How to Recognize If You Have a Dog With Dementia

diagnosing dementia in dogs

Doggie dementia is not something everyone is familiar with, I wasn’t, and if that’s the case how do you even recognize if you have a dog with dementia?  

There are a couple of important points I need to mention. First of all, many of the signs we attribute to “my dog is getting older and it’s normal” can actually be indicators that your dog is beginning to experience, or is already in an advanced state of, Canine Cognitive Disorder (CCD). That’s the medical diagnosing dementia in dogsterm for doggie dementia.

The second thing I want to add is – many dog dementia symptoms are the same ones you would see in other illnesses. 

If symptoms can mean different things, how you ask will this help you figure out if your dog has dementia?

Good question, and the answer is coming up. 

The checklist

I have created a thorough checklist, divided by category, for you to search through and tick off the signs your dog has been exhibiting. Then download the printable version and bring it to your vet. If you can take a video of some of the behaviours you’re witnessing that would also be a great help.

Since dementia is diagnosed by a process of elimination, your vet will conduct tests (probably just blood and urine initially) to rule in, or out, other possibilities, and may conduct further tests if necessary. If every other possibility has been discarded, then it will stand to reason it’s dementia. 

Sleep and awake patterns

  • Changes in sleep pattern
  • Sleeps more during the day, less at night
  • Wanders or cries at night
  • Keeps family up at night

Disorientation

  • Performing the same behaviours over and over
  • Having trouble eating or drinking i.e. finding the bowls, keeping food in her mouth
  • Doesn’t respond to her name
  • diagnosing dementia in dogsDoesn’t respond to cues/commands
  • Wanders aimlessly/paces
  • Seems lost or confused in familiar surroundings like the house or yard
  • Gets stuck in corners or other tight spaces and just stands there
  • Has trouble with stairs
  • Stares into space or at walls
  • Difficulty finding the door
  • Stands on hinge side of the door
  • Doesn’t get out of the way when the door is opening
  • Stands at wrong door to go out
  • Doesn’t recognize family or friends
  • Gets stuck under or behind furniture
  • Has difficulty learning new things
  • Walks in circles, usually in one direction – WATCH THE VIDEO TO SEE WHAT I MEAN!!

Housetraining issues

  • May not remember the signal to go outside
  • Goes outside and just wanders, then pees and poops in the house
  • forgetting house training is a symptom of dementia in dogsDoesn’t let you know she has to go out like she used to
  • A perfectly housebroken dog seems to have forgotten her training

Interaction with family and others in your household

  • Doesn’t greet anyone, or if she does she’s less enthusiastic than usual
  • Doesn’t look for attention like she used to
  • Walks away when petted
  • Withdrawn from family

Anxiety

  • Seems fearful and/or anxious
  • Easily startled
  • Barks for no apparent reason
  • Aggressive but never was before
  • Trembles for no apparent reason
  • Afraid of people she knows

symptoms that indicate dementia in dogsActivity level

  • Less enthusiastic about her toys
  • Plays less or not at all

DOWNLOADABLE CHECKLIST

Recognizing a dog with dementia – conclusion

I urge you to take note of your dog’s behaviour, and use the downloadable checklist to keep track of the signs you’re observing. It’s also a good idea to take a video and document what you’re seeing. Take both to your vet, and see what he has to say.

In my case my vet had never seen any signs of dementia in Red, because she seems perfectly fine  during the few minutes we’re with him.  

If you’d like to know more about what’s been happening with us, this article called “How I Care For Red Who Has Dog Dementia” will catch you up.  

I hope you have found this checklist helpful, and the sooner you have a diagnosis of dementia in dogs, or any other issue, the sooner treatment can begin.

 

Has your dog been experiencing any of the symptoms on this list. Has he been diagnosed with dementia, or was it something else? What treatment plan has he recommended and has it been helping?

I would like to invite you to join Senior Dog Care Club, a new Facebook group for senior dog parents. There you will find lots of helpful tips and advice, a place to ask questions and share experiences. I look forward to welcoming you.

 

 

 

How to Recognize If You Have a Dog With Dementia
Hindy Pearson
Helping people care for their senior dogs
I am a certified dog trainer and pet care consultant, specialising in working with rescue dogs and first time pet parents. I foster and adopt senior and special needs dogs, and advocate for shelter adoption of all animals, particularly older dogs and cats. I am currently working on a spay/neuter program in Spain.

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8 thoughts on “How to Recognize If You Have a Dog With Dementia

  1. Hi Hindy 🙂
    This is a great checklist.
    The symptoms are quite clear signs to know if a dog has Dementia.

    You always provide good content about caring for our dogs.

    Your posts are valuable and there is a lot to be learned from your website.

    Thank you again for providing some great information.

    ~Jason.

    1. Hi Jason, thanks for your comment and I appreciate your kind words about my posts and site. I thought this checklist was a handy idea – makes it easy for the vet to get a clearer picture about what’s going on. I do my best to provide as much quality content as I can, to help people caring for senior dogs.

  2. Hey Hindy

    It’s been a while, but your posts never disappoint!

    Thanks for a great article with some truly valuable information! There are so many points that I would just have completely over looked as mood or fatigue.

    Going through them all, I can see why they would suggest Dementia though.

    Keep up the awesome work! Looking forward to your next post.

    Cheers,

    Marc Parsons

    1. Hi Marc, it has been too long!! I wrote these posts about dementia because my older dog Red would just wander constantly. I was freaking out because she has kidney disease, and assumed she was in pain. After speaking to my vet and being assured she was fine, lots more money on tests to confirm she was fine, dementia popped into my head and my vet said it made sense. It was simply a process of elimination. Some handy medication and she’s doing much better. I hope this post helps others who will just chalk these behaviours up to old age.

  3. Hindy, what a wonderful site. It’s fantastic that someone cares enough to create a website that is so helpful. This sort of help was unheard of when I had dogs. I’m going to send a link to my brother who has two dogs in this stage of life. Thanks

    1. Hello Bluegum, how nice of you to say, thank you! I have a soft spot for seniors, so it was a natural progression into offering my experiences and resources to help others who share their lives with them. It’s very kind of you to let your brother know about this site, and if there’s anything I can do to help, any questions he has please let me know and I’ll do my best.

  4. Hi there Hindy

    Thank you for this checklist. It is spot on. I have had my dog for a couple of years and have grown very attached to Ronnie. When you have such a bond with your pet you do not want anything bad to happen so it is very important to keep your dog save and one can tell if something is wrong in their behavior.

    Keep up the good work.
    Helen

    1. Hi Helen, it doesn’t take long to get attached does it? It doesn’t seem that most people are aware that dementia in dogs does exist, so I hope this checklist will help people identify some of these behaviours. The quicker it’s diagnosed, the quicker our dogs can begin treatment. A good rule of thumb to follow, no matter how old your dog is – if you notice a change in your dog’s behaviour, eating habits… the safest thing is to take him to the vet. It could mean the difference between catching a problem while it’s still treatable, and well… not.

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