Images of Dementia in Dogs

This video and the 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 Transcript: What Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Can Look Like

>>EILEEN NARRATING:
The following behaviors of 16 year old Cricket are probably a result of canine cognitive dysfunction (Doggie Dementia)

Number 1. Getting stuck. Cricket gets stuck behind some furniture and needs help to get out.

Number 2. Forgetting what she is doing. Cricket has always kept track of my location through all our years together. Now she keeps forgetting where I am, and re-finding me. Finding me
>>EILEEN IN THE VIDEO:
“Hi there!”
>>EILEEN NARRATING:
Forgetting where I am. Looking for me again. Looking for me in the kitchen, when she just left me in the hall.
>>EILEEN IN THE VIDEO:
“Yay, hi there baby!”
>>EILEEN NARRATING:
Finding and greeting me again.

Number 3. Getting confused about the door. Cricket has been going to my office with me for years. She always waits by the door when I go to another room. One of her first signs of dementia was that she shifted to the “hinge” side of the door and waited there instead. Nowadays she drifts away and seems to forget what she was doing.

Number 4. Circling. Here she is walking in circles.

Cricket is still quite capable and has plenty of pleasure in her life. Suppertime!

Thanks for watching!

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.

If your senior dog has started doing some of the things shown in these images, see your veterinarian right away. You can fill out this checklist to take to your vet.

Copyright 2013 Eileen Anderson

217 Comments

  1. 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.

    • Drina Nicholson says:

      2 yes ago my Red nose put or started walking like he was drunk running in to walls and such… My husband’s step mom was watching while my husband was over the road and I was away at school, she finally took him to the vet and they put him on Prednisone and he was all better… But when the prescription ran out he was doing it again, this time she didn’t take him to the vet again and I didn’t hear about any of it untill he was unable to move and non responsive with his eyes open but still breathing… When I got there he couldn’t even look at me like he always would, I picked him up and ran to my car as my husband’s step mom says “you should take him to vet in the morning if he makes it through the night” who says that, I gave her a few choice words as I jumped in my car and speed off after racing to my vet, then the animal hospital and then the urgent care animal hospital… He stayed over night 2 nights and when I went back the next day he was able to see me and focus but that wasn’t the end… I took him home he began having seizures (which I didn’t know that’s what they were) He was again non responsive and and not moving but still breathing I raced him back to the Hospital 45min away and they said he was having seizures this happened 2 more times and the last time he was out for an hour, we were not ready to say goodbye he wouldn’t wake up… My husband suddenly whistled like he would at the desert when we could see him, and he snapped out of it and just looked up at him like I’m right here… They told us it was Inflammation of the Brain disease his antibodies were attacking his spinal cord causing his brain to swell to the point of death… First sign is the “drunk walking” his brain was actually only allowing him to turn right, he just didn’t have enough room to turn completely before running into a wall… I had to hand feed and give him water constantly his mouth would dry and his tongue would start to get dry sores, When he was finally well enough I had to wrap a towel around his waist to hold his back legs up while walking around the yard so he can poop and straighten his back legs again… he was also on Prednisone for the swelling and cyclosporine for the seizures and he had to have 3 shots every 3 mo… After no seizures for 6mo we took him off the cyclosporine and shots they were $160 a month and 300 for the shots every 3 mo… I couldn’t afford it. The Prednisone made him depressed and after taking his pill he would just lay there for hours… It was $90 a month… I slowly tapered him off all meds keeping the Prednisone on hand just in case… (I DON’T NOT recommend doing this without first talking with your vet) he is med free and his happy self again for 6mo now… Still have the Prednisone just in case!!! It cost us $6,000 in hospital Bill’s alone to find out what was wrong, had they gave us the total in advance we might have put him down, but I don’t regret 1 cent spent… I would do it for my kids and he is my son so I did it for him!!! Love my Dago Boy

  2. Maria says:

    My 16yo chihuahua mix has had CCD for about a year. He takes Anipryl daily along with nutritional supplements. For about the last month he has become VERY aggressive with us. He snarls and snaps whenever we get near hm. Just in the last two days he has bit me three times and my husband four times. I am worried that he will bite someone else. I’m wondering whether it is now time to put him down even though he’s still doing ok by all other standards.

