Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, Otherwise Known As Dog Dementia, Is A Real Issue.

Updated: Apr 10

There is much discussion these days around the diagnosis of dementia in humans. But what about our canine companions? Like people, dogs can suffer from Canine Cognitive Disorder, otherwise known as dog dementia. This degenerative brain condition results in impaired memory, strange or unexplained behavior, and weakened thinking skills. It is estimated that 14 to 30 percent of older dogs will develop dog dementia. And while the cause of dementia in dogs is not always clear, there are some things you can do to help your furry friend if you think he may be experiencing dog dementia.

In this #Lifewitholddogs blog post, we'll discuss what dog dementia is, how to recognize the symptoms, and ways to help your senior German Shepherd live his best life despite the condition.

What is dementia in dogs?

Like dementia in humans, dog dementia is not an actual disease in and of itself but rather a broad term used to describe the inability to remember or think correctly or make rational decisions that affect everyday lives. Dog dementia can strike at any age, but it is most commonly seen in older dogs. For larger breeds such as German Shepherds that would be 7 - 8 years of age, but more likely towards 10 and older.

What are the signs of dog dementia?

Although the progression of dog dementia can be insidious, the most common symptoms are:

  • Confusion

  • Anxiety

  • Disorientation (getting stuck in places like behind a door and can’t figure out how to get out)

  • Not following normal routines

  • Getting lost in familiar spaces

  • Staring at nothing

  • Barking for no reason/Barking excessively

  • Changes in sleep/wake cycle (sundowning)

  • Pacing, circling, and wandering aimlessly

  • Can’t recall where the location of the food/water bowl

  • Fecal or urinary incontinence

  • Increased irritability and anxiety

  • Not recognizing dog parents or other household dogs

How is Dog Dementia Diagnosed?

Although there is no definitive test for dog dementia, it is still very important to take your senior German Shepherd to your trusted veterinarian to have a full medical workup which may include diagnostic imaging, such as X rays or an MRI to rule out anything else, and to come up with a treatment plan for dementia.

Steps you can take to help your senior German Shepherd with dementia.

NOTE: Treatment focuses on slowing the rate of cognitive decline.