Is Dog Dementia Real? What Are the Symptoms?

Is Dog Dementia Real? What Are the Symptoms?
Dementia is a commonly feared cognitive dysfunction that affects the human population on a regular basis. What follows may be news to you and it breaks our hearts to share this, but older dogs can fall to dementia as well.
You might hear the phrase “Dog Alzheimer’s” thrown in conversations as a joke, but the fact is it’s very much real and the behavior changes can be alarming.
It’s reported that dogs 14 years and older have a 40% chance of developing what’s known as canine cognitive dysfunction, or CCD for short. In broader statistics, 14% to 22% of the senior dog population can be affected by canine cognitive dysfunction.
These statistics are gloomy, and while there are no treatments or medications from veterinarians and veterinary behaviorists that can cure this degenerative disease, there is a known treatment and medication that can help slow the progression of CCD and improve your dog’s quality of life.
Here are some symptoms of canine cognitive dysfunction to keep an eye out for:
  • Anxiety
  • Changes in activity level
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Disorientation
  • Defecation
  • Changes in social interactions and behaviors
It’s common to have a dog that experiences anxieties or separation anxiety. In the case of canine dementia and CCD, displays of increased anxiety and your dog being more reactive and afraid should be noted. If anxiety levels become abnormal, seek veterinarian help.
Changes in Activity Level
If your dog has CCD, changes in activity level can touch both ends of the spectrum. Your dog may either show a significant decrease in playtime and other activities or your dog may be observed pacing more or wandering endlessly, walking in circles.
Changes in Sleep Patterns
Your dog’s sleep can be affected by canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD) and you might discover they become more vocal in the middle of the night. This isn’t too far off from dementia and Alzheimer’s with humans and is known as Sundowning:
“Scientists don't completely understand why sleep disturbances occur with Alzheimer's disease and dementia. As with changes in memory and behavior, sleep changes somehow result from the impact of Alzheimer's on the brain.
Some studies indicate as many as 20 percent of persons with Alzheimer's will experience increased confusion, anxiety and agitation beginning late in the day. Others may experience changes in their sleep schedule and restlessness during the night. This disruption in the body's sleep-wake cycle can lead to more behavioral problems.” (Alzheimer’s Association,
This may come in the form of your dog getting easily lost or stuck in places that should be familiar to them or routine. The aforementioned sundowning is a form of disorientation with the common denominator that your dog is confused.
You might find your dog soiling places they shouldn’t be with canine dementia. If this is uncommon for them, it may be a symptom of your dog developing CCD.
Changes in Social Interactions & Behaviors
The changes in social interactions and behaviors may vary with doggy dementia. Some dogs show more aggression towards people while other dogs try to steer clear of people. They also may be more fearful or irritable with encounters.
If your dog is exhibiting any of these symptoms, seek professional from a vet as soon as possible so that you can take the steps to make sure your fur baby lives the rest of their life comfortably. The vet can provide guidance throughout the way.
We recommend checking out our blog post on how to dog proof your home, as many of the recommendations for caring for your dog at home starts with making the environment safe and easier to navigate.
What you’ve just read is a sampling of blog posts we offer at Joyride Harness. We cover current events, informational posts, interviews, and more! You can find more content including tips and tricks and how-tos for caring for your dog on our blog at this section. Feel free to leave a comment with tips you’re looking for!
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