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Hi Maria,
      Every dog seems to take a different journey, and this one must be so distressing for you. Can you talk to your vet or a vet behaviorist about any other meds? It’s a long shot I guess, and they would have to fit with the Anipryl, but it would be worth asking. It’s really really hard emotionally to euthanize a dog because of behavior, but it can be a valid choice. I’m just so sorry you are faced with it. If it is all possible to consult with a veterinary behaviorist (it’s a medical specialty among vets)? They specialize in cases like yours. Sometimes they will consult with your own vet for free, or you can pay for a consult with a referral. Hugs and good luck.

  3. Darlene Godwin says:

    Our dog Gizmo will be 16 years old. He has severe arthritis and bad joints. He will be walking and his back legs give out on him. He is blind in one eye and almost blind in his other eye. About six months ago we started noticing he seemed lost at times. He got stuck in places like under the table or behind chairs and would start going around in circles. His sleeping is getting less and less. He will just whine. His joints are so bad we have to take him up and down the stairs to take him outside. He has a lot of accidents. We just put one of our dogs down last June because of a bad heart. We know the time will come when we have to say good bye but it is so hard. Also he has a breathing problem. I guess what I am asking is it time to let him go?

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Dear Darlene,
      I’m sorry Gizmo is starting to have so many problems. Have you looked at the Quality of Life Scale? It’s linked on the “When to Say Goodbye?” page. It organizes the different issues in a helpful way. I think.

      It’s a terrible decision to have to make for our best friends. I hope for good days for Gizmo, and a clear decision for you when it’s time.

      There are people discussing their decisions on my blog post, “The Dreaded Choice.” You might want to check out the discussion there. Take care.

      Eileen

  4. Linda Briden Spies says:

    My 18 year old chihuahua mix has SUDDENLY become VERY anxious after being in bed at night for about 3 hours. He has slept in bed with us for his entire life, but now wakes, jumps down, cries to be picked back up, and as soon as I have him back in bed, he jumps right back down and paces around the room. His blood work results were 100% perfect, as was a urinalysis. Vet prescribed trazadone morning and evening, but that doesn’t get him more than a few hours. Xanax gets him about 6-7 hours of sleep. Just started Selegilene yesterday and understand this can take a while to have an effect. Everything else is perfectly normal-loves his walks, no accidents indoors, eats normally,not aggressive, and will be fine most of the day. It’s the nights that get to him.

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Hi Linda,
      I’m sorry about those hard nights; that sounds hard on everybody. I’m glad your vet has prescribed Selegiline and I hope it helps. Crossing fingers that the meds can help your chi mix not have agitation at night.

      Eileen

      • David Ballach says:

        My dog Paco is a 16yr old Chihuahua. He is normal most of the time, but 2 to 3 times a week he starts whimpering at night and won’t sleep. The whimpering can go on for hours and hours, which him whimpering every couple seconds. The vet gave him Trazadone which works most of the time in night enough doses. Unfortunately his whimpering turns into a scary yell bark, which breaks my heart. He has all the other symptoms, like getting stuck or lost, forgetting things and peeing in the hose after 16yrs of not doing it. Is there anything that can help him other than the Trazadone?

    • Teresa Moon says:

      My 17 year old chihuahua does the same thing. Please let me know if that medication helps?? Thanks

  5. Misty says:

    Hi,

    A couple of weeks ago my dog, Scruffy, a 15 year old poodle terrier mix got out of bed and had a seizure. He shook for a couple of minutes and then was disoriented a for a couple more. We took him to the vet right away, and they ran blood work, xrays, ultrasound… They found error if a normal except his oxygen was really low, 80%, so they put him in a chamber for 45 minutes. The vet kept him almost all day under observation and everything was fine. He has slightly elevated liver enzymes And something else that could possibly point to cushing’s, but said there would have to be a lot of tests can confirm.
    It’s been about three weeks now and he has been good, except for the last two nights where he hasn’t gotten up to eat like he normally does when it’s time. Two days ago he was asleep in on my lap, he wasn’t up and waiting for his food like normal… I finally put him down to see if he would go eat but it took a little over an hour for him to finally go check. And last night it was worse, he was lying in his bed and didn’t have any interest in the food when it was put down and was shaking. So I put him in my lap to try and calm him, but he was just tense, nervous and wouldn’t lay down completely. He wouldn’t have even eat a treat, he just looked uncomfortable.Then I put him down again by his food and water to try to get him to eat or at least drink something, but he just stood there staring.
    The first night, Tuesday, I was thinking maybe it was just the time change still, but after it happened last night I’m not so sure. Especially after reading some of the symptoms on here and the Dr. . Mentioning that he could have CCD… But could it just be at night? I know that in people sometimes it happens at different times of the day, but could he have the same symptoms? Because this morning he got up like a normal and is acting OK.

