Signs of dementia in dogs can be distressing to notice. After all, we want our grey-muzzled companions to be mentally sharp and happy for as long as possible in their golden years. Integrative veterinarian Dr. Julie Buzby takes an in-depth look at the five common signs of doggie dementia and explains how to help your dog with dementia keep living the good life.
Recently, a longtime friend and client brought in his 10-year-old black Labrador Retriever, Dixie. I had known her since she was about three months old. Dixie pranced into the clinic with the same happy attitude that she is known for.
However, Dixie’s dad looked very concerned. As I asked what was going on, Dixie’s dad started describing some changes he had noticed at home recently. His dear Labrador was no longer sleeping through the night. She was also barking more than normal and had started to show some aggression towards her “brother,” a small Terrier mix. It was very obvious that something was changing with his beloved dog.
Finally, he looked up at me and said “Dixie is doing things I never would have expected from her. Can dogs lose their memory?” I looked back at him and told him, “Yes, unfortunately dogs can develop dementia.”
I went on to explain to Dixie’s dad that our canine companions are living longer than they used to because of the wonderful care they receive at home and by their veterinarian. This is great news because it means we get more time with our dogs. However, it also means that an increasing number of dogs are living long enough to develop doggie dementia (i.e. Canine Cognitive Dysfunction in Dogs or CCD).
What is dementia in dogs?
Dementia occurs in senior dogs as they age. Their brain undergoes changes that are very similar to what doctors see in human Alzheimer’s disease or dementia patients. In fact, a 2019 article published in Frontiers in Neuroscience compared canine cognitive dysfunction and Alzheimer’s disease in detail. These brain changes can affect a dog’s memory, personality, sleep patterns, activity, and appetite.
In recent studies, it has been estimated that approximately 28% of senior dogs develop CCD by 11 to 12 years old. When dogs reach the ages of 15 to 16 years, it is estimated that approximately 68% have doggie dementia.
What are the signs of dementia in dogs?
As dementia starts in our beloved senior dogs, initially it may be difficult for you to recognize. The early signs are sometimes very subtle. That’s why it is important that dog parents know what to look for.
Dementia in dogs has three stages of symptoms—mild, moderate, and severe. There are typical patterns that appear within each stage. However, it’s important to note that not every dog follows these exact patterns or stages. So any of the signs described below could be seen at any time once dementia sets in.
In the early stage of dementia, signs tend to be more mild and easier to miss. You may notice changes in your dog’s sleep patterns and maybe mild changes in how your senior dog socializes with you or other pets.
The moderate stage is when signs may become more apparent to you. The most frequent symptom you may notice at this stage are accidents in the house—even though your dog was previously house-trained.
The last stage is severe symptoms. In this stage, the signs mentioned above tend to increase. Also, you may notice your dog starting to wander around the house throughout the night instead of sleeping. Your dog may begin to bark more at things that aren’t really there. Let’s explore these signs in depth.
Sign #1: Disorientation
Some dogs with dementia seem to lose their sense of direction or may walk around appearing confused. Disorientation can be seen in a variety of ways in our senior dogs. Some dogs may walk up to furniture and appear unsure of how to go around it.
If you have ever seen the movie A Bug’s Life, the scene in the very beginning of the movie when the leaf falls and blocks the line of ants carrying food is similar to disorientation. That leaf falling blocks the path that the ants always take, and they become disoriented and need the other ants to lead them around the leaf back to the correct path.
Sometimes, as our senior dogs become disoriented, they might need help just like this to re-learn how to go around the couch or table to get where they want to go.
Other signs of disorientation include:
- Forgetting where the water bowl or doggie door are located even though they have always been in the same spot.
- Walking in circles as if stuck in that motion and don’t know how to stop.
- Getting stuck in a corner or standing with the head leaning on the wall like he or she doesn’t know what to do (head pressing).
- Standing at the wrong side of the door when it is opened.
If you begin to see your dog exhibiting any of these signs, but you are not sure if your dog is truly disoriented, take a video to show your vet. This will help you explain what you are seeing so your vet can figure out the best way to help your pup.
