Signs Your Dog Probably Has Dementia

signs your dog probably has dementia

My old dog Red had doggie dementia for about two and a half years. It was a condition I was not familiar with and totally unprepared for. My usually amazing vet never mentioned the possibility, even after tests to explain certain behaviours came back negative. One day the word “dementia” popped into my head, who knows how, and when I asked my vet about it he told me it made sense. 

I went through a lot of stress, frustration and feelings of hopelessness and helplessness before I figured out what was wrong. I hope to save many of you from the same which is why I wrote this post.

UPDATE: This post was originally written Nov 23, 2015 and updated Dec 17, 2018. My heart dog Red crossed the rainbow bridge on May 18, 2018. 

Signs your dog probably has dementia

Probably but not definitely

Many of the signs you will see listed could be attributed to other conditions. For example, your dog pacing and not being able to settle could mean she’s in pain. Not acknowledging or interacting with people she knows may mean she can’t hear them enter the room or see them.

Don’t ignore changes

If you notice behaviour changes, even if it’s something small like your dog seeming a bit “off” please call your vet. A problem caught early has a much better chance of being treated or managed. 

Diagnosing dementia

There is no test to confirm a dementia diagnosis, it is made through a process of elimination. Since many of the same symptoms can be attributed to other illnesses, tests are conducted to rule them in or out. If they are all ruled out then it’s typically doggy dementia. 

Treating dementia

I have included a link to an article I wrote about treatment options, so there’s no need to repeat all that. The one thing I will say is, ask your vet about the prescription drug selegeline, the active ingredient found in Anipryl in the U.S. and Canada and Selgian in the UK. I don’t know what the drugs are called in other countries. 

I say this because I know from my own experience as well as others, many vets don’t even mention the drug because they don’t believe it works for enough dogs. I disagree with that attitude because it doesn’t have to work for enough dogs, it just has to work for YOURS and Selgian definitely worked for mine.

Red was on quite a few medications and there was no problem with interaction or side effects. Of course her experience doesn’t mean it will be the same for your dog so speak to your vet!

The Best Natural Treatment For a Dog With Dementia 

Canine cognitive dysfunction checklist

This checklist is sorted by category, with a downloadable version at the bottom. This way you can print it, tick off the signs you’re seeing and bring it to your vet. Take a video if possible and bring it as well. Together, these tools will go a long way to helping your vet with a diagnosis. 

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


  • 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
  • Doesn’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/words to go outside
  • Goes outside and just wanders, then pees and poops in the house
  • Doesn’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


  • 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

Activity level

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



signs of dementia in dogs

Signs your dog probably has dementia – conclusion

I know this might have been a little scary for you to read, but I hope you found it comforting as well. Until now you may have been faced with some unexplained behaviours which, as I know, can be frustrating and cause you to feel so helpless.

Make an appointment with your vet, bring your checklist and a video. Knowing what you’re dealing with is the first step in figuring out how to manage it.


If you’d like to know more about our journey, read this article called “How I Care For Red Who Has Dog Dementia” !


Has your dog been experiencing any of the symptoms on this list? What did your vet say or do during your appointments when you were looking for an answer? Was your dog diagnosed with dementia? What treatment plan was recommended and has it been helping? Sharing helps others so please leave your comments below. 


Get your FREE report – Tell Tail Signs Your Dog May Have Dementia


one on one senior dog care support service

I am pleased to announce my new One on One Senior Dog Care Support Service. It is a private session tailor made to your concerns – behaviour, nutrition, health challenges, quality of life, pet loss and grief.


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







  1. Jason

    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.


    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      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. Marc Parsons

    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.


    Marc Parsons

    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      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. Bluegum

    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. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      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. Helen

    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.

    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      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.

  5. Gene Clarke

    My Kimi is experiencing 90% of the items on your list. It getting harder and harder to watch. What is most troubling is her sleep pattern changes. She is waking up at 2 and 3 a.m. so my sleep is interrupted as well. Is it normal for her to sniff the perimeter of a room constantly? Pray for us.

    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      Hi Gene, I’m sorry to hear that I know how difficult it is to watch. There are quite a few things to try, what treatment is she on at the moment? Here is a link to lots of options, and please speak to your vet about Anipryl if he hasn’t mentioned it.


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