Dementia in dogs

Do you have an older pet that paces around the house, barks when there is no one there, stares at walls or has trouble sleeping at night?

Just like humans, dogs can experience degenerative cognitive dysfunction, commonly known as Canine Dementia. Over time you will notice changes in responsiveness, disorientation, reduced memory and learning and changes in sleeping patterns.


Although incompletely understood, the brain changes seen in dogs with cognitive dysfunction is similar to that of humans with Alzheimer’s Disease. There are physical changes in the brain including loss of neurons and development of amyloid plaques, but also a change in the chemicals of the brain responsible for getting rid of free-radicals.

We don’t know why one dog may develop dementia and others don’t, but genetic factors have been suggested.


  • Disorientation
  • Confusion
  • Extreme irritability
  • Decreased desire to play
  • Excessive licking
  • Slow to move
  • Loss of appetite
  • Changes in sleep
  • Pacing around
  • Anxiousness
  • Barking for no reason
  • Doesn’t respond to voice commands
  • Loss of house training

Diagnosis and Treatment

Your veterinarian will need to gather a thorough history of your pet’s behaviour, including the onset and nature of the symptoms. As canine cognitive dysfuntion is a diagnosis by exclusion, your vet may want to run routine tests to make sure your pet isn’t suffering from another illness or disease.

Although there is no cure for canine cognitive dysfunction, your vet can prescribe medications that may assist in relieving the symptoms of dementia and help your pet gain back some of their daily activities.

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