By Courtney Prue | August 10, 2023

Doggy Dementia

Causes, Symptoms, Treatments, Home Care and Life Expectancy

As pet owners, we want our furry friends to live long, happy, and healthy lives. But as our beloved dogs age, they may experience age-related conditions such as dementia, which can be a difficult and heartbreaking reality to face. At Rest Your Paws, we understand how challenging it can be to navigate your dog's healthcare needs during this stage of life. That's why we're here to provide compassionate care and support, along with information to help you understand dog dementia and how to optimise your dog's quality of life. We will also touch on quality of life and the value of palliative care to keep your beloved pet comfortable for as long as possible.

Can dogs get dementia? What is Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome in dogs?

Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS) (also known as canine cognitive dysfunction (CDD) or cognitive decline) in dogs is the canine equivalent of dementia. It is a common progressive, degenerative neurological condition that affects dogs over nine years of age, leading to abnormal and senile behaviours reflecting the dog’s declining cognitive function. Changes to the brain affect their ability to remember, process information, and tell the body what to do.

What causes dementia in dogs?

Dog dementia (CDS) is caused by age-related changes to the brain, where a toxic substance called beta-amyloid protein accumulates, leading to reduced blood flow and dysfunctional neurons, impacting the brains ability to function normally.

The exact reason this happens has yet to be fully understood, but some contributing factors have been identified. These factors include:

      • Age: Most commonly seen in dogs over 8 or 9 years old.
      • Genetics: Certain breeds are more prone to it, such as Poodles, Dachshunds, Boxers, and Cocker Spaniels.
      • Environmental factors: Poor nutrition, lack of exercise, and environmental toxins can contribute to the development of dog dementia.

Does my dog have dementia? What does dementia in dogs look like?

Dementia symptoms can be subtle and may not be immediately noticeable. However, some of the most common signs include:

      • Disorientation, such as seeming lost or confused even in familiar surroundings
      • Changes in sleep patterns, such as sleeping more during the day and less at night
      • Changes in social behaviour, such as becoming less interested in socialising with people or other pets
      • House soiling, including forgetting their house training and having accidents indoors
      • Changes in activity levels, including sleeping more and less willing to do things they used to enjoy
      • Changes in appetite, including losing interest in food or becoming more demanding
      • Increased anxiety, such as a recent onset of separation anxiety

How is dementia in dogs diagnosed? How do I know if my dog has dementia?

The condition may be underdiagnosed since the behavioural changes progress slowly, and many owners assume that the changes are a normal part of aging. 

If you suspect that your dog may have dementia, it’s important to take them to a veterinarian for a diagnosis. The diagnosis is usually one of exclusion and involves a thorough physical examination, a review of the dog’s medical history, and testing to rule out other underlying conditions. These tests may include:

      • A neurological exam: Your veterinarian will check your dog’s reflexes, balance, and coordination.
      • Blood tests: Blood tests can rule out any underlying medical conditions that may cause the symptoms.
      • MRI or CT scan: These imaging tests can detect changes in the brain structure that may indicate dementia or something more insidious behind the behaviour, such as a brain tumour.

Can dementia in dogs be treated? Is there a treatment for dog dementia?

Currently, there is no cure for doggy dementia (CDS), but several treatment options are available to help manage the symptoms and slow down the progression of the disease. Some of these treatments include:

      • Medications: Several medications can help improve cognitive function in dogs, including selegiline and propentofylline. Speak to your veterinarian about an appropriate medication for your pet. Other drugs, such as gabapentin, may also be helpful. 
      • Diet: A diet high in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids can help improve brain function and slow the progression. Specific prescription diets like Hill’s B/D, Purina Proplan Neurocare, and Royal Canin Veterinary Canine Mature Consult are designed to support the brain’s health. They may help slow the progression of the disease.
      • Environmental enrichment: Providing mental and physical stimulation can help slow down the cognitive decline and improve the quality of life for your dog, including regular interaction with your dog through play, varied or interactive toys and regular exercise
      • Complementary therapies: Alternative therapies such as acupuncture, massage, and herbal supplements have also been used in cases of dog dementia.
      • Palliative care: If your dog’s dementia impacts their quality of life, palliative care might be the kindest option.

How can I help my dog with dementia at home?

If your dog has been diagnosed with dementia (CDS), there are some steps you can take to optimise their home care. These include:<

      • Creating a consistent routine
      • Reducing stress and anxiety
      • Providing a comfortable and safe environment
      • Ensuring a healthy diet and regular exercise
      • Consult with your veterinarian on medications that can help manage symptoms, such as to help them sleep

An in-home veterinary assessment can also help identify any other areas of improvement that can help your beloved pet stay comfortable for as long as possible.


How long can my dog live with dementia? How long does a dog live with dementia?

Dementia is a slowly progressive disease that affects many elderly dogs. Early intervention with proper management can help slow the progression of CDS and improve your dog’s quality of life. However, dogs with severe CDS or other underlying medical conditions may have a worse prognosis and not respond well to therapies. If they seem increasingly uncomfortable or their quality of life is impacted, palliative care may be the kindest option.

A note on dementia and how it impacts quality of life

Doggy dementia has a significant impact on how the brain functions. As part of that, it also changes how your dog behaves and, therefore, how they show you signs of illness. If your dog has dementia, they are unlikely to show you signs of illness, and will exhibit joy and continue eating regardless of other disease processes.

End-of-Life Care Tips:

If your dog’s dementia has progressed to a point where treatment is no longer effective or their symptoms are too severe, it’s essential to consider end-of-life care options, including possibly putting your dog to sleep (euthanasia). This decision can be an overwhelming and distressing thing to even think about. Rest Your Paws is here to support you and provide compassionate care for your beloved pet throughout their journey.

Here are some end-of-life care tips:


Please know that we are here to support you every step of the way. We understand this is a challenging time for you and your family, and we are committed to providing you with the guidance and care you and your furry friend deserve. If you want to learn more about putting your pet to sleep, dog euthanasia at home, options to put your pet down at home, costs of euthanasia at home or what it looks like to put your pet to sleep at home, call us on 0422 157 675 or visit our website.

At Rest Your Paws, we believe every pet deserves to live their best life, even as they age and face health challenges. We hope this guide has provided valuable information and insight into cognitive dysfunction syndrome in dogs, including its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis. Remember, with early intervention, proper care, and the right treatment plan, you can help your furry friend continue to live a happy, comfortable life. Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions or concerns – we are here to help.


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