    Sony for the long post, but I’m hoping for any help… I will make an appointment for him soon also. Thank you so much

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Hi Misty,
      First, apologies for this very late reply. I have been unable to publish or respond to comments for several weeks. I know the time for your needing advice might be over. So much can happen during a few weeks with an ailing senior

      I hope you have been able to ask your vet about the possibility of CCD. Your dog’s case is too complicated for us lay people here on this site to speculate about. I am so sorry it’s happening, though.

      So, no good advice here except to talk to your vet, but best wishes and comfort to you for what you and your dog were going through.

      Eileen

  6. Megan O'Malley says:

    Hi Eileen –

    Thanks so much for developing these resources and writing your book! I’m providing fospice (foster/hospice) for a senior dog suffering from canine cognitive dysfunction as well as IVDD. He’s on trazadone for anxiety and tramadol for his IVDD. Your checklist has been really eye opening because I realize he is in the severe stages of CCD. He exhibits many of the signs including pacing, getting stuck in corners of the house and in furniture and disrupted sleep. His eating has recently started to become an issue and he has started to knock over the food bowl looking for more food. Although the IVDD also has an impact on his urination and bowel movements, at this point he has almost no control of either and I think it’s primarily the CCD. I have him in diapers all the time and I think it’s managed pretty well, although there is something to clean up everyday! I’ve found that he calms down when I hold him and although he is also nippy at times (like many other people I’ve been bitten several times) he clearly enjoys being held close. And really the only way I can get him to sleep more or less through the night is having him in my bed. Although I know the term is not entirely accurate, I often feel his behavior is “manic” and that he is clearly not in control of whatever motivates him to pace etc…
    At this point although his life is clearly severely impacted by the CCD and the IVDD but he does have many moments of peace. He greets me at the door with my other dogs and he seems to genuinely enjoy being snuggled. At other times, it’s clear that he is not comfortable. It’s tough to gauge his quality of life and since I’m not his “owner” the end of life decisions are not entirely mine. Although it’s been stressful to take him on, I know that he’s in as a good a home as any for his final days.
    I know there’s no easy answer, but I guess I’m looking for some guidance about the end of life conversation with the rescue I’m working with. In the last couple of weeks he’s seemed more distressed and it’s been much harder for me to help him calm down so I think his quality of life is degrading. Any thoughts would be most welcome!!

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Dear Megan,
      Thank you for your kind words and my apologies for the lateness of my reply. Bless you for taking in this senior fellow. He was so lucky to fall into your hands! I don’t know if he is still with you at this point. If you need to talk to the rescue about him, a good resource is the Quality of Life Scale.

      It’s always a hard conversation, and I hope you and the rescue can see eye-to-eye about him, whatever the decision may be. I’d love to have an update if you care to.

      Thank you for doing fospice! The best gift of all.

  7. Hilda says:

    Thank you for sharing! My Beagle , Sassy will be 16 years in a few months. She has dementia, I was told by my vet. She has congested heart failure, also. She has had seizures every few months. Last one was Oct 2018. She is on kappa and other meds. I have been so confused about if and when her time to cross the rainbow bridge will be. I also feel so Wrong about being there in her last moments ! I even told my husband to take her and I would just say goodbye, while she gets to ride with him, one more time. I rather see her with a happy face , then have to see her put down. I often tell her , I love her and thanks for the happy years she has given me. I cry in my mind and even shed a tear with just the thought of losing her!
    Thank you, for your uplifting care and thoughts.

