He sleeps most of the day and it’s difficult to wake him up. He paces rather than circles and when he lays gown he claws the floor constantly till he falls asleep. He still knows to go out and when to come for his treats. He has cataracts but the vet has advised not to have them done so he has eye drops several times a day. I wonder about his quality of life. I want him to see his birthday maybe even Christmas but I ask myself every day is he happy or do I just tell myself he is as I can’t bear to say goodbye.

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Dear Pam,
      You are in a similar position to so many of us. I’m sorry you are in this hard time. Did you take a look at the links in the “When To Say Goodbye” page about assessing quality of life. I think the different items they have you consider are good to think about. I’m sure you will make the right decision for Freddie; it’s clear you love him so much.

  3. Tammy Murphy says:

    My 7 lbs Yorkie was bitten by a Brown Recluse Spider. It was touch and go for 2 days, but he is recovering now. His wound and labs are great but his behavior is bizarre. He paces, stands in corners or right next to something with his head down. He has done some head pressing, but mostly just standing in the corner with his head down. He sounds like he has dog dementia but he’s only 4 years old. Any ideas? PTSD? Anxiety?

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Tammy, I wish I could help, but that’s a medical question, it sounds like. If it helps to know, I haven’t heard of dementia that early. But there are other conditions that can cause those symptoms. I hope you can keep after your vet for more help, or consider another vet. Sorry this is happening! How spooky to ge this from a spider bite. Brown recluses have serious bits.

  4. Cheri says:

    Hi Eileen,

    Cooper my foster fur baby is 14yrs old, deaf and blind. Two weeks ago he was diagnosed with dementia. Cooper needs my assistance when doing most things, so am wondering, what will be my sign, that it’s just too much. He has severe arthritis in his back, so he is on pain meds for that, and I give him trazadone to help with sleep. He is off and on with eating, but thankfully has not lost any weight. His quality of life is better now that he is on medication, at least I think it is, he may say something different if he could. 😉 Do you have any suggestions?

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Dear Cheri,
      I would be keeping close tabs on the pain. But also, dementia is a real illness, like diabetes or heart trouble, and can degrade quality of life. For me, Cricket didn’t give me a sign she was ready or anything like that (I don’t think dogs always or even often do that), but she was getting more and more frail. She had a seizure, and even though she was still eating OK and could walk and knew me, I made the decision then, before she took that final downturn. Not everyone agrees with that but I feel like I did the right thing. (It still felt awful, but there is no helping that.) There are lots of stories in the comments here, and in my book I include the stories of two other people and how they decided when it was time to let their dogs go. Also, if you haven’t looked at the Quality of Life Scale (linked on the “When to Say Goodbye” page, do take a look. It can help sometimes. Take care. I know how hard it is.

  5. Debbie Geideman says:

    Our dog Brittany a Bull Mastiff had a bump removed from the top of her head on Monday 8/27. Surgery went well, the bump was benign, she was very wobbly when we brought her home. The vet gave us an antibiotic and a pain pill. Brittany seemed to be getting better then on Wednesday of that week we noticed a change in her.,, she was pacing, wandering at night, standing in the corner… we took her back to the vet , she was examined, blood work taken. The blood work came back fine…. so we were told to keep giving her the pain Meds… today she is still circling, pacing, hind legs giving out, not eating, we hand feed her… she takes very little… has trouble going up and down steps, sometimes responds to her name… etc

    I looked at your checklist… and Brittany has about 95% of those symptoms listed. I believe she had this before the surgery and we just didn’t notice it and I believe the anesthesia made it worse….Is that possible…. she is not the same dog…. she doesn’t greet us, doesn’t play with her toys, doesn’t want her treats…etc

    I’m heartbroken to see her like this.. I will be taking her to the vet today so they can see the change in her. I don’t want to put her down but I don’t want her to live like this either. Suggestions?

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Dear Debbie,

      You are already doing the best thing by taking her to the vet. What did they say? I have heard of this from one or two other people—onset of symptoms after surgery—but I haven’t seen any research about it. If she were my dog I would certainly want to wait a period after she is off the meds to see how she is doing. I hope things turn better for Brittany and for you.

  6. My 12 yr. Maltese was diagnosed last year with dementia. Recently, I noticed that when she eats her dry food, she has been very messy. She eats but pushes the bowl around…I have it in corner. She has always been a “delicate eater. Someone told me it could be her eye sight. Any ideas?

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Difficulties eating are pretty typical with dogs with dementia, although you are right that there could be another reason. Have you tried any kind of bowl holder or elevator? Just be careful of the wire ones that she could get a foot stuck in. Good that you have it in a corner. Good luck!