Sign #2: Changes in social behavior
One of the most common reasons dog parents bring their dog into the vet is social behavior changes at home. These changes may occur with the people living in the house or with other pets. As mentioned, doggie dementia affects our dogs’ memories. This means they may forget those that they live with or forget how they normally play with other dogs or cats.
Some dogs become less interested in playing with or receiving attention from their people. This may mean they no longer care when company comes over. They used to get excited or bark to greet guests, but now they don’t. Other dogs may become more needy and want extra attention.
Finally, the change that is usually the most concerning to owners, is sudden aggression toward people or animals. This was one of the big problems Dixie’s dad was seeing because Dixie was attacking her terrier “brother.”
If you begin to see changes in behavior at home, especially more aggressive behavior, please discuss it with your veterinarian immediately. While these changes may be related to dementia in dogs, it is important to make sure that there are no other health problems going on. Arthritis in dogs or other causes of pain in dogs could also cause your senior dog to act differently.
Sign #3: Changes in sleep patterns
In some cases, altered sleep patterns may be the first sign that you recognize in your furry friend because this interrupts your own sleep. Dogs with dementia often start waking up more in the middle of the night than they previously did. Dementia can be one of many causes of senior dog anxiety at night.
Your dog may do different things when he or she wakes up. Some may pace back and forth all night as if they are anxious about something. Other dogs may wake up barking as if someone knocked on the door or they saw a ghost. And others may wake up and decide they are starving and need to eat right then!
Some dog parents describe this stage as being similar to having a newborn baby at home or to sundowning in humans with Alzheimer’s. It is okay to be frustrated when this happens because it is exhausting for both you and your dog!
Sign #4: Accidents in the house
As dementia sets in, some senior dogs may forget the commands and tricks you previously taught them. When you say “sit,” “come,” or “stay” they may just look puzzled. Dogs with dementia may also forget all that hard work you put into house-training. Inappropriate urination or defecation in the house may occur due to:
- Increased anxiety that occurs with dementia.
- Going outside and forgetting what they were supposed to be doing.
- Forgetting where the doggie door is or how to use it.
However, accidents in the house can happen for other reasons in senior dogs. Urinary incontinence in older dogs, Cushing’s disease in dogs, administration of medications like prednisone for dogs, or urinary tract infections in dogs may also cause urinary accidents. It is important to discuss accidents and other signs with your veterinarian to ensure he or she has the needed information to make the right diagnostic and treatment plan.
Sign #5: Increased anxiety and changes in activity or appetite
As mentioned, doggie dementia may cause increases or decreases in activity. Increased activity usually presents as pacing or restless nights. On the other hand, dog parents may easily mistake decreased activity during the day as age-related slowing down. Dementia patients commonly want to sleep more during the day or may not be as excited to play as they used to be.
Activity may also change because anxiety can become worse once dementia sets in. Sometimes, dogs can sense the changes happening. They are scared and confused because they don’t remember how to follow commands or they keep getting lost around the house.
In addition to confusion-anxiety, some senior dogs with dementia may develop noise-based anxiety. This may include reacting to fireworks, thunder, or even small noises like car alarms or the stove beeping. Another common sign some owners notice is that their four-legged friend is more attached to them. This can be a result of separation anxiety.
Since activity can decrease and anxiety can increase, another sign is decreased eating and drinking. This may occur because dogs feel too tired or confused to get up and go to the bowl. They also could forget where the bowl is located or forget that they were hungry or thirsty.
How is doggie dementia diagnosed?
The most important diagnostic step is dog parents noticing the signs at home. You spend the most time with your furry friend and you know him or her best. Dogs often tend to behave differently at the vet than they do at home, so your vet may not be able to see what you see.
It is important that you let your veterinarian know when your dog’s behavior is changing and you think something is wrong, just like Dixie’s dad did. If you are confused about what your senior dog is doing or don’t know how to describe it, pull out your smart phone. Pictures and videos can help your vet “see” what is happening.
Once you bring your pet to the vet, he or she will ask you to describe what is going on. Typically, your vet will also ask a variety of follow-up questions. Sometimes he or she may recommend different tests such as blood work, X-rays, ultrasound, CT, or MRI. These tests can help rule out other health issues that could have similar signs.
These steps are important because there isn’t an easy “yes” or “no” test that can definitively say if your dog has dementia. Ultimately, your vet makes the diagnosis based on your observations after ruling out other conditions.
