Signs and Symptoms of Dog Dementia

Dr. Jessica Corley

Aug 29, 2022

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Do you have an older dog? Do you think it’s possible he may be experiencing canine dementia? Would you know how to recognize this condition if so? Canine dementia is a fairly common problem for aging dogs, and many pet owners find themselves dealing with this problem in their own pets eventually.

In the article below, you’ll find information about some of the most common signs and symptoms of dementia in dogs. With the help of this guide, you can consider your own pet’s behavior and decide when it may be time to talk to your vet for more information.

Getting “Lost” in the Home

Many dogs with dementia will find themselves suddenly “lost” inside the home, even if they’ve never lived anywhere else. Your dog may wander into another room and stand there, whining or barking at nothing, until you or someone in the household finds him. This is typically one of the first signs of dementia that many pet owners notice.

This symptom alone is not dangerous for your dog. However, it may cause him to forget where he is around stairs or other household hazards. In this instance, it may be a good idea to put up some pet gates and protect your dog from access to these locations.

Loss of Recognition

Unfortunately, dogs with dementia may start forgetting their human family members. Your pet may no longer recognize you or others in your household, and this could lead to confusion and fear for him. It will also likely be painful for you, but remember that your pet is not doing this on purpose.

If your dog is dealing with severe loss of recognition, try to keep household visitors to a minimum. If unfamiliar people will be in and out of the home often, consider setting up a safe space for your dog in an out-of-the-way room instead.


Incontinence is a common problem in dogs with dementia, as well as dogs with a wide range of other health problems. If you are unsure of the cause of your dog’s incontinence, talk to your vet for a formal diagnosis. However, if your dog is already diagnosed with dementia, understand that incontinence will likely become part of his normal life.

Do not punish your dog for his incontinence, as he can’t help it. Instead, calmly take him outside to see if he needs to finish doing his business, and then clean up the mess.


Dogs who have dementia may forget situations and locations they were previously familiar with. This issue, in turn, can lead to an increased amount of fear in your pet. If you find that your pet seems more and more afraid when he leaves home, you may want to keep his walks short and stay near your house with him.

It can be difficult to see your canine companion suddenly becoming afraid of places he’s used to. Work with your vet to make the right decisions for your pet’s health and wellness during this difficult time.

Behavioral Changes

Behavioral changes on their own may not necessarily signify dementia in your dog. However, when coupled with other items on this list, they could. Behavioral changes should always be diagnosed by your vet, as there could be any number of underlying health problems contributing to this symptom.

If your dog has dementia and is dealing with behavioral changes, stay as patient as you can. Work with your vet to figure out the best management for your dog’s behavioral changes and consider talking with a professional dog trainer who has experience working with aging dogs, too.

Loss of Interest in Food

Dogs who have more advanced levels of canine dementia may begin to lose interest in their food. Sometimes, this is simply because they have forgotten where it’s located in the house. If your pet is dealing with dementia, consider keeping his food and water dishes close to his favorite napping spot, so he can find them easily.

If your dog is completely unwilling to eat any longer, you may need to discuss end of life decisions with your vet. However, if your dog isn’t quite to that point yet, the vet may be able to provide medication to help with appetite.

Contact VEG if your Dog is Showing Symptoms of Dementia 

If you believe your dog is showing multiple signs of dog dementia, or if your pet is showing some of these signs but isn’t quite old enough for dementia yet, talk to your vet. The vet may be able to help you get to the bottom of your pet’s diagnosis and work to find a management solution as well.

Keep in mind that there is no treatment for canine dementia. Management will include keeping your pet comfortable and reducing stress factors in his life to help cut back on confusion for him. If you have any questions about symptoms of dog dementia or want additional advice, contact VEG by calling one of our locations. Our teams are available 24/7 to help guide you in the best direction in order to make sure your pet gets the care they need as soon as possible.