  7. Mary Deeter says:

    Thank you for this information. We were beginning to wonder about our 14 year old pomeranian JoJo and it appears that he has been showing signs of CCD for some time now. We didn’t know that was what we were seeing because his behavior has always been a little quirky, but now that we have a better understanding we can support him better.

  8. Joel Green says:

    My 11 y/o beagle mix is acting different.. She acts sometimes like she doesn’t know me. Not that she is aggressive, just not real happy to see me. She quickly walks away instead of jumping up in my chair when I am watching tv.. something she’s been doing for years. At first I thought she was having trouble jumping up, but she gets I my husband’s much larger chair when we’re not at home. I’ve found her there several x’s when we get home…

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Hi Joel,
      Have you talked to your vet about this? I can’t diagnose your dog over the Internet (or even in person; I’m not a vet). But I will say that my little dog’s first symptom was drawing away from someone she had loved and been comfortable with for a long time. Any behavior change is worth going to the vet for. Good luck.

  9. carol says:

    Is it common for dogs with dementia to cry out in pain horrible pain and if so what stage is it
    \

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Hi Carol,
      I have not heard that listed as a symptom. I hope you can talk to your vet as soon as possible. It could **be** pain, or it could be something else going wrong. I’m so sorry this is happening to your dog.

  10. Christy Fu says:

    Dear Eileen,
    I just recently found you and your book and I wish I had done more research sooner…My 16yr old Maltese x has been showing signs of dementia for the past 1.5yrs and is getting worse. Everything you described about Cricket is my JJ to a T, except mine is also almost completely deaf and blind. He paces, turns in circles, gets stuck in EVERYTHING, can’t sleep at night, and uses the bathroom where ever he feels like it then steps in it. One thing he doesn’t forget is where the food is.. lol He doesn’t seem to recognize me anymore, it’s like he just tolerates me as I’m the one who supplies food and treats. He has about 95% of the symptoms on the checklist…I’m considering saying goodbye – but just wanted an impartial opinion, what would you do? P.S. Thanks for loving the seniors, they have a special place in my heart <3

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Dear Christy,
      I’m so flattered that you have asked me. I really try to help about this. But I think only you and your vet can make that decision. Even with the information you have given me, I’m on the other side of the internet somewhere and can’t know everything a person would need to know. There’s an article on this site that describes how I made my own decision. And there is the Quality of Life Scale which I think can be helpful. This is an awful decision when any of us have to make it, and my heart goes out to you. Good luck with your boy. And yes, the seniors are the best. Hugs.

  11. I adopted a 10/11 year old poodle/jack russell mix about two and a half years ago. In the past 6 months he has lost a lot of weight, even though he has a very healthy appetite and eats his food, treats, and lot’s of table scraps. I’ve now starting making steaks, burgers and chicken for him to eat every day, which he does. He started all of the habits mentioned, wandering around, getting stuck in corners and under/behind furniture, some accidents in the house, going to the wrong side of the door etc. However, he goes for at least two walks a day with my other dog and they walk about 3 miles a day total, he does fine on his walks. I went to the vet and they ran blood tests, originally they thought/hoped it was a thyroid problem, but after further blood work decided that it was not the thyroid, but instead was most likely cancer. He doesn’t appear to be in any pain, but it is hard to watch him confused, wandering and especially getting stuck. I closed off some rooms, blocked off the stairs (he fell down them), but he still manages to find things to get stuck behind. He seems to have the classic signs of doggie dementia, but the vet seems to think all this behavior is due to the cancer. I am taking it one day at a time, and figured once he doesn’t want to eat, walk, or is in pain, I will know it is time. Have you heard of dogs having these symptoms from cancer?

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Dear Sandra,
      You are doing a great job taking care of him, wherever those symptoms are coming from. I have not heard of these symptoms from cancer per se, but they can be associated with brain tumors, some of which are cancerous.

      I’m glad he gets such great exercise, and I hope you have some good times with him. Take care.

  12. Mark Fleckenstein says:

    Eileen, having read all your posts, what are you doing just trying to sell your book…it makes me very angry you do not recommend , treatment, medication…..as far as I can tell. Your words are worthless.
    My dog has all the symptoms + of Dog Dementia and is not eating or drinking…your responses are of no help to me, at all….I highly doubt you will post this comment on your page….your so called “kindness” infuriates me. Lucy, my dog walks 12 to 14 hours at least around the house in circles a day. She does not rest !

