How Do You Know If Your Senior Dog Has Dementia? (Everything You Need To Know About Dementia)

Dogs, like humans, become more susceptible to dementia in their old age. Although canine dementia does not have a cure, there are several treatment options and things you can do as an owner to reduce the risk of onset. So, how do you know if your senior dog has dementia? Read on to learn more.

How Do You Know If Your Senior Dog Has Dementia (Everything You Need To Know About Dementia)

We’ve brought in 12-year-old Honey and her owner to tell you everything you need to know about dementia in older dogs.

Key Takeaways

  • Dementia in dogs is known as Canine Cognitive Dysfunction or CCD
  • CCD is characterized by cognitive and behavioral changes, from appearing lost and confused to eating less and sleeping irregularly
  • As with human dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, the causes of dog dementia are not well known
  • Diagnosis of dementia in dogs involves a physical exam and medical history
  • Treatment may include medication and supplements in addition to lifestyle changes

How Do You Know If Your Senior Dog Has Dementia?

How Do You Know If Your Senior Dog Has Dementia (Everything You Need To Know About Dementia)_

What Is Dementia?

“Dementia in dogs is called Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, or CCD. This is a type of cognitive decline that means the brain stops working like it used to, and it’s common in senior dogs. About half of dogs over 11 years old have some symptoms of CCD.”

How Does Dementia Affect Senior Dogs?

That’s an alarming statistic! So, dog owners really need to know the signs of this disease.

“They do! Especially because the symptoms can be mild at first, and some, like forgetfulness and loss of appetite, are easy to write off as just normal aging. Knowing the symptoms can help you to catch the disease and get treatment before the symptoms get severe.”

Causes Of Dementia In Senior Dogs

Why does CCD affect older dogs so much more than younger dogs?

“Scientists aren’t really sure what causes dementia in dogs. But, as the brain gets older, chemical and physical changes happen, so it makes sense that CCD is more common in older dogs. Things like head trauma and brain tumors are risk factors, too.”

Signs And Symptoms Of Dementia In Senior Dogs

So, Honey, how would a dog owner know if a senior dog has dementia? What signs and symptoms should we dog owners be looking for in our older dogs?

Behavioral Changes

“Since you can’t see inside your dog’s brain, you will mostly be looking for changes in their behavior. Dogs with CCD might wander around looking confused or lost. They might also stop responding to their name or commands you learned in training.”

That’s good information to know. Aside from signs that a dog might be confused or feeling lost, what other changes in behavior should we be looking for?

“A dog with dementia might lose their appetite, start sleeping on a different schedule, or stop grooming themselves. They also might not want to play as much.”

Cognitive Changes

How do you know if your senior dog has dementia based on cognitive changes?

“The main cognitive symptom is generally being confused and forgetting things. Because forgetting things or not knowing where you are can be scary, your dog might also seem anxious.”

How can a dog owner tell if their senior dog is anxious?

“There are lots of signs of anxiety in dogs. Changes in toilet habits, panting, drooling, barking more than usual, pacing around, or not eating as much. Some of these are also behavioral changes you might see in dogs with CCD.”

Are there any other cognitive changes we should know about to diagnose dementia in senior dogs?

“Remember how grumpy you were last week when you accidentally put your car keys in the washing machine? Not knowing where things are and feeling confused can be stressful. So, senior dogs with CCD might be more irritable.”

Thanks for bringing that up, Honey… Now, let’s talk about what dog owners can do if they think their senior dog might have dementia.

Diagnosing Dementia In Senior Dogs

“The first thing dog owners should do if they see a combination of the symptoms above is make an appointment with the vet. Symptoms like changes in eating habits and irritability can have a lot of causes, and it’s important to rule out anything dangerous first.”

How do vets diagnose dementia in senior dogs, Honey?

Physical Exam And Medical History

“Vets will want to do a full physical exam before diagnosing dementia. This way, they can rule out any other conditions.”

Will the dog’s medical history help to diagnose dementia?

“Yes. For example, if your pooch has had head trauma in the past, dementia is more likely, so past medical history is very important information. The symptoms you’ve spotted at home will also help the vet to decide if dementia is the most likely diagnosis.”

Diagnostic Tests

Are there any diagnostic tests for dementia in senior dogs, Honey?

“There is no test that will diagnose dementia. That’s why owners spotting symptoms of the disease is so important. Those symptoms, along with medical history, are the main diagnostic tools.”

Treatment And Management Of Dementia In Senior Dogs

Medication And Supplements

“Even though there’s no cure for CCD, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do. There are medications that can help protect the nerve cells in the brain, which might improve symptoms, or at least slow them down. Supplements can also help.”

What kinds of supplements will vets prescribe for dogs with dementia?

“There are vitamin and mineral supplements for dogs that support brain health. Omega-3 fatty acids like DHA can reduce symptoms of dementia in dogs, as can Vitamin D3. Probiotics and prebiotics are also helpful since the gut is the second brain.”

Note for dog owners: always speak to your vet before supplementing!

Lifestyle Changes


regular exercise in senior dogs

“Like humans, we dogs generally have healthier brains if we get regular exercise. So, make sure we’re getting our daily walks and playtime!”

Is there any specific kind of exercise senior dogs should get to reduce the symptoms of dementia?

“Any kind of activity is a great start! You might want to try incorporating puzzles and games into playtime to keep our brains as active as possible. Trying new forms of exercise, especially with friends, is a good way to prevent CCD because it allows for new experiences and socialization.”


We already know that supplementing is an aspect of treatment for dog dementia. But what kind of diet is best for senior dogs with dementia?

“Woof! Treats!”

I’m not sure that’s medically accurate, Honey…

“Okay, fine, you got me. Whole food diets are effective, especially if they contain sources of antioxidants, like blueberries and lion’s mane mushrooms. Vets might recommend specific veterinary prescription diets that support brain function and overall wellness.”

Additional Support

“Dogs with dementia will need some extra love and support. Be patient with your canine companion and make life easier for them by putting their bowls, bed, and toys somewhere they can easily spot. Also, try not to change your routine too much, as this might confuse your canine companion.”

Alternative Therapies

If regular treatments don’t seem to be working, are there any alternative therapies dog owners can look into?

CBD oil is a popular alternative treatment, especially if your dog is struggling to sleep on a normal schedule. It can also reduce symptoms like confusion and anxiety.”

When To See A Veterinarian

If you notice any of the symptoms above or a combination of the signs of dementia, take your dog to the vet as soon as possible. The earlier you seek help, the more effective treatment is likely to be.

Final Thoughts

Recognizing the signs of dementia in senior dogs is crucial for providing them with the care and support they need.

 If you’ve been wondering, “How do you know if your senior dog has dementia?” paying attention to changes in behavior, sleep patterns, and interactions can help. Remember, early detection and intervention can improve your dog’s quality of life.

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