Home Care Suggestions for a Senile Senior Dog With CCD Dementia

Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He works mostly with dogs and exotic animals.

What Are the Signs of Senility in a Dog?

Recognizing dementia in your older dog is easier if you can first identify and confirm the following clinical signs:

  1. Failure to respond to her name or simple commands that she used to know.
  2. Getting lost in corners of the house, the yard, and other once familiar regions of the environment that she lives in.
  3. Personality changes, both around other pets and with her human family.
  4. Soiling (urine or feces) in the house, even if she is housetrained.
  5. Whining excessively, barking excessively, and doing both for no reason.
  6. Restlessness.

Is My Dog Senile If She Exhibits Some of These Symptoms?

Some changes in dogs are normal as they age, so not all dogs are considered senile. If your dog is senile, however, it may be a type of senility known as age-related dementia or Canine Cognitive Dysfunction. According to some research done at the University of California, Davis, over half of geriatric dogs exhibit the symptoms of this condition. Nobody knows what causes it yet, but it may be related to an age-related decrease in a neurotransmitter called dopamine. So, what can you do to make her life better in her senior years?

Home Care for a Dog With Dementia

I realize not everyone reading this is able to take their dog to a vet. You also have the option of treating her naturally if drugs and veterinary care is not an option. Here's what you can do to help:

  • Take your dog for short and frequent walks: That sounds too easy, doesn't it? Walks can do a lot for a dog developing dementia, and if your dog is becoming senile, they do not need to be long walks. Just take her on a "sniffy walk" so that she can exercise her muscles, her nose, and her brain.
  • Play new games and teach her new tricks to provide mental stimulation: No matter how well you have trained your dog, there are always new things for her to learn. There are plenty of books out there on training tricks, and when you find something she does not know, work on it. She will learn a little slower, so be patient.
  • Provide a high-quality, balanced diet that includes a source of medium chain triglycerides: If your dog has been eating the same food over her lifetime, she may have developed a deficiency that is now severe enough to display clinical signs. Change her diet to a balanced raw or cooked homemade diet. Some research has shown that a diet that includes a MCT source (like coconut oil) also has some anti-inflammatory effects on the brain and may help a senile dog.
  • Provide plenty of antioxidants in her diet: Some dietary changes are important in senile dogs and antioxidants work against free radicals, so they may be effective in preventing or slowing the progression of senility. There is not a lot of evidence yet on what products may help, but it would be a good idea to try products like açai or blueberries (depending on where you live), acerola or other fresh sources of vitamin C, and a source of vitamin E.
  • Make sure to supplement omega fatty acids: Omega fatty acids have anti-inflammatory effects and may decrease the symptoms of dementia. Your dog should be getting adequate omega-3 fatty acid supplements. Many companies sell fish oil produced from salmon, and that would be an excellent dietary supplement. There is also a type of jellyfish that may be effective, but no one can guarantee it will work; you can find products like this or others that may or may not help at a local pet store.
  • Do not move furniture or change her feeding routine: When your dog has been diagnosed with the condition, you should try to make things as easy for her as possible. Do not change her routine (like feeding time, walk time, etc.), and do not move the furniture around so that she will not become even more confused.

Conventional Treatment for Senile Changes in Your Dog

If exercise, mental stimulation, and dietary changes are not enough, your dog might still have clinical signs of dementia. The next step is to take her to your regular vet and see what can be done.

There is a drug called Anipryl (selegiline) that may be effective in decreasing the symptoms in some dogs. It is not a cure and does not always work, but it has few known side effects (at least according to the manufacturer), so you may want to give it a try. If your dog has symptoms of senility and you both decide that she has CCD, you will need to talk to find out more about this drug.

What Other Problems Can You Watch For?

Old dogs can have a lot of problems that may mimic dementia:

  • Arthritis: If she has arthritis, she may be in a lot of pain and her reluctance to go to the door may be because of that pain.
  • Kidney disease: Your dog may have "accidents" in the house even if she is house trained.
  • Bladder disease: A weak sphincter may lead to a dog leaking urine in the house.
  • Cataracts: If your dog is going blind because of cataracts or a retinal disease, she may no longer be able to find her way outside, especially if you move the furniture.

If you notice changes that you think are related to dementia, it is a good idea to take your dog to see her veterinarian for a physical examination, urinalysis, and a complete blood profile checked. Rule out these other problems before deciding that your dog is senile.

Dog Dementia and Euthanasia

Dogs that are finally diagnosed with CCD can live up to two years, so there is no reason to put your dog to sleep just because she has become senile. The first thing you can do if you notice the changes associated with dementia is to start with the aforementioned steps at home. If these are not enough, be sure to put her on medication.

If your dog is constantly upset from being lost and cries excessively when she urinates in the house, she probably does not have a good quality of life. You have to consider what to do at that time. Do not take this step without a lot of thought.

There is a lot you can do at home, but eventually, you will want to see your vet. There is no specific test for senility, so CCD can only be diagnosed by excluding other problems.

If you do decide that your dog has dementia, investigate all the alternative therapies. If your veterinarian is not willing to find an alternative therapy to help your senile dog and only wants to diagnose Anipryl, you need to find another vet.

Health Articles to Help Your Senior Dog . .

  • How to Use Acupressure to Help Your Dog
    Acupressure can be used in dogs to stimulate the muscles and treat some diseases. It can be done at home, unlike acupuncture, and this article will give you some directions on how to treat your dog.


Landsberg, Gary. "Therapeutic Agents for the Treatment of Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome in Senior Dogs." Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry 29 (2005): 471-79. Animal Necessity.

© 2012 Dr Mark

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on July 16, 2013:

I was reading a story about an Austrlian Cattle Dog the other day when I was researching my "Healtiest Dog Breeds" hub--she lived to almost 30 years. Glad to hear things are okay, and lets hope Peso is with you for many more years!!

Maria Cecilia from Philippines on July 16, 2013:

Hi DrMark... it's been a year and my 12 year old Peso will turn 13 this month...I wish him a longer healthy life still... and you know I always tell him, Peso don't leave me ha...LOL

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on July 15, 2013:

You sound like a good person. Not many are willing to take on that burden. Try to keep her stress levels low, feed her well, and hopefully symptoms will not progress, or slowly. It is a lot harder for street dogs since finding food is an issue.

My wife is from Marrakesh, and learned to apply Henna on hands and feet when young.

Wasteless Project from Worldwide on July 15, 2013:

We adopted her from Spain. She was rescued by animal activists from an animal shelter where street dogs end up being euthanized after three months of not being claimed by an owner. She was already tested positive then, but luckily till date has shown only very mild symptoms. But of course since the first symptoms started we are always overly alert, fearing to miss something that would need our attention... But touch wood, she is actually doing pretty well considering her underlying condition:) And yes, the hand is mine:)

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on July 14, 2013:

That is good to hear! The symptom you described was pretty mild, but you are probably like me--concerned about everything! My older dog had a high fever last week and I was worried all night.

What country did your dog pick up her Leishmania infection?

Is that your hand with the henna? It looks great!

Wasteless Project from Worldwide on July 14, 2013:

Thank you for this insightful article! This actually gives me the confidence that whatever our dog has/does, is still very very far from CCD - so that is good news!

Maria Cecilia from Philippines on September 15, 2012:

DrMark1961 my Peso is a Philippine Local dog, he an be a mixed breed of unknown origin hope you'll mee thim in some of my hubs. thanks for your wish, that's my wish for him too

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on September 15, 2012:

Hi wetnosedogs, they really are sad at that age; alternative therapy works for some but not all, so eventually those symptoms come about.

What breed or mix is he, Maria Cecilia? Yes, it is a lot easier for most people to love puppies, and a lot harder for them to take a look at an old dog, or read an article about an old dog. It is the same with people, unfortunately. I hope your 12 year old is with you many more years.

Maria Cecilia from Philippines on September 13, 2012:

I love reading about senior dogs, my dog is 12 years old aside from sleeping, I guess he is still good. I think he still looks younger than his age in spite of 6 surgeries that he had undergone. This is a very helpful hub.... promoting love for our dogs not only when they are young and cute but more when they are already old and quite sickly

wetnosedogs from Alabama on September 13, 2012:

Long ago, I knew people who had an old dog that kinda did like the dog in the video. There was an enclosed part of the house, like an open closet and the dog would go in there and poor thing would bump the walls, i' m assuming to get out, but didn't seem to get the opening where he walked in. It wasn't all the time, the moment would just click. Sad thing.

Take care of yourself

This is huge, trust me! Caring for a senior dog who isn’t well can be very stressful, you may not even realise the effect it’s having until you feel like you’re going to snap. You have to take care of yourself because living with the constant worry will make you sick, and that is unfair to you, and no help to your dog.

I know you’re worried about leaving him/her alone for too many hours, so don’t.

  • Put your sneakers and headphones on, and go take a 30 minute walk on the beach, or in the park. You’ll feel so much better when you get back.
  • Prefer something closer to home? Try meditating for a few minutes, it will do wonders.
  • Have someone you trust come over and dog sit, then go to the mall, have lunch with a friend or both!
  • If it’s become harder to let your dog sleep in your room with you, then set her up on a nice cozy bed in another room. You all may sleep better.
  • Planning a family vacation and can’t stand the thought of leaving the dog? Perhaps you can bring her along. There are lots of pet friendly hotels and restaurants. Renting a motor home or caravan is a great dog friendly way to travel. Can’t bring her for whatever reason? Is there someone you have complete trust in to stay at your home? It will be a lot less disruptive then putting your dog in kennels.

Believe me, I know how difficult it is to watch your dog wander aimlessly, and how helpless you feel. I’m going through that right now with Red. But no good can come out of you ending up a wreck.

The better you care for yourself, the better you will care for your dog, and she needs you to help her.

Dog dementia is an insidious and unstoppable condition that is very difficult for a dog to handle.

It can also be extremely difficult for you to deal with if you are the person who loves the dog. Here are some signs to look for if you have concerns about your dog’s mental and emotional health:

Pacing, anxiousness and disorientation

Staring for long periods of time, getting lost in corners and seeming to be lost in familiar places
Peeing and/or pooping in the house: Senior dogs with dementia may forget to go outside to do their business, but it’s important to rule out another medical problem such as a urinary tract infection, gastrointestinal problems, bowel problems, etc. before assuming the problem is related to dementia.
Withdrawal from familiar people and places: This could be as simple as ignoring familiar and beloved people. More specifically, a dog with dementia often won’t seek out human companionship, sometimes it will even walk away while being petted, and often won’t greet family members when they come home
Barking for no reason on a regular basis. The dog is in constant confusion and this may cause fear which leads to barking. It may no longer recognise once familiar people, or get trapped behind a door left ajar and not realise that all it has to do is use a little force to free itself. Appetite changes, which can be both loss of appetite or increased hunger.
Sleeping pattern changes: Watch for behaviour like sleeping during the day and being awake and confused at night
Not responsive to your voice: Rule out hearing loss first
Any other behaviours that might be unusual for your dog

If you notice any of the above signs, it’s best to keep a log or a mental note of how often they are happening and monitor whether they are worsening. If your dog is senior and starting to show signs of unusual behaviour, then the first step would be to take it to the vet. If the vet diagnoses it with Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD), dog dementia, then this can be absolutely heart-breaking for you as the owner. It doesn’t always have to be a question of dog dementia and when to put down the dog because there are ways of treating the symptoms and stabilising the condition rather than taking giant steps.

The vet may well prescribe some medications which can be helpful for the dementia in its early stages. However, do be warned that some medications only aid with calming anxiety which means you may end up with a confused, barely responsive and tranquilised dog which means you are trading one unhealthy state for another.

If you do opt for some early-stage treatment options, then here are some possibilities which the vet may prescribe:
Omega-3 fatty acids: Consider switching your dog to a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids and other antioxidants. These are said to help with brain function and alertness.
Selgian/Anipryl: Consult with your vet about this option. The ingredient Selegiline hydrochloride has been shown to be effective for dementia in dogs by prolonging the activity of your dog’s remaining dopamine. This improves memory and helps dogs think more clearly.
CBD oil is proving a new and exciting alternative to drugs for many pet owners. Not only is it effective for anxiety but for serious conditions including epilepsy. It is legal to purchase at many pet stores and high street stores, Holland and Barrett.

Melatonin is a great natural supplement to help your dog relax.

Following these treatments, if your dog’s condition worsens over a prolonged period of time, then your vet may be able to help you decide when to consider dog euthanasia. One thing which is vital for you to assess before you make this decision is whether you feel like this is the time for your dog to go. Does your dog still engage with you? Is there still ‘life’ in its eyes, or do they just stare at you blankly? Is the dog constantly living in fear and barking? Does it have a healthy appetite, good energy levels, is it of good mental condition? These are all questions that you should be asking yourself at this stage. One option is palliative care, however in the long run, this is not sustainable.
Once you have arrived at the decision to euthanize your dog, then your vet will explain to you in good detail what the procedure entails. They will also discuss your wishes for aftercare arrangements and cremation. The vet may also provide sedation for your pet prior to the procedure to minimize anxiety.
When you are ready, your vet will administer the euthanasia solution through an IV line. Your pet will not experience any discomfort with this injection and will not be aware of any feelings of distress. First, the solution rapidly induces a brief state of anaesthesia. Within a few more seconds, the solution will cause the heartbeat and breathing to cease. Your vet will ensure the procedure is finished by listening for a heartbeat with the stethoscope so that you need not worry about the completeness of the euthanasia. It is customary at that point for the vet to leave the room and to give you as much time as you desire to grieve your pet in privacy.

What are the common signs of CCD?

There are several signs that a dog may be suffering from dementia, but unless an owner is looking for more than one or two, they could be passed off as random or silly things a dog does. Some of the more common indicators are when a dog gets “lost” in a corner, behind furniture or doors. The dog may want a drink of water and finds himself in, what he believes, to be unfamiliar territory. A dog may also forget the housetraining that never had been an issue before. Human companionship may be shunned, or the dog may shy away from being petted. Since every dog is unique, not all dogs will present with the same symptoms. If a dog begins to act odd or doesn’t quite seem like himself, it’s best to get him to the vet. Some dog parents report that the symptoms worsen at night.

Once it has been determined that the senior dog does indeed have dementia, the veterinarian may suggest the use of SAMe (S-adenosylmethionine) or some other brain support supplement, with appropriate dosages. They may also recommend maintaining a regular exercise routine. Physical exercise is important for every dog at any age.

Prevention There is no cure for old age. Humans have been hunting for the proverbial fountain of youth for centuries. What may help slow down the aging process and cognitive dysfunction is a healthy, canine appropriate diet full of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3’s continue to keep brain synapses firing on all cylinders. Maintaining a regular exercise schedule, with both physical and mental stimulation, will help the dog remain alert and healthy. Cherish the moments he’s healthy and if his memory fails, remind him he’s loved.

Can Senior Dogs Get Dementia or Alzheimers? We Asked a Vet

We all love our sweet senior pups and want them to live a good life as long as possible. Get a better understanding of dementia in dogs, how to spot it early, and what to do to treat your best friend’s symptoms to ensure she gets the most out of her golden years.

Just like humans, as dogs age, their bodies and minds start to change. These changes may include joint problems, changes in eyesight, changes in weight, and heart disease, among others. While physical changes are common, mental challenges can also start to develop, but may be harder to recognize in the early stages. As aging may progress subtly, it's important for pet parents to pay close attention to the signs of dog dementia in order to keep our furry friends happy and healthy for as long as possible.

Watch the video: Dr. Becker Discusses Geriatric Dementia

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