When To Put Down A Dog With Dementia

Just like in humans, our dog’s health can begin to decline as they age.

Not only can they develop complications in their overall health, but they can begin to experience cognitive decline as well.

Canine dementia is fairly common in our older canine friends, leaving many pet parents with questions on when it may be time to say goodbye.

So when should you put down a dog with dementia?

It all comes down to quality of life and what you believe is in the best interest of your dog.

In this article we will discuss the details of canine cognitive dysfunction, and help you better recognize when your pup may be struggling in their condition.

When To Put Down A Dog With Dementia

Can Old Dogs Have Dementia?

Our senior canine friends can develop a cognitive condition similar to dementia in humans.

Canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CCD), or dog dementia, is a decline in mental function leading to altered behavior, confusion, change in personality, and other forms of mental decline.

Due to the familiar symptoms present with CCD, this condition is commonly compared to Alzheimer’s or dementia in humans.

Dementia in old dogs may also be called sundowner syndrome, though this mainly refers to a dog experiencing disorientation and confusion at night.

Is Dog Dementia The Same As Alzheimer’s?

Though dog dementia is an entirely different condition than Alzheimer’s in humans, it makes perfect sense as to why the two are compared so often.

Dog dementia involves the aging of the canine brain, and all the cognitive decline that comes along with that reality.

CCD in dogs affects a dog’s memory and comprehension once the condition sets in, often worsening as time goes on.

Dog dementia and Alzheimer’s have many traits in common, so comparing the two can often help owners understand the cognitive decline their dog is undergoing.

One of the main differences between dog dementia and Alzheimer’s is the fact that CCD is expected to be seen in 60-70% of dogs (source) as they reach their senior years, while Alzheimer’s is seen in about 11% of the elderly population.

This may mean that dog dementia is often just a result of the normal aging process in a dog’s brain, and may not have as much to do with lifestyle factors or predispositions.

It’s important to note that while canine cognitive dysfunction is thought to be due to standard aging, other factors can put a dog more at risk.

Brain conditions like tumors or previous head trauma can eventually lead to dementia in dogs, as well as some genetic factors.

Signs Of Dementia In Dogs

If you have a senior dog in your life, it’s important to be aware of the signs of cognitive dysfunction in our canine friends.

Keeping an eye out for the potential symptoms can allow you to offer your pup help when it’s needed, as well as be aware of when it may be time to say goodbye.

Some of the most common signs of dog dementia include:

  • Not wanting to play as often
  • Forgetting normal routines
  • Disorientation or confusion
  • Forgetting tricks or commands they once knew
  • Wandering aimlessly
  • Decreased interest in social interaction and activities
  • Zoning out or appearing to be blankly staring
  • Changes in their sleep cycles
  • Changes in appetite
  • Increased anxiety or anxious behavior
  • Anxiety at night, such as panting and pacing at night
  • Challenges learning new tricks
  • Abnormal vocalizations
  • Accidents around your home, or inappropriate urination/defecation in general

If your senior dog is experiencing any of the above behaviors, it may be time to speak with your veterinarian about the potential for dog dementia.

Can You Treat Dementia In Dogs?

There is no set treatment option for dementia in dogs, but there are a few management options that may offer a dog longevity in their condition.

Ranging from nutritional supplements to changes in their daily routine, there are a few ways to potentially improve a dog’s life with CCD.

Give Additional Supplements

Some experts believe that certain nutritional supplements can delay changes within the brain, as well as improve cognitive function in some dogs with CCD.

Supplements including omega fatty acids, beneficial antioxidants, and medium chain triglycerides may be discussed when a dog is beginning to show signs of dementia.

Mental Exercises

Many believe that keeping a dog mentally fit can help them maintain as much awareness as possible as they develop canine cognitive dysfunction.

This can mean keeping up with tricks and commands they still remember, giving them mentally stimulating toys, socializing them as much as possible, and introducing them to new experiences.

Prescribed Medications

There is currently only one medication that has been approved for managing CCD in dogs.

Anipryl for dogs is used to control the symptoms of CCD in dogs, as well as potentially slow the progression of the condition.

This can only be obtained through a prescription from your veterinarian.

When To Put