Experts Discuss - Can Dogs Get Dementia

Experts Discuss - Can Dogs Get Dementia

Author WDF Staff


One of the things we share with our dogs is age-related health issues. Senior dogs are prone to them in the same way our seniors are. If you have a senior dog and you’re worried about their health, one question that might pop into your mind is, “Can dogs get dementia?” We all worry about our dogs, and we want them to live their best lives as long as possible. The sad news is - yes, dogs can get dog dementia. Here’s what you should know about it.

What is dog dementia?

Dog dementia is actually an umbrella term. That means dog owners, and sometimes vets, use this term to describe four different cognitive issues in dogs. It can be defined as “age-related neurobehavioral syndrome in dogs leading to a decline in cognitive function.” This issue can be terrible for our relationship with our dog, and seeing your dog slowly drifting is heartbreaking. The scientific term for dog dementia is Canine Cognitive Dysfunction or CCD. It describes these four things;


Dysthymia is a state in which dogs lose awareness of their body. They lose the perception of their length and width. Dogs that develop this condition often get stuck in furniture, corners, or fence. Symptoms include aggressive behavior, irritability, disrupted sleep cycles, moaning, whining, and growling. Causes can be Cushing’s disease and prolonged steroid therapy.

old dog on sofa

Involutive Depression

This type of depression will occur in senior years. Dogs with involutive depression will soil inside the home, wander, circle the home, and become anxious. When an older dog does their business inside your home, don’t punish them or isolate them. If they have this issue, the symptoms will only worsen. Other symptoms include lethargy, vocalizing, decreased learning, and sleep disorders.


This form of CCD makes the senior dog lose their ability to communicate and understand signals other animals are sending them. Senior dogs cannot understand what other animals are feeling, so they react by biting first. This cognitive dysfunction will affect serotonin neurotransmitters, and the dog will slowly lose their touch.

Confusional Syndrome

Confusional Syndrome in dogs is as close to human Alzheimer’s disease. Dogs will forget things like where they live, other pets that they share their home with, friends, and in worst cases, their owners.

old dogue

How can vets diagnose dog dementia?

There are a few ways vets can diagnose this disease, but the first thing most vets will do is eliminate other possible reasons dogs can be disoriented and having other dementia symptoms. Other conditions that cause similar symptoms are diabetes, Cushing’s disease, high blood pressure, UTI, hearing loss, vision loss, skin disorders, kidney issues, and arthritis.

After the vet eliminates those possibilities, they will move on with diagnosing dog dementia. However, it is not a common condition, and vets often don’t consider CCD as an option. Many dog owners described they felt no one believed them when they said their dog had dementia. After carefully observing all the symptoms, the vet will eventually diagnose this condition. Some vets are better equipped for it, so make sure you look for someone specializing in this issue.

Treating dog dementia

There is no medication that can be given to dogs that will take care of their dementia. However, the good news is that some forms can be treated, and others can be minimized. The symptoms can be significantly reduced, and you should talk to your vet about the possibilities. The usual treatment will involve a combination of medications, environment management, and diet.

Environment management

Environment management means you will have to adapt your dog’s lifestyle and your home. You have to make sure your dog can always find their food, water, and bed. Provide your dog with more activities during the daytime, and make them socialize with other dogs and people. That will enhance their cognitive functions and prolong their life. Senior dogs can’t hold it long - make sure they have more opportunities to go out and do their business.

senior beagle


A well-balanced diet is crucial for dogs of all ages, but it is absolutely crucial in senior dogs with signs of dementia. There aren’t many commercial foods that offer benefits for dogs with dementia, but those that do are solid. They contain plenty of antioxidants and medium-chain triglycerides whose goal is to improve the dog’s cognitive functions.


The most common drug prescribed to dogs with declining cognitive functions is Anypril. Anypril is a monoamine oxidase inhibitor whose goal is to slow and improve brain chemistry by reducing the breakdown of dopamine and other neurotransmitters.

VET TIP: You should include different supplements in your dog’s diet if they have dog dementia. They will most benefit from vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids, silybin, Denamarin, and Solliquin.

In conclusion

Dog dementia is a rare and serious health condition. Other health issues can cause similar symptoms, so vets often fail to diagnose it. There are treatment options that can help your dog deal with canine cognitive dysfunction and improve the quality of their lives.

World Dog Finder team

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