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Hi Mark,

      You haven’t read many comments, then. Nor have you looked very hard at the site. The most common thing I write is for people to check with their vet. I also say it in my book (since you bring that up) more than 20 times. The book has a chapter on diagnosis and a whole chapter on treatment including the research that is behind it. As does this site. The whole point of the site AND The book is to teach people that CCD is a disease and that they need to go to the vet. Obviously, I can’t recommend specific medications. I’m not a vet, and even vets don’t do that over the internet.

      Sadly, most people find the site when their dogs are in late stages. Perhaps you have mostly been seeing my responses to people who have **already been seeing their vet**. Usually their dogs are in the end stages.

      Here is my page on treatment of dementia in dogs. It ranks on the first page of Google for several keywords. Please note that it includes scholarly references in addition to a list of the treatments that have been shown to mitigate the condition. It is, to my knowledge, one of only a very few webpages that stick to evidence-based methods. I will not send people on wild goose chases for unproven quackery. (There are plenty of sites for that.) The treatment page is among my most viewed pages.

      Since you know there are medications, I assume that they are not working for your dog. You might want to check with a vet behaviorist. These specialists are the “psychiatrists” of the veterinary world and can often help when a non-specialist vet can’t. Sometimes they can do a consult directly with your vet (which is handy if there are none in your area). It’s a pretty rare specialty.

  13. Joyce Jenkins says:

    I have a twelve year old chihuahua, Snowball, that I have suspected has dementia. It was subtle when it started, but is becoming increasingly more evident. I find him becoming more anxious then he was (he has always been a nervous dog.) I am finding him awake in the middle of night, standing on the bed staring at nothing. Appears lost and bewildered. He also is vocalizing. He yelps and screams (not as though he’s in pain, but that he’s terrified of something, that isn’t there!) He also isn’t socializing normally with the other dogs in the house. He appears confused… looks for me, when he just found me minutes ago, but doesn’t remember where I am. These behaviors become enhanced at night. My question is, do dogs with CCD “sundown.” I know people do, but was wondering if you have heard of this in dogs? He becomes increasingly “squirrelly” at night. He also sleeps more during the day and is wakeful at night. My plan is to have him medically evaluated, to be sure nothing else is going on. I have been doing some research and reading, and I am very suspicious it’s CCD. Thank you for the site and the information, it is very helpful. I will keep informed about Snowball’s condition and diagnosis.

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Hi Joyce,
      A lot of people talk about dogs sundowning but as far as I know, it hasn’t been documented in dogs. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Sundowning in people is controversial, with some dissent about the causes. But I think when we have a lot of physical and mental challenges, we struggle more as the day wears on. Also, dogs are naturally crepuscular; they are most active at dusk and down. That could possibly contribute to abnormal activity at the end of the day. I’m glad you are going to your vet. Let me know how it goes with Snowball.

  14. Pat says:

    My little 14 year old yorkie has a lot of symptoms that all these other dogs have except when he is around me he watches my feet non stop never looks up, she also use to jump over the door way when coming in the house but now he acts confused as what to do she wakes up whining at nite, gets up and down all nite, sleeps all day, has accidents in the house which she never did, she does the circling, but now if I let her go out side without a leash she just keeps walking won’t stop on my commands just like I’m not talking to her she goes all over the place that scares me so now we use a leash at all times. She still eats pretty good but only at nite,

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Hi Pat,
      I’m sorry you are going through this with your yorkie. Sounds like a very good idea to have her on leash. Have you taken her to the vet about this? Good luck.

  15. Andrea says:

    I am so grateful I found your page today. I have a 14 1/2 year old chihuahua, my Jack Sparrow, who I almost lost almost 5 years ago due to inflammatory brain disease. He has been on meds since and it has been an up and down since. He is on prednisone, cyclosporine and potassium bromide and keppra for seizures. He also has a heart murmur and elevated blood pressure. Recently his was diagnosed with ccd and put on selegiline. He rests and sleeps for most of the day and luckily at night, but between around 2:30pm and 7pm he wears himself out circling the house. As he he gets more tired he gets stuck more often and keeps slipping. It breaks my heart watching him on a camera while I am at work and I am always so worried his brain inflammation can flare up again. Seeing the pictures and video of cricket made me realize that Jack shows the same symptoms and that they are due to the dementia. I feel I can let go of one evil and focus on the other. I will talk to his vet hoping to reduce his prednisone and let him go through this step of his life with as much of support and knowledge i can give him. His neurologist told me not to Google symptoms, today I am glad I did.

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Dear Andrea,
      I had never heard of inflammatory brain disease in dogs so I learned something today. That’s some complex treatment and it sounds like you’ve done a great job keeping him comfortable. Let us know what the vet says. From what I just read, I think it would be pretty hard to sort out what symptoms are coming from what condition. Good luck with sweet Jack Sparrow.

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