Older Dog and Odd Behavior: Is It Dementia?

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction in Older Dogs

Senior dog with dementia
Maisie Paterson / Getty Images

Like humans, dogs and cats can exhibit signs of senior dementia. Vocalizing (barking, growling, howling) for no reason or at all hours, appearing to get "lost" in familiar surroundings, and other personality changes may suggest dementia.


"My 14-year-old mixed Cairn Terrier is exhibiting odd behavior. He'll stand and stare at nothing for 10-15 minutes at a time. He then wanders aimlessly from room to room before finally settling down for the night. He does appear to be sleeping all night. He also drinks incessantly; bowel and urine seem normal, although he does pee every 15 minutes or so before going to bed. He's done that for years. He eats well, but doesn't play much anymore. I looked up dog dementia and he does have many, but not all of the symptoms. Any similar situations?" Original post

Odd Behavior and Dementia in Older Dogs

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction is caused by physical changes in the brain and along with its chemicals. Studies have determined that some older dogs develop brain lesions similar to those that are found in patients with Alzheimer's. As a result, you might observe a deterioration of how your dog learns, thinks and remembers, and these behavioral changes can impact the lives of both you and your dog. A large percentage of dogs age 10 and older experience dementia, which includes a range of symptoms like confusion and disorientation. Your dog may have canine dementia if he isn't acting like himself and displays some of the following behaviors:

  • Becomes lost in familiar places around the home or yard
  • Hesitates to take treats, eat and drink
  • Get trapped behind furniture or in room corners
  • Wants less of your attention and praise, and isn't interesting in playing
  • Stares at the wall or into space and is startled by the lights, television, sounds, etc.
  • Has trouble finding and using doors and stairways
  • Sleeps more during the day and less at night
  • Doesn't respond to her name or commands
  • Frequently has accidents in the house, even when taken to the bathroom outside
  • Is withdrawn and doesn't want to go for walks, play or go outside
  • Has difficulty learning new commands or routes
  • Does not recognize or is startled by family members and his toys
  • Paces or wanders aimlessly around the house
  • Trembles or shakes often while standing or lying down

It is always important to have your pet evaluated by your veterinarian to rule out any medical causes first, as some diseases may cause similar signs or add to dementia behaviors. Learn more about the signs evident with:

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Related: Anipryl® - Help for Senior Pets?
Additional information about dementia behaviors in pets and learn about Anipryl®, a drug used for some cases of dementia.

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