diagnosing dementia in dogs

How to Recognize If You Have a Dog With Dementia

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


  • 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


  • 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


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.