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Hi Hilda,
      Yes, it’s so hard. I know what you mean about thanking her. I thank my dogs for all they give to me. I’m so sorry you are having to face this. Take care. There are people here who understand.

  8. Sandra Meraz says:

    My 15-yo JRT, Becca, started getting up at night and then came the accidents, then the barking etc. But she also has untreated Cushing’s Disease and being on FB groups for both, I notice a lot of cross-over symptoms. It’s so important that people don’t jump to conclusions and you’re so right telling people to seek an official diagnosis I always say CCD is a diagnosis of exclusion. Poor Becca, she still finds joy in eating and loves to sit by my side (once she started supplements-she’d been isolating before). But that is the sum of joy in her life. I used the new QOL scale, but found it lacked the weight/importance of “happiness” in a dog’s life. Dementia often forces owners to look at euthanasia despite their dogs being in perfectly good health and that scale doesn’t justify it. As more dogs get diagnosed, as is now happening, I think QOL scales will be amended to include this element and weighing it appropriately.

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Sandra, I so agree about happiness and pleasure. Those are just about the bottom line for me, assuming that physical needs are well enough taken care of.

      Just today someone posted on my Facebook page about her dog going off a certain medication, and a large percentage of his dementia symptoms going away. You are so right that we have to be careful not to try to diagnose. Anyone would have thought that the dog had CCD, but he apparently does not, or if he does, it’s in the early stages.

      Best to you and Becca.

  9. Bill Lacy says:

    I’m glad I found this video. As I was watching it I was seeing Scarlet in place of your Cricket. Scarlet is a 16 year old Chihuahua Mix with the same condition. She has all the same conditions. I notice when I go to the bathroom, she will do 3-5 (drive-bys) to see where I am. And When I take a nap on the couch, she needs to re find me over and over again. She usually takes a nap in her dog bed sleeping toward the wall. And lately has been getting trapped behind a side table. Scarlet walks around at night, really going nowhere.

    Scarlet suffers from arthritis in her rear legs and has a life long heart murmur. Other than that she is healthy. I am jazzing up her dinners by adding some baby food to her dry dog food and she really loves that. And she suddenly likes dental chew bones again after 8 years of not liking them. I’m committed to giving her a good life. Thank you

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Sounds like you are giving Scarlet a fantastic life! I assume you are in contact with her vet, but be sure to mention the symptoms. Even if they match Cricket’s perfectly, she still could have a different condition. And there are meds that can help some behaviors if she does have dementia, if you are interested in trying. In the meantime, kudos to you for observing Scarlet so carefully and also finding out what she really enjoys!

      Eileen

  10. Elizabeth says:

    Thank you so much for your website. My 12 year old dog has just started with dementia over the past eight months. It was very occasional, only once every three or four weeks, but it picked up a few months ago and now we have 4-5 days in a row with sometimes several days off but then several days again of her being confused and terrified. It can be her just standing there staring at walls for long periods of time, running frightened from room to room, or violently shaking from head to toe as if terrified or in extreme pain. It used to be only at night, and now it can be anytime of the day. Her worst episode being yesterday about 20 hours in from the day before. She went into such a panic attack with violent shaking and fast panting that I thought she was having a heart attack. I raced her to the hospital. Less than a quarter-mile from the vet hospital, she just snapped back as if nothing ever happened. The vet ruled out medical issues, and her heart was fine. It appears to be just one more symptom of age related dementia. Your site is very helpful. It’s so important to be able to compare notes with others and to see actual videos and photographs of another dog behaving just like mine. I’m ordering your book tonight. She is starting on medication for the dementia and another medication to help her sleep at night when things get bad. It’s going to be trial and error but I’m going to do whatever she needs. Fortunately, in between the episodes, she is a joyful and happy little dog.

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Dear Elizabeth,
      Your dog is so lucky to have you! That snapping in and out of dementia/panic must be so hard to help her with (and to deal with yourself). I’m glad the site is helpful. Wishing you many more happy days with her.

      Eileen

  11. Victoria Casias Watson says:

    I have a 15 years Toy Poodle that has started to Pee and Poo in her kennel and when she is outside she walks in circles. This has been going on for over a year. Also, she has cataracts and is deaf for about 4 years. Any suggestions????

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Have you talked to your vet? There are meds for dementia, if that is what her diagnosis turns out to be. And if she is anxious, sometimes meds can help. I discourage people from suggesting meds and supplements here, unless they are vets themselves. I hope your vet can offer some help.

      Take care,
      Eileen

  12. Anne Marie Jeffrey says:

    My shiba Inu just turned 17 years old. She is now blind and deaf, but has a healthy appetite and still loves to play, but I see the changes, the sleeping all the time, doesn’t like going outdoors any longer, probably due to being blind and deaf now. I visit our vet, whom Ive known for 25 years, and has seen me through a lot of pain, sorrow and love. He knows what this one particular dog means to me. I sleep with my hand on her all night making sure she is breathing. Her breathing is strong and steady, although her gait is not. I was gifted with an uncanny ability to connect with animals. The biggest advice I can give is “Trust Your Instinct”. It is all in the eyes, you’ll see it.

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Dear Anne,
      What a beautiful tribute to your bond with your shiba. I used to check for Cricket’s breathing too. Hugs to you.

  13. Joyce says:

    Hello, my beagle mix is almost 16 y/o, problems started about 4-6 months ago with a growth/cyst on her hind leg, vet gave several rounds of antibiotics, I did dressing g changes at home due to the area bleeding, blood test showed no cancer, currently just keep the area clean and dry no dressings, she does not bother it. She has a very low heart rate, cant get her teeth cleaned under anesthesia due to her low heart rate, she might have trouble waking up. She also has some kind of internal mass but due to her age nit much can be done, we dont know it this is causing her problems, she has lost weight, you can see her ribs, will only eat organic chicken nuggets, Vet said give her what she wants at this point. She has soupy stool that stains the carpet, when she goes about twice a day. She won’t eat the pumpkin to help with loose stool, lastly she has symptoms of dementia, some days are better then others, I am struggling with putting her to sleep but she has list the gleam in her eyes.

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Dear Joyce,
      I’m so sorry your beagle mix has/had that combination of problems: dementia on top of that seems so unfair. I apologize for my late response; I don’t know if your dog is still with you. I hope you are at peace with whatever decisions you make.

  14. carol tarr says:

    My ex-racing greyhound -only 10 yrs- has had to be on selegiline for over 2 yrs due to bizarre behavior-but all tests normal. Who knows what racing dog s went through? Anyway, his QOL is just about zero. When he isn;’t asleep, he is pacing and panting. Meals have been a nightmare of
    coaxing-many times he will look at his dish and run away. He is on the top dose of selegeline now, supplemented with anti-anxiety meds and Benadryl. He is never relaxed or happy anymore and it is heart-breaking to see him like this as the bad days are outnumbering the good ones.
    Every tiny noise causes him to jump and move. He spends most of the time sleeping in the closet. If I can get him to eat he is physically healthy-but now there is never a glimpse of his former self. I’m now struggling with the final decision-I know that I would not want to live with the fear and anxiety. I guess the next thing will have to be “the talk” with my vet. I so agree that the QOL index does not always apply in our dogs with CCD-most people are so surprised to learn that dogs can have this, too. If you have ever gone through the progression of Alzheimer’s with a friend or loved one then maybe you can realize what type of emotional pain they go through. I hope that I find the strength to help my beloved, Foxy.
    Just writing this has helped. Thank you.

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Dear Carol,
      I’m glad writing it out helped. My mother had Alzheimer’s so I experienced this in both ways. It’s so much harder to tell with our dogs, but I do believe they can still have QOL when they are moderately confused. Then when the worse symptoms come in, the decision gets hard. Bless you and good luck.

      Eileen

  15. Paula Howard says:

    I am experiencing this now with my 16 year old rat terrier mix, and have a question i cannot seem to find anywhere, Do they loose the use of their back legs with dementia? I am starting to notice a little dragging of one hind leg on my bud.

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Mine did, and I read about it a fair amount. I don’t know if it’s an “official” symptom or not, but it could go alone with neurological deterioration. I had to steady my Cricket while she pooped for at least the last couple years of her life, else she would topple over. Good luck with your terrier mix.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.