Symptoms of Dog Dementia

Dog dementia, or Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome, is a cognitive disorder in dogs associated with effects similar to those of Alzheimer's in humans. It is largely a result of old age; with time the brain begins to naturally accumulate beta amyloid, a protein found to damage nerves. When the build up is large enough, the protein will cause plaque on the brain that inhibits the transmission of neurological signals. This leads to progressively more severe cognitive dysfunction. It is estimated that as much as a third of dogs will suffer from dementia after age ten.

There is no cure for canine dementia, though there is a drug available known as Anipryl that has shown effectiveness in reducing dementia and improving your dog's brain activity.

Symptoms of Dementia

The symptoms of canine dementia are extensive, ranging from mild to severe as the disease progresses. These symptoms are commonly summarized by the acronym DISH: disorientation, interaction changes, sleeping habit changes, house soiling. Some dogs may even display contradictory behavior, such as becoming easily irritated and showing unnecessary aggression. So, it is recommended that small children do not play with dogs suffering from dementia.

A dog does not have to show all signs to be diagnosed with canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome.


Disorientation is one of the most common signs of canine dementia. A disoriented dog may display a wide variety of odd behavior including:

  • No longer responding to his name or familiar commands
  • Getting stuck behind furniture or in corners
  • Appearing lost or confused in familiar surroundings
  • Aimless wandering
  • Staring blankly at walls or at nothing
  • Compulsively walking in circles

t is not uncommon for dogs to repeat certain actions over and over. A dog afflicted with dementia may also forget boundaries such as backyards, then wander past them and become lost.

Interaction Changes

As the dementia progresses a dog may appear to become more and more "anti-social." Such behavior changes appear as:

  • No longer greeting friends and family
  • No longer seeking petting, praise and affection
  • Ignoring affection that is received
  • Self-isolating

Often times it is reported that a dog may even simply walk away while being pet.

Sleeping Habit Changes

Canine dementia will also affect a dog's sleeping habits. It has been reported that some dogs have formed insomnia-like symptoms, not sleeping until they simply pass out, wandering around instead. Other reports showed the exact opposite, where the animal was nearly constantly asleep. A general reduction in activity is commonly reported, however.

House Training Slip Ups

It is not at all uncommon for a dog to have "accidents" in the house. Many times this is due to a physical loss of bladder and bowel movement control, which is common in demented dogs. Dogs will also stop asking to be let out, and once outside, they often will forget the reason for being there, and upon returning may soil the carpet underneath or behind furniture.

Dementia in canines is sometimes a confusing and alarming disease for which there is no cure. However, knowing the symptoms and what to look for may allow a chance for the disease to be slowed and cognitive ability improved in your aging dog.