How are signs of dementia in dogs treated?
Your veterinarian may prescribe medications or supplements to help keep your dog comfortable and manage anxiety or disrupted sleep patterns. Some of the more common may include:
- Melatonin for dogs, which may help restore normal sleep-wake cycles.
- Anti-anxiety medications.
- Anipryl® (Selegiline), a medication which affects signaling chemicals in the brain to manage the signs of dementia.
There are a variety of medications, supplements, and diets that may help with dementia beyond the short list shown above. Your vet is the best person to decide which of these options are right for your dog, which is why they are not covered in more detail here.
There are also activities you can do at home to help your dog’s memory. You may have heard human doctors recommend puzzles to Alzheimer’s patients. Puzzles can be good for dogs too! You can try different “thinking games” at home such as food puzzles (found on Amazon and at most pet stores).
Some owners play “watch the food” where they put a piece of food under a cup and leave two cups empty. Then they move the cups in a circle on the floor and the dog has to find the food. Also, this can be a way to encourage your senior dog to eat.
Back to Dixie
Dixie’s relationships with her dad and “fur sibling” improved after starting anxiety medication and learning “thinking games.” She loves to play hide-and-go-seek with her dad. He told me that once he taught her this game, their relationship grew back to where it was and her activity level seemed to improve.
She still has some hard days, but she continues to love food and going on her walks. Her dad understands that just like with human Alzheimer’s or dementia, it can progress over time. However, he is making the most of her golden years and plays an important role in helping her improve!
Hope for dogs who are showing signs of dementia
If your senior dog is showing some of the five signs we discussed or if he or she has recently been diagnosed with dementia, it can be normal to feel scared or unsure what is next. However, there are so many ways you can improve your dog’s quality of life.
Dementia doesn’t have to define the last chapters of your dog’s life. Be sure to ask your veterinarian any questions that you have and work with him or her to develop a plan for your dog. Together, you can help your senior dog have comfortable, happy golden years in spite of his or her doggie dementia diagnosis!
Does your dog have dementia?
Please comment below to share his or her story.
Lisa Gomez says
My senior dog is showing signs of ccd
He is going circles and hitting wall and furniture and not able to sleep
And haven’t ate in 3 days and only drinks water .
He potty in the house . He was very well potty trained.
Doesn’t respond to his name anymore and stairs at the walls and he doesn’t recognize me anymore
Julie Buzby DVM says
I am so sorry your senior guy is suffering from CCD. The symptoms you describe are all too common in dogs with dementia. At some point, saying goodbye may be the only way to give your sweet boy relief from his struggles. Here is a link to another article with more information: Dementia in Dogs: When to Euthanize Your Beloved Senior Dog
Wishing you strength and comfort as you face difficult decisions ahead. Bless you both.
Jace Cortez. RVT. VTSIM says
I started my 20y/o Italian Greyhound on Melatonin and Selegiline,and it has worked wonders! before i would walk in the house and it would take her a good 30 min to finally realize it was me, I dont want to do any miracles for her, she is 20 i just want to make her as comfortable as possible I just turned 40 she has been my little sidekick for half my life, if your dog needs it please talk to your Veterinarian
Julie Buzby DVM says
This is great advice. I couldn’t have said it better myself. I am so glad your sweet girl has had such a dramatic improvement to her quality of life since starting the melatonin and Selegiline. I am sure your knowledge of internal medicine has been quite helpful as you navigate these senior years with your beloved pup. Thank you for sharing your experience! I appreciate you and all the hard work you put in each day as an RVT. There is no way I could do my job without people like you by my side. Bless you.
This is heart-wrenching. My 14.5 yo adopted border collie (adopted at 14 yo!) is exhibiting what I realize are signs of dementia, not just age. She is already essentially deaf, so I can’t reassure her verbally. She has IVDD and arthritis and urinary incontinence, so she takes Proin and carprofen. Gabapentin, which I tried for her IVDD, did nothing but make her more moody and wobbly. But additionally, she gets stuck and can’t get up from odd places, like when she’s up against the couch. Frankly, she barks for help to get up about 75% of the time now. I sleep downstairs since she can’t climb stairs so that I can be closer to help her in the middle of the night. She barks for no reason mid-day and she has become more aggressive to my other dog, even biting her a few times. As a herding dog, she wants others to do her bidding, but she didn’t used to do that to my other dog. She sleeps a lot more than before. I think I will let her go sooner rather than later since the writing is on the wall that it won’t improve, and I would rather she had joy for the 8 months with me than decline in confusion. When I got her, she was overweight and her mobility was horrible, plus she had open sores on her elbows and even on one of her feet. I got all that healed, helped her lose weight, and with that, her mobility improved, but now these other symptoms are ones I can’t resolve. The vet will tell me, “let’s try this or that,” but that starts to be nothing more than a financial drain with no real gain for her.
Julie Buzby DVM says
I am sorry you are facing this difficult decision for your senior pup. It does sound like her dementia is causing suffering and saying goodbye may be the most loving option. What a blessing she was able to find you and have joy in her last days. Thank you for allowing a sweet senior girl to truly know love and pass with dignity. Wishing you strength and comfort for the days ahead. Bless you both.
Judy Penn says
I have a 15 year Male Maltese be 16 in May 2023. He sure has changed he always wanted to snuggle and hold him when I sit down. Always wanted to sleep with me. Last 7 months he doesn’t sleep with me, he doesn’t want me to hold him, love on him, been hard to give him a bath. Doesn’t play fetch any more, walks the floors, walks around furniture and trips over it or gets caught, I find him in the corner of a room just standing there like he is lost. He has taken over a love seat in the living room, sleeps there Day and night, he howls sometimes at night, I try to sit next to him to love on him, he gets down, he was my protector and shadow. I miss him so much. Eats good and drinks water, I give him joint and hip soft chewable and a multi soft vitamin, I crumble them up in my hand he eats them out of my hand every night.
Julie Buzby DVM says
I am sorry your senior guy is struggling with the symptoms of dementia. I understand how difficult it can be to watch a beloved dog slowly decline mentally while they still seem to be physically normal. I will attach links to other articles with more information. Should you start to question if your sweet boy’s quality of life has diminished, please don’t hesitate to reach out to your veterinarian. Best wishes and bless you both.
1. Canine Cognitive Dysfunction in Dogs: Signs, Symptoms, Solutions
2. Sundowners in Dogs: A Veterinarian’s Guide
3. Senior Dog Anxiety at Night? 9 Solutions for Better Sleep
4. Using a Quality of Life Scale for Dogs
5. Dementia in Dogs: When to Euthanize Your Beloved Senior Dog
I have a 16 year old Maltipoo who I love dearly. She has been showing decline for a while now. She is deaf and blind which I know is a part of her issues but there’s more to it than that. She has been having accidents in the house for at least the last 6 months. She will maybe go potty outside once a day if we’re lucky. The rest of the time she goes in the house even where she sleeps. She paces constantly and stares at the walls. She can’t jump up anymore and has obvious trouble walking and standing but can do it with some assistance. Most recently her behavior has changed and she has started growling and snapping when anyone tries to pick her up to take her outside or pick her up in general. It’s hard to even pet her anymore. She has never ever growled at me in 16 years until the other day. I have been mulling over putting her down. I know it is ultimately my decision as our vet reminded me but it is so hard. She hasn’t been wimpering or whining in pain and eats/drinks well; but it also breaks my heart to see her like this.
Julie Buzby DVM says
I am sorry your senior girl is struggling with the symptoms of dementia. I understand it can be hard to assess the severity of her condition when physically things seem to be ok. I do think mental disease can cause just as much suffering as physical disease, if not worse. From what you describe, letting go may be the only way to give your pup peace and rest from her troubles. I would rather say goodbye one day too early than one day too late and allow unnecessary suffering. I will attach links to other articles with more information. I am hopeful you will find the answers and advice you need to make the best choice for your sweet girl. Praying for your strength to face these difficult decisions. Bless you both.
1. Using a Quality of Life Scale for Dogs
2. Dementia in Dogs: When to Euthanize Your Beloved Senior Dog
3. Preparing for Your Dog’s Euthanasia: 10 Thoughts for Peace
Hello all! I have a 15.8 year old yellow Labrador Retriever. She and her sister (a 13.7 year old chocolate Labrador Retriever) are the loves of my life. In January of 2022, we started to notice behavioral changes… withdrawing from activities she loves like snuggling on the couch, playing ball, and not coming when called. She is a very vocal dog (as most labs are) and always responded to our voices, especially specific words like “walk” “car ride”, etc. We then determined that she either lost her hearing or had selective hearing. She also stopped eating dry dog food, so I began making her fresh chicken and beef each day. That she eats no problem!
Also around this time, her back legs started giving out even though she’s swam, ran and walked daily her whole life. It was confirmed as arthritis and not hip dysplasia or a spinal/nerve issue. We begun giving her shots of Adequan every few weeks in the booty which helped tremendously so she now runs around like a 3 year old pup. The only thing I have to be careful of is not to let her hurt herself running around like that!
In June of 2022, we started noticing her pacing after the sun went down each night. She’d stare off into corners, trap herself under tables/chairs, and walk in and out of our shower at night while we were sleeping. There was also a lot of panting. She’d also go outside and forget to do her business, then come inside and have accidents. We took her to the vet and determined she has CCD (dementia). They wanted to put her on meds, but I decided against that because that’s what they did to my grandmother when she was diagnosed with dementia and she became a vegetable – sleeping all the time. I did not want that to happen to my pup in the last few years of her life.
She had one “neurological event” in January of 2023 where she was refusing to eat anything, lethargic, trembling & withdrawn. I took her to the emergency vet where all her test results came back normal. They gave her a shot of gabapentin and anti-nausea and sent us home saying it may be some kind of event and we hoped she’d come around in the morning. She did! I read online that fish oil is good for CCD dogs, so I have fresh skin on fish 3x a week for dinner and then she gets the skin as a snack at night. On the days after she eats the fish skin, she’s at her best. I know you can purchase fish oil supplements, but I wanted her to have the raw stuff instead of risk something chemically treated – plus I just throw the skin away anyway. I continue the cooked beef & chicken diet with either sweet potatoes/carrots/pumpkin daily. I also take her for walks every day or every other day depending on how she’s feeling. In addition, I purchased a supplement on Chewy: “Zesty Paws Advanced Cognition Bites” & she’s been getting them for 6 months twice a day with food.
It’s now February of 2023 and she’s doing amazing. She’s eating so well, she’s alert, happy & as much of her old self as she can be given her age. She continues to pace at night and have accidents in the house, but far less than before and that’s a small price to pay. I know she won’t be around forever, but I want her remaining time with me to be the best it possibly can & I hope this post is helpful to someone 🙂
Julie Buzby DVM says
This is such wonderful information and advice! Thank you for being willing to share your experience with our readers. I am so glad your girl is thriving and living her best life. Your pup is very lucky to have you advocating for her health and wellbeing. Wishing you both the best for many happy days ahead. Keep up the good work!
Britney, your post is very helpful to me. My mini schnauzer Suzy is turning 13 soon and showing signs of cognitive decline. like your fur babies, she is also the love of my life, my soul mate. I wish you many more happy years with your girls.
My 14 yr. old pug has started to go under my bed and bark hysterically, comes from under bed exhausted. grts startled easily, confused but has a good appetite. follow me around the house, has jow acquired separati9n. I believe he has dementia
Julie Buzby DVM says
I agree, it does sounds like your Pug may have some symptoms of dementia. This would be a good thing to discuss with your vet. There may be a supplement or medication that could greatly improve your dog’s quality of life.
We have a 15 year old Jack Russell mix, Bacon, who is the love of our lives. We adopted him at approx. 8 mos old. This past year has been a slow and steady decline, and thanks to sites like this one we’ve determined that he also has CCD. He’s been walking into walls, getting confused, stuck under chairs, doesn’t know the correct side of the door, paces constantly, is up all night and sleeps most of the day, has accidents in the house, he can’t be picked up and doesn’t come when called. He could be blind and deaf, but most symptoms point to CCD. The hardest part is that he doesn’t appear in distress but has stopped doing all the things he loves (jumping on the couch, cuddling, sleeping in our bed, going for walks). He cannot find comfort on a blanket or in a dog bed and ultimately falls asleep where he lands.
We have made the decision to say goodbye and have come to terms with it. We know it will be one of the hardest things we will do as a family, but ultimately it is the best decision for Bacon.
These posts are so supportive and helpful – thank you to everyone who has posted!
Julie Buzby DVM says
My heart goes out to you as you face this emotional decision for Bacon. I know his presence in your lives will be dearly missed but glad he will gain peace from his struggles. Thank you for sharing your story with us. I am sure this will be the comfort someone else needs to navigate an uncertain road. I pray Bacon’s passing will be smooth and may his memory be a blessing. Bless you all.
Henrietta Martin says
Hi, I have a Jack cross, little girl called Bramble, she is showing very similar signs as your Bacon but just not so advanced. She is sleeping closely to me in bed, which is wonderful, eats well; but stands at the wrong side of the door, has peed and done poos inside, and on my bed once. She is completely silent, not a single peep, deaf and blind. She seems happy enough, still loves her walks and food. I’m sending you lots of love.. I am dreading the day, it’s been me, my daughter and Bramble for nearly 16 years.. God bless our most special friends.
Amy Drescher says
I have a 11 year old beagle boxer Sammi noticed more dribbling and she would go to sleep and then urninates so she was p[aced on Estradiol 1 mg now taking 1 tablet every 5 days . So on Saturday I took her to the vet because her anxiety has been through the roof for the last 3 days and very clingy then normal I tried over the counter calm tablets they did not help so the vet put Sammi on Fluoxetine 40 mg 1 tablet daily did blood work her organs are fine and talked alittle about demita said to check back in 2 weeks. Today she did drink some water but would not eat any treats or food or going out side can be a challange but once she is outside she is fine but still having anxiety issues . Wondering if I should have the vet prescribe Anipryl also.
Julie Buzby DVM says
I understand your concern for Sammi and her anxiety struggles. Sometimes it can take some trial and error to find the best combination of medications for dogs with dementia. I do think it would be a good idea to talk to your vet about what options are still available to try. I am not sure if Anipryl can be combined with all the other treatments Sammi is currently receiving, but your vet will know what is best for her specific situation. I hope you can find the magic combination for sweet Sammi. Best wishes to you both!
My situation is similar to Robin and Kathleen’s above. I have a 13 year old Shiloh Shepherd with dementia, arthritis, and hip dysplasia. He’s on Metacam, Gabapentin, and I’ve even tried CBD oil for him but that last one doesn’t seem to have helped. Despite the medication, the anxiety is causing a lot of stress and sleeplessness. I work from home and he’ll whine, pace, pant, and nudge me for 4-hours at a time most days. It makes work challenging and the same will frequently happen at night. Just this evening he went into a panic attack on our walk and I have no idea why. I think the time has come and I just needed some reassurance that doing it for mental health was alright.
Julie Buzby DVM says
I understand your concerns with your senior boy and his struggles with dementia. Yes, it is ok to consider euthanasia for mental health decline in your Shepherd. I definitely feel like the suffering that comes from cognitive dysfunction can be just as bad, if not worse, than what is experienced with physical problems. Choosing to give your boy peace and rest is the most loving and unselfish decision you can make. But don’t forget that your quality of life matters too. Here is a link to another article with more information and great comments from other readers: Dementia in Dogs: When to Euthanize Your Beloved Senior Dog
I hope you can find the answers you need to gain peace and clarity with your difficult decision. Give your sweet boy a hug for me and bless you both. ♥
My baby boy Blitz age 13 is experiencing so many of the conditions you describe. He has loss of appetite barks at nothing and seems confused . The worst is the barking , pacing, panting at night. It went on for 3 hours and the medication are
not working I agonize over the thought of putting him down but I know I cannot maintain this lack of sleep. He still loves to be outside and sleep in his “ sun spot”. I am crying as I write this
Julie Buzby DVM says
My heart goes out to you and this difficult situation you are in with Blitz. I hear the concern in your words and can only imagine how drained you must be after dealing with this nighttime anxiety. Please know that “letting go” is ok and not a bad choice for your sweet boy. It is hard to really evaluate quality of life when most of the issues are mental instead of physical. But I do think that the mental struggles can cause as much suffering as physical issues, if not more. Also, your quality of life matters too. ♥ Here is a link to another article that may offer additional advice and great comments from other readers: Dementia in Dogs: When to Euthanize Your Beloved Senior Dog
I hope you can find the information you need to make the best decision for you and Blitz. Praying for strength and clarity for you and peace and rest for your senior guy.
My 11 yr old Sheltie has many of the same actions as everyone describes. What has worked wonders for her is melatonin in the morning to help her nap during the day instead of pacing…then mela tonin again one hour before bedtime. She also takes, prescribed by vet, alazopran at night. She takes one Sam-E 1 hr before dinner. This has all made a tremendous difference. The vet guided us every step alongbthis very difficult journey. I went without sleep for weeks and finally addressed the situation with the vet. When i told her of the confusion, forgetfulness, attitude changes, she knew just what to do. Blessings to everyone going thru this. It is rough.
Julie Buzby DVM says
Thank you for sharing your experience with our readers. These are great suggestions of things for others to discuss with their vet. I am glad you have found what works for your Sheltie and that it has improved her quality of life. Best wishes to you both for many happy days ahead!
Robin E. says
We are struggling with our 15 y o labradoodle, Lucy. Her at least year + of obvious dementia includes reversed sleep cycle, whining at night, rapid pacing, loud barking for no reason. She is also almost completely blind, so she walks into things anyway, but now there is no caution and she runs into things at full speed. She started urinating in the house several times a day as if she is outside. She eats ok and drinks ok and can still get up (even with her 2 knee replacements). She still enjoys short walks and enjoy all the smells. We are losing our minds with little sleep for the past year. We love her like crazy. We have tried melatonin, CDB, trazodone and gabapentin. While she is miserable at night, but she is relatively ok during the day. When is the “right” time to say gooddbye?
Julie Buzby DVM says
It sounds like you have done everything you can to try and keep Lucy comfortable and safe. At some point, despite our best efforts, saying goodbye is the most loving and unselfish decision we can make. You have to take into consideration your quality of life and if the stress of being a caregiver is breaking the bond with your sweet girl. I will attach links to other articles that may offer additional information and advice. Many of the articles also have great comments left by other readers. I hope you can find the answers you need to make the best decision for you and Lucy. Praying you find clarity and comfort for the days ahead.
1. Dementia in Dogs: When to Euthanize Your Beloved Senior Dog
2. Preparing for Your Dog’s Euthanasia: 10 Thoughts for Peace
3. In-Home Dog Euthanasia: Heartfelt Answers to 12 FAQs
4. Dog Euthanasia: Knowing When to Say Goodbye
5. How Will You Know When It’s Time to Euthanize Your Dog? 5 Caring, Heartfelt Messages
Hi, I am in the same place now, as Robin, (the above email). My sweet black lab is almost 14. She has dementia and I believe GOLPP. She has had back legs shaking for awhile and now they are giving out at times. Also heavy breathing and panting. Her dementia has gotten really bad, as far as the night -time pacing and panting. She was up for hours last night pacing back and forth and panting heavily. I gave her trazadone and then gabapentin, tried consoling her, but nothing was working. Finally gave her xnax. I am so wiped out! I have been up many times in the past few weeks and getting little sleep. I am having such a hard time making the decision to put her down. During the day she is better, but sleeps a lot. Thank you for the articles you posted and any other advice. I am struggling!
Julie Buzby DVM says
I understand the heartache and grief that comes with making a decision to say goodbye. It does sound like your girl is struggling and her quality of life is suffering. I am worried about you and your lack of sleep. ♥ I am glad you read my comment to Robin as it does sound like everything applies to your situation as well. Praying you find the strength to give your sweet girl peace and rest. May your heart be comforted knowing you did everything you could. I have no doubt your Lab girl knows how much she is loved. Bless you both.
I hope you’re doing ok. It’s been a couple of days since your post here and you may not have gotten the reassurance you needed. I always heard, and thought, I’d know when the time was right. And the time came. And I agonised over it with QoL questionnaires and chats to friends. I felt the decision was right… and worried for a long time afterwards I was wrong. I now think if you bring compassion and understanding for the dog’s plight to the process, as well as some logic, take the vet advice and also apply the prognosis… it’s all you can do. And there is hardly ever a right time if it’s not from a trauma. I’m sorry. I hope you’re coping. My heart sits with you while our doggos sit on the rainbow bridge watching us together. ?
My 13 year old
Multi-pug Dulce first showed signs of dementia about 6 months ago. She has declined very quickly since then. It started with soiling in the house and has progressed to walking into walls , losing her way in and outside, forgetting what she was doing and standing on the wrong side of doors. She also leans her head and face against walls and stares into space. She has forgotten her name and she not come when called any longer. This morning she had forgotten how to drink from her water bowl. She kept stepping in it. I was able to get her focused enough to drink. Coupled with her difficulties in moving about and her unsteady gait and near blindness I have made the very difficult decision to put her down. Our vet is coming to the house tomorrow. I am really struggling and I feel terribly guilty and can’t help but asking myself if I am moving too quickly. Her quality of life is not great, she spends the day sleeping on her bed in a play pen of sorts lined with pee pads because she has also forgotten her potty training. I hope that I am able to come to peace with my decision. She was a rescue but she saved my life as much as I saved hers. She gave me the companionship and the fulfilling sense of caring for someone that I greatly needed while going through a very painful divorce. I have had her 5 years after adopting her at 8. I will miss her so very much and my house will not be the same without her. Please give me some reassurance. People have told me when it’s time I will know it. My mind knows it but my heart doesn’t. Thanks for article.
Julie Buzby DVM says
I understand your heartache over saying goodbye to your beloved Dulce. No matter how well our brain knows it’s time, our heart is never ready. It sounds like you made the right choice and that it came from a place of love. What a blessing to be able to give your sweet girl the peace and rest she deserved. I pray as time goes by your heart will heal. May her memory be a blessing and offer you comfort as you continue along the journey of life.
Alison reid says
I’m so sorry for your loss. Your beautiful baby knew she was so loved by you . Hope you are okay . My heart goes out to you ❤️
Kay mccoy says
In 2017 we said goodbye to our 17 1/2 yr. old Chihuahua. He had a healthy appetite, but, unfortunately, his CCD affected every other facet of his life. He forgot how to go on a walk, why he went out the doggie door, would circle endlessly and lean on the wall, get caught between the door and the wall, go under a chair and not know how to back out and on and on. We had built him a ramp with lights to get in our bed because his vision was greatly declined. He eventually forgot how to go up the ramp, but could go down it. He would run panicked back and forth in the yard once he did go through the dog door. He was urinating all the time in the house, but we just kept two mops ready for it as we knew he couldn’t help it. It got to where he couldn’t sleep through the night once he got in bed. He would suddenly lay down and sleep for about 10 minutes and then jump up scared and trying to get down. Melatonin did not help. I was so afraid he would jump off the bed, so I had to remove the ramp so he wouldn’t try to go up. When it became a matter of his safety because we couldn’t kennel him (I don’t believe in doing that to an animal) and I couldn’t sleep for worrying about him getting stuck somewhere, I knew it was time to give him his wings. No supplements were suggested by his vet. I wish we had tried some. We now have a 15 1/2 yr. old Yorkie who has just started showing cognitive decline. I have been giving him a senior multivitamin and Dasuquin, but don’t know how good the quality is on those. Would love to have some recommendations.
Dr. Julie Buzby says
So sorry for the loss of your Chihuahua and the struggles of those last few months. It sounds like you guys did a wonderful job of loving and supporting him through his CCD. Thanks for sharing his story with us. As far as your Yorkie, I think it is great that you want to figure the best ways to keep his brain as sharp as possible. Without being able to examine your dog and know his medical history, I can’t safely make any specific recommendations for him. However, there are a vast array of foods, supplements, and even some medications that may make a difference. I list some of those in my article Senior Dog Anxiety at Night? 6 Solutions for Better Sleep. It would be worth asking your vet if he or she thinks your dog could benefit from any of them (and I always recommend consulting your vet before you try any supplements or meds). Playing brain games, like they did for Dixie in the article, can also make a huge difference. It is also possible that there is a vet in your area who has a special interest in caring for dogs with CCD. If so, you could consider a consultation with him or her as well. Best of luck! ❤