What you need to know about Senior Dog Dementia ?A senior moment or something more serious? Hereโ€™s how to identify and manage senior dog dementia.

What you need to know about Senior Dog Dementia

Senior dogs may sometimes have whatโ€™s known as dog dementia. Instances where they seem disoriented, behave strangely with family members, exhibit irregular sleep patterns, and sometimes soil in the house. Identifying early signs are key to managing this condition so ensure your dog has regular check-ups and keep a note of these changes in behavior.

As it turns out, dogs are actually quite similar to humans, especially in the later years. While senior dogs can’t really forget stuff like their teeth or eyeglasses, they do have moments that might actually be signs of dog dementia. They might forget the usual path that they take during daily walks or they may stop their routine of greeting you at the door. These things are possible signs that your dog may have canine cognitive dysfunction of CCD.

Canine cognitive dysfunction can happen because of different factors. One of the most common reasons is having a dog with an abnormal amount of proteins in the brain. This will trigger the growth of plaque, which damages brain nerves and affect your dog’s memory and behavior. Most dogs (from purebred ones to mutts) will have some form of CCD when they grow older, with around 68% of dogs aged 15-16 years exhibiting signs of cognitive impairment.

Unfortunately, pet owners are unaware that dogs can suffer the canine version of Alzheimer’s or dementia until they visit their vet. They usually don’t notice it happening until their senior dogs start showing physical and behavioral issues, as it happens gradually.

CCD has symptoms that overlap with other age-related dog issues like kidney problems, cancer, arthritis, canine diabetes, and loss of hearing and sight. Depending on the symptoms, vets will request for blood tests, urinalysis, and x-rays to be done on your dog.

Knowing if your dog has CCD

If you want to determine if your dog might have canine cognitive disorder, remember the acronym DISHA. It stands for Disorientation, [altered] Interactions with their family members or other pets, Sleep-wake cycle changes, House soiling, and Activity level changes. These five signs are the most common symptoms that dogs with CCD will exhibit. If your dog has one of the symptoms or a combination of any on the list, then he might have cognitive dysfunction.

Here’s a more in-depth explanation of the most common symptoms of canine cognitive disorder:



One of the first things that owners tend to notice if their dog has CCD is that their pet acts disoriented even when he’s in his usual environment. You may even notice that your dog will begin to wander in areas in the house wherein he has no idea where he is or he won’t be able to figure out how to get out on his own.

Some owners have even reported that at night, they find their dogs staring at a wall instead of being asleep. Since dogs are known to be excellent at timing, this action signals that something may be wrong with how their brain is functioning. Albeit, disorientation can also be found in dogs suffering from diabetes and brain tumors, that’s why a vet’s opinion should always be sought out.



CCD heavily affects a dog’s ability to recognize and interact with humans and other creatures. Your dog may have been sociable during his younger years, but you’ll find him extremely cranky and aggressive once he reaches senior age. This behavior is a sign that your dog might have something serious. 

There are dogs that will become withdrawn and refuse to do their favorite activities. They may also stop barking or reacting to things that usually make them excited or alert. Sadly, there are instances when they might even stop responding when you announce that you’ll be taking them for a walk.


Sleep-Wake Cycle Changes

The most specific symptom of canine cognitive dysfunction is a sudden change in a dog’s sleeping patterns. A dog’s day may reverse and end up with them being excited during the night and sleepy in the morning. Some dogs even end up not sleeping at all and just preferring to pace all over the room. 

Vets suggest that owners try to use a nightlight or a white noise machine to help their dogs get some sleep. Medications and other forms of therapy may also be used, as a disrupted sleeping cycle may cause anxiety in dogs.


House Soiling

If your dog has been housetrained and is suddenly pooping and peeing all over the house, then it’s a sure sign that he may have cognitive dysfunction. Most owners get frustrated with this symptom, with some even leaving their senior dogs at shelters just to get rid of the “issue”. However, it’s better for owners to keep their patience and consider that their dog may have truly lost control of their bowels and that veterinary intervention may be needed.

A vet will request tests to be done in order to rule out other issues such as diabetes, bladder infections, or kidney issues before concluding that the soiling is caused by a cognitive change in the dog.

Activity Level

Dogs with CCD become less excited or may have totally lost interest in exploring their surroundings and environment. They may stop greeting their owners at the door or may no longer enjoy playing fetch. Some dogs even lose interest in eating or drinking.

Senior dogs with CCD can also exhibit repetitive motions such as going around in circles or bobbing their head endlessly. Another sign is when a usually quiet dog suddenly barks at everything or even when nothing is happening around him.


Maintenance for CCD

Seeing your dog go through the symptoms of CCD can be extremely difficult and heartbreaking. However, you can still do something about his discomfort. There’s no effective way to stop the progress of CCD, but there are ways to slow it down.

There are specialized dog foods available in the market that has been formulated to slow down the progress of CCD and contains antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids that protects and develops brain cells.

Your vet may prescribe canine psychoactive drugs and dietary supplements that can slow down your dog’s cognitive dysfunction. These meds are tailored to suit your dog’s needs and his health history.

Owners should also take their dogs twice every year to a whole body check up at the vet. This is to ensure that an expert can inform owners if their dog is aging normally or has something more serious such as CCD. It’s also highly suggested that owners list down their observations and inform the vet, as cognitive dysfunction happens gradually and often goes unnoticed until its too late.

Ultimately, remember the best way to get ahead of this is keeping an eye out for early signs related to DISHA and having regular check-ups with the vet. The sooner a diagnosis, the better you can manage the condition and minimize the discomfort your pet may feel.


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