Health & Wellbeing

7 Signs of Dog Dementia: What to Look For in Your Senior Dog

Everything you need to know about the causes, signs & stages of dog dementia.

Are you concerned your aging pup is showing signs of dog dementia?

While common health issues for senior dogs include physical conditions like kidney disease and hearing loss – it’s not only their bodies that can change. 

Just like Alzheimer’s in humans, dementia can seriously affect your best friend’s quality of life as they enter their golden years.

To help you recognize the signs and stages of dog dementia, we’ve enlisted the help of Andrea from All Things Chihuahua

Here, Andrea shares her personal experience and research into Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, along with expert advice on everything you need to know about dog dementia.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This post may contain affiliate links, which help keep this content free. (Full disclosure)

7 Signs of Dog Dementia

7 Signs of Dog Dementia: What to Look For in Your Senior Dog

As a dog groomer with over a decade of experience, many senior pets have come to me for their grooms. Senior dogs are my favorite and tend to get the red-carpet treatment under my care. 

However, as they toddled back to their owners after getting all spruced up, I noticed something strange: signs of dog dementia were often cropping up in my client’s elderly dogs.

Sometimes they would try to exit the salon through the closet instead of the door. Other times, they would mistake the hinge side of the door for the side that opens. 

These little mistakes are common signs of dog dementia. And I had other reasons to be concerned – I have three super senior chihuahuas at home myself.

So, I decided to reach out to some of the top experts on Canine Cognitive Dysfunction and am here to share the results with you.

What is dog dementia?

Just like in older humans, dogs can have cognitive decline as they grow older. Dog dementia is an umbrella term for a variety of different cognitive ailments in canines, but it usually refers to Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD). 

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction is most commonly associated with behavioral changes in a dog as they grow older. Typically it only strikes in dogs older than 9 years of age, but there have been a few rare early onset cases in very young dogs.

person holding old dog's face in their hands

What causes dog dementia?

It’s currently unknown what causes dog dementia. Early studies show that dogs in the terrier, toy, and non-sporting groups are more prone to CCD.

Dogs who do not get enough exercise, have epilepsy, or impaired hearing and sight are also more vulnerable to CCD.

Age, however, is the most common factor in whether a dog will develop dog dementia. The risk for a dog developing CCD rises 50% with each year after a dog passes 9 years of age.

Signs of dog dementia

CCD comes on slowly, and it’s easy to miss the early signs of dog dementia. These signs are varied, and it’s possible for your pet to only have one or two of them in the beginning.

Dog dementia symptoms include:

  • Getting ‘stuck’ in corners or under furniture
  • Becoming confused as to who familiar people are
  • House-soiling
  • Forgetting basic training
  • Anxiety
  • Confusing the hinge side of the door for the opening side.
  • Changes in sleep

Eileen Anderson, who wrote a book on CCD, has a canine cognitive dysfunction checklist of all the most common signs of dog dementia on her website.

The dog dementia checklist is printable, so concerned owners can check all symptoms that apply to their dog and take them to the vet for a visit.

Stages of dog dementia

Stages of dog dementia are mild, moderate and severe.

Mild symptoms may go unnoticed by dog owners completely. They may only have some trouble getting to sleep at night, or mild changes to their behavior.

Moderate dog dementia may cause the dog to lose their house training, require special care to continue day to day life, or have hyperactivity at night.

Severe symptoms include dramatic behavior changes, barking all night, and becoming unresponsive to their family.

These stages were officially observed by Madari et al, 2015 in their study on CCD.

What to do next

If you suspect your dog has CCD, your first stop needs to be your local veterinarian. Only a veterinarian will know how to diagnose dog dementia.

Other brain diseases, such as a brain tumor, can have the same symptoms as CCD. It’s important to speak with your veterinarian to rule out other diseases before your dog can be treated for dog dementia.

Fortunately, there are treatments to help improve symptoms of dog dementia, and supplements that can delay the progression of symptoms.

Your veterinarian can prescribe Selegiline for your dog, a medication that improves symptoms in most pets.

At this time, unfortunately there is no cure for Canine Cognitive Dysfunction.

7 Signs of Dog Dementia What to Look For in Your Senior Dog

Preventing dog dementia

Just like many health conditions, the best treatment is often prevention.

You can help reduce the chances of your dog developing canine dementia by providing dog enrichment activities to help keep their mind sharp.

Giving your dog regular exercise, and using supplements such as fish oil to boost brain health, are also effective ways to prevent dog dementia.


Andrea, editor of All Things Chihuahua

Andrea is a professional dog groomer and the editor of All Things Chihuahua.

All Things Chihuahua was born out of Andrea’s desire to take her decade of experience in dog handling, grooming, and training, and tailor it to the chihuahua breed. 

Andrea lives with her crew of three chihuahuas and has spent the last 14 years learning every detail of chihuahua behavior. 


Know the signs of dog dementia

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