Many senior dogs will, unfortunately, fall victim to dementia, with the likelihood of diagnosis increasing as the animal ages.

While dementia is a well-known and researched condition, learning more about the causes and symptoms and recognizing preventative measures can always be helpful.

Dog Dementia Breeds: What Causes Dementia in Dogs?

Dementia in dogs is also known as Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD).

It's frequently compared to Alzheimer's in humans, especially with the many shared symptoms.

Canine dementia will commonly appear in senior dogs, although brain trauma can make many predisposed to the condition.

As a dog ages, the chemical and brain functions change, commonly including a breakdown of neurons and excessive accumulation of proteins.

Both items can disrupt the transmission of information within the dog's brain, leading to dementia over time.

Outside of head trauma, including brain tumors and disease, and the aging process, there are no known causes of dementia.

ALSO READ: Dog Dementia Stages: What You Need To Know


History of Cognitive Dysfunction in Dogs

The cognitive decline didn't receive much attention in veterinary care until the 1990s.

As years went by, more data was collected, resulting in a third of all dogs testing throughout the years being severely impaired.

Tests and research confirmed these dogs couldn't remember information past a few seconds, leading to veterinarians' understanding that medical professionals can distinguish dementia in the brain from other health concerns in an older dog.

Literature suggests that approximately 15% of dogs over ten show symptoms of cognitive dysfunction, increasing to roughly half of all dogs 14 years or older.

Although many professionals believe specific breeds may become prone to the condition, current research doesn't support this notion exclusively.

Symptoms and Warning Signs of Dementia in Dogs

Most symptoms relating to dementia in dogs will progress gradually. As your dog continues to age, many symptoms become worse.

Unfortunately, most of the warning signs are similar to those typical aging symptoms, making it easy to remain undiagnosed for quite some time.

The most common dementia symptoms include:

  • Accidents around the house
  • Unusual or random barking
  • Confusion with tricks, names, or commands
  • Decreased appetite
  • Disorientation in familiar settings
  • Anxiety
  • Unusual sleeping patterns
  • Repetitive behaviors
  • Lack of interest in greeting people or playing
  • Uncommon signs of aggression or short temper
  • Staring at nothing (for example, ceiling or walls)

Many pet parents often wonder whether there is a direct connection between seizures and dog dementia.

Currently, there is no connection that dementia causes seizures in senior dogs, although dogs with epilepsy can be prone to cognitive issues.

Senior dogs often experience seizures due to other problems, including liver disease, kidney failure, or brain tumors.

Should a dog have dementia, licking may become a new habit or behavior for your dog.

There are several reasons your dog may need to lick their paws or lips more than usual.

It could include heightened separation anxiety symptoms or feeling more uneasy than usual.

There are a few other reasons behind excessive licking, which may stem from nausea or allergies.

Although these issues aren't directly connected with dementia, it's always best to talk to your veterinarian if you notice this habit.

dog dementia stages

What To Do When You Notice Symptoms

Anytime you notice your dog developing these symptoms, it's imperative to take your dog to the vet for a check-up.

Although many dogs should have a check-up once a year, switching to every six months when your dog becomes a senior will help with regular monitoring and care.

Routine appointments will allow closer monitoring of any ongoing conditions.

This early monitoring will also improve the chances of early diagnoses.

As dementia shares similar symptoms with other health issues, veterinarians must run through various tests and steps to officially diagnose your pup and rule out other potential illnesses.

Other Names for Dog Dementia

This condition often goes by multiple terms, which can periodically confuse. Other names for dog dementia include:

  • Senile Dementia
  • Sundowners syndrome
  • Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD)
  • Canine Alzheimer's

Although this condition goes by many names, the symptoms of the disease are the same.

aggression in dogs with dementia

Stages of Dementia in Dogs

One of the first questions owners will ask when diagnosed with dementia is how long progression takes.

Initially, dementia works slowly, with only a few minor symptoms.

These symptoms are often mistaken for aging, whether that's increased sleep or becoming antisocial.

As the dog ages, more noticeable symptoms begin to appear, including accidents in the home, despite being housetrained.

Over time, these symptoms will progress and become worse.

Breeds Associated with Dementia

Although no specific breeds are connected directly with dementia, there is a small associated risk with smaller dog breeds having the condition.

Many experts believe that the connection between a dog's age and a dog's predisposition to dementia is related, making small breeds more likely to show signs by age 12.

Although dementia can show in larger dog breeds, they typically don't live as long as smaller dogs. With larger breeds, dementia will often show before age ten.

One study indicated that the breed group might influence the probability of dementia as the dog ages.

Using the American Kennel Club designations, terriers, non-sporting, and toy groups were more than three times as likely to be diagnosed with Canine Cognitive Dysfunction than other breed groupings.

Nothing can change a dog's breed or susceptibility to dementia, but activity levels may dictate the probability of a diagnosis.

Studies indicate that Canine Cognitive Dysfunction is 6.47 times higher in dogs that weren't active compared to similar age, breed, and health status.

A dog's health history can also contribute to the risk of CCD, with sensory abilities being highly significant.

Dogs with a history of neurological ear or eye disorders were twice as likely to have CCD.

While the sex of a dog doesn't hold much significance, the sexual status of a dog seems to influence a diagnosis.

Research indicates that intact dogs were 64% less likely to remain classified as having CCD or dog dementia.

Pup with vet

Building a Diagnosis for Dog Dementia

Currently, there is no cure for dog dementia, but one study indicated that life spans for dogs with the condition are no different than those without.

The veterinarian will need a complete description of the pet's symptoms and how long they've had the issue.

Many routine tests like blood count profiles, x-rays, and ultrasounds will help rule out other diseases.

Medications are available to help manage cognitive dysfunction in dogs, such as selegiline hydrochloride.

This medication is an enzyme blocker (specifically an MAO inhibitor) that slows the breakdown of certain natural substances in the brain.

ALSO READ: Dog Dementia Checklist

Treatment Options and Preventative Measures

Unfortunately, there are no cures currently available for dogs suffering from dementia.

There are a few different treatment options pet parents can consider, which include surgery, diet, lifestyle changes, medications, and supplements.

Although these measures aren't a guarantee, they can help slow any progression of dementia for several dogs.

To stay ahead of your dog's health, there are several preventative measures you can take to lessen the probability of a dementia diagnosis.

These tactics include the following options:

Switch Food

Many dog food brands will tailor options for senior dogs, which help offer the vitamins and supplements they need to stay healthy.

Talk to your veterinarian about an ideal time to switch your dog over to new food.

Provide Supplements

Just as people can take nutritional supplements to better their health, dogs can receive the additional nutrients they need.

Talk to your veterinarian about recommendations if you believe your pup might benefit from supplements.

Ongoing Socialization

While socialization is often stressed for younger dogs, it's essential for older dogs too.

If your dog struggles with mobility issues due to old age, consider inviting friends for a low-key interaction.

Continue taking your dog to the park, leash-free, or other locations.

Continue with Daily Exercise

dog dementia breeds that need exercise and dog walk

Although your senior dog will likely become slow-moving over time, continuing with daily exercise is essential.

Walking can help your canine with physical activity, mental stimulation, socialization, and sun exposure.

Look for leisurely walks without steep inclines or uneven ground.

When mobility becomes too tricky for walks, invest in a stroller or wagon with your dog to continue their regular schedule.

Likewise, always check the temperature and avoid days with excessive heat or cold.

Supporting Your Dog with Dementia: Understanding Quality of Life

Learning how to parent a dog with dementia isn't always easiest.

Although a few things may need to shift in your schedule to accommodate your pup, the quality of life doesn't need to suffer overall.

Understanding your dog's new habits can offer a comfortable lifestyle while supporting them through the condition.

Bring Them Outside More Frequently

With older age and the onset of dementia, dogs may have accidents in the house.

Taking them out to relieve themselves more regularly can help limit this problem.

Spending time outside also offers many other benefits, including exercise and regulating their sleep schedule, which is often influenced by dog dementia.

dog training at home

Limit Rearranging Furniture or Moving Food Bowls

A common symptom of dementia is disorientation and confusion.

As the condition progresses, your dog may become confused about the layout, or the dog may have to pause and think about where to go.

Leaving personal items like dog beds, bowls, and toys in a familiar location can reduce these symptoms, helping with confidence around the house.

Establish a Normal Routine and Schedule

Although you may have a regular schedule for your dog, sticking with predictable routines can improve comfort and stability with your dog.

This routine should encompass waking up and going to bed at similar times, daily walks in known locations, offering meals around the same time, and keeping to predictable activities.

Dog Training for dog dementia breeds

Use Simple Tricks and Commands

As your dog's condition progresses, you may notice they struggle to follow complex commands and tricks.

It may take an aging dog more time to process what you're asking, along with physical limitations that may prove difficult to complete.

Always lower your expectations, staying patient with the requests.

Remain Patient and Kind

Many dogs with canine dementia show bizarre behaviors that can prove problematic.

The loss of housebreaking, difficulty with commands, or trouble eating or drinking can be difficult for many owners to witness, but it's essential to remain patient as your dog ages.

Develop Strong Brain Training

Mentally stimulating games keep the brain active and slow the progression of dementia.

A few examples of mental stimulation for your dog include basic tricks or reinforcing previous commands, hiding treats around the room, using a snuffle mat and encouraging foraging behaviors, or offering treats through puzzle toys.

You may need to adjust your lifestyle when learning to live with a dog with dementia.

There is always a learning curve, but the most straightforward approach is limiting outside stressors from their life.

A side effect of dementia is increased anxiety, stress, and a short temper.

Stay ahead of these adverse side effects by limiting things that could cause your dog stress.

This interaction may include limiting how much time your dog is left unattended.

Another critical component of caring for a dog with dementia is learning to embrace new behaviors.

While some of these actions may seem outlandish, your dog cannot control them.

Showering your pup with love and affection is essential, especially when the world is slowly becoming scary.

Avoid scolding your dog; instead, redirect the behavior into something positive.

Dog Dementia Breeds: Conclusion

While not every senior dog will receive a dementia diagnosis, the condition is expected in the canine realm.

Learn to recognize the condition's symptoms and how to adapt your lifestyle to accommodate the dog's changing needs.

With statistics suggesting that half of all senior dogs will eventually suffer from dog dementia, it's critical to understand the warning signs and symptoms as soon as possible.

While cognitive dysfunction is problematic, it doesn’t influence the lifespan or quality of life for most canines.

With close monitoring, signs and symptoms can be monitored and minimized.

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Chin has been working as a writer for more than a decade in various niches and now she's finally living the dream of writing something she's passionate about—dogs!