Can older dogs suffer from dementia?

Dementia in Dogs: Symptoms and Therapeutic Approaches

Fortunately, the life expectancy of our dogs is increasing - but this also increases the incidence of geriatric diseases. While dementia is widely known in humans, not all pet owners are aware that the disease can also affect older dogs.

What is dementia in dogs?

With dementia it comes to slow Nerve cell death, especially those who are responsible for memory, orientation or awareness. This results in - just like in people with dementia - over time Impairment of behavior of your dog, so a kind of canine Alzheimer's.

In dogs, dementia is known as cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS).

Causes of Dementia in Dogs

Since the causes of dementia in dogs are not yet 100% understood, there are also no proven prophylaxis. It is recommended, however, your darling to promote spiritually and adapt the feed to the age. Senior dogs should go to the veterinarian about every 6 months for a routine examination in order to be able to detect symptoms of CDS or other diseases at an early stage.

CDS only breaks out at an advanced age. When exactly a dog is at an "advanced age" depends on several factors, such as the breed. Because of this, the disease cannot be fixed at a specific age. There is currently no evidence of a prevalence among specific dog breeds, behavioral traits, or diet.

According to one study, almost 30% of dogs between the ages of 11 and 12 and up to 68% of dogs between the ages of 15-16 will develop CDS.1

Symptoms of CDS

Making a diagnosis is not always easy because the criteria used to make a diagnosis in humans cannot be applied to dogs. The signs can too normal signs of age be. Nevertheless, there are symptoms that indicate dementia in dogs.

The most common symptome are

  • Disorientation
  • Stare at wall
  • Wandering aimlessly
  • Forgetting the basic commands
  • Changed interactions with known people / animals
  • Refusal of feed
  • Changed sleep-wake rhythm
  • House uncleanliness
  • Changed activity
  • Increased or decreased need for affection
  • irritability

The Expressions of the individual symptoms of the disease however, they can be very different.


It can happen that your dog

  • wandering aimlessly
  • staring into space and
  • no longer recognizes people living in the household.

In addition, this symptom manifests itself in the fact that the four-legged friend is waiting at the wrong door to get outside, or on the wrong side of the door. When he is finally outside, it seems as if he no longer knows why he wanted to go out or he looks confused overall. In addition, it can also happen that your loved one is unable to overcome obstacles or hardly reacts to calls by their name.

Changed interactions

A typical sign of dementia in dogs is also the altered interaction. If the dog's desire for attention and petting is low and there is no longer any interest in toys and interactive games, this indicates dementia. Sick dogs often refuse to be petted and greet their owners with little joy. In addition, the four-legged friends are more easily irritable and subject to sudden mood swings.

Changed sleep-wake rhythm

If your dog is more and more tired and needs more sleep during the day than before, this can also be a sign of CDS. But especially at dusk or in the dark, the dogs seem at a loss and wander up and down panting or whimpering. The irregular sleep rhythm makes the four-legged friend very difficult.

House uncleanliness

Four-legged friends that were house-trained before and are suddenly unclean again could also have dementia. Sometimes sick dogs signal less or even no longer that they have to go out to do their business.

Changed activity

Aimless wandering around or a decrease in targeted activities, i.e. the changed activity of your dog, can be a sign of dementia in dogs. The four-legged friend shows little interest in the environment and hardly reacts to known requests. If happy greetings and interest in beloved toys or treats decline and your dog suddenly reacts anxious, moody, or even aggressive, you should definitely have your observations clarified.

However, the symptoms mentioned can also have a completely different cause. For this reason, it is imperative that you visit your trusted veterinarian and have your darling examined thoroughly.

Possible therapeutic approaches

If dementia is diagnosed in the dog, therapy must be started as soon as possible. You should know right from the start that this is unfortunately a incurable disease and therapeutic measures usually only slow down the disease process.

The following 3 measures can be taken:

Behavior therapy
Mental stimulation through learning new commands, training with intelligence toys and setting new stimuli, e.g. with new walking paths, should slow down the death of nerve cells.
In addition to switching to food especially for senior dogs, there are studies that promise an improvement in symptoms by adding MCT oil to the food .²
Pharmacological measures
To treat dementia in dogs, drugs are used that are designed to improve blood circulation and brain performance.

It is best to discuss the appropriate treatment method with your veterinarian.

Security despite dementia?

If your dog has CDS, he needs yours full attention, even more than before. The most important therapeutic measure that you can take is therefore your four-legged friend To give security and not to leave him alone. But what happens if your four-legged friend runs away from home due to their illness and cannot find their way home? These and similar situations are unfortunately not uncommon for four-legged friends with dementia.

With the Tractive GPS Tracker you can Monitor your dog 24 hours a day. Anytime and anywhere you can easily read the location of your four-legged friend on your smartphone. He has no chance to hide and even if he runs away due to illness and cannot find his way back, you can free him from this situation and bring him back home safely. Even if dementia is an incurable disease, our four-legged friends should spend the rest of their lives happy and satisfied with their loved ones, right?

Tips for Dealing with a Dog With CDS

Even if cognitive dysfunction syndrome is an incurable disease, you can support your four-legged friend:

  1. Keep your dog busy enough and develop him spiritually.
  2. Encourage social interaction with other dogs.
  3. Exercise outdoors under sunlight supports a regular sleep-wake cycle.
  4. Walks should definitely continue to take place.
  5. Adjust your home to suit your sick dog's needs, much like you would a puppy or toddler.
  6. Fixed processes for eating, walking and sleeping are now particularly important.
  7. If necessary, you can use dog diapers or absorbent pads.
  8. Use special food for senior dogs, as discussed with your veterinarian.
  9. Regular visits to the vet to check and adjust the treatment method are mandatory.
  10. You can also find out about alternative forms of treatment.
  11. Remodeling the living space should be avoided as your dog appreciates the familiar environment.
  12. Do not overwhelm your darling with new stimuli such as toys, people or playmates.
  13. Keep commands short, simple, but still demanding.
  14. Show your dog how much you love him.
  15. Help keep your dog safe with a Tractive GPS tracker.

Your dog's needs will change and you should help them as best you can. Enjoy the precious time together!

Demented dogs - you need to know that

Dog dementia is often not recognized for a long time and remains untreated. Have a look at this video, which clearly and vividly summarizes the most important facts on the topic.