Dementia in Dogs

Dementia in Dogs

Understand the debilitating and difficult disease that older dogs sometimes face – dementia.

Dogs are one of the most social animals, and they suffer from mental problems similar to humans. Dogs might become depressed, anxious, stressed, and when they age, they might start to forget.

The sad truth regarding dementia in dogs is that usually, it will just deteriorate and impair functionality. Be prepared to become a lot more proactive with the care you must provide for your dog if there is the onset of dementia.

Signs of dementia


An early symptom of dementia is getting upset, anxious, and circling around the house. You will notice a loss in mood and lethargic behaviour. Your dog will become unenthusiastic. If your dog reacts negatively to a situation, do not punish your dog. Don’t leave your dog alone in a confined space as a form of punishment.

Extreme aggression

Another symptom of dementia is aggression that is hard to control and spontaneous. Your dog is probably confused, and might suddenly get angry and depressed. If your dog has been docile all his life, only to have surprising and sudden aggressive episodes or actions in its older age, you should consider getting your pet checked for an illness. 

Losing direction

Losing one’s way is a common and unfortunate symptom of dementia. As dogs start to lose their cognitive function, their memory will become impaired. They might suddenly forget things. Pathways and walkways that were familiar haunts will become alien to your dog. 

Memory loss

Memory loss generally accompanies impaired cognitive abilities. Your dog might forget its daily routine, such as when to go for a walk or its favourite activities during playtime. If this starts to happen, especially as your dog ages, you might want to consult with a veterinarian as soon as possible.


Dysthymia refers to very low mood swings, an inability to understand the space around you, and the tendency to get stuck. Your dog will show reduced spatial abilities and will lose awareness of its size and the space it occupies. It will lose the ability to get itself out of narrow or confined spaces. 

Lethargy and confusion

With age, it is natural to have a sudden decrease of energy or overall enthusiasm. While this is common, you should still pay attention if your dog is too exhausted and drained. If your dog is sleepier and duller than usual, and for long spans of time, it could be a sign. 

Increased anti-social tendencies

If your dog is usually friendly and jovial, but you notice sudden fights between your dog and other dogs, or if it snaps at you, it could be an alarming sign. This sudden change in behaviour is a definite signal for you to keep a more watchful eye out for your dog. Note down the dog’s episodes. If this is abnormal or aberrational behaviour, it could be yet another symptom of dementia. 

Accidents in the house

Your dog might urinate inside the house. All of the training you have given your dog will be forgotten, leading to these sudden accidents. 

Constant barking, growling, or whining

Is your dog suddenly barking or whining uncontrollably at night? There is always an underlying reason for this. If you notice this, check for other symptoms as well. Your dog is probably upset or stressed, and might be whining out of extreme discomfort and fear. 

Helping your dog 

If your dog is diagnosed with this debilitating disease, both you and the dog are in it for the long haul. There is no definitive cure for dementia, only a way to manage it along with cognitive exercises and games you can play with your dog. Your dog is confused and scared by the new developments and its sudden memory loss. It could forget where it is. There will be moments of stress for you. It is important to remember how much scarier it is for your dog. Be gentle, and avoid punishment as a form of discipline. Don’t make sudden movements to pet your dog, as it could result in a sudden burst of aggression. Be sensitive at all times. 

With your love and care, a dog suffering from dementia can still lead a relatively peaceful life. The right environment and support system could make a huge difference to your dog’s overall wellbeing. 

Consult with your dog’s veterinarian for a treatment plan. Verify the pharmacological treatment in case your dog suffers from allergy and so on. 

The information contained in VOSD Vet Advice™ is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical action which is provided by your vet. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information. For any emergency situation related to a dog’s health, please visit the nearest veterinary clinic.

Do you find this information useful? For more important medical advice, visit the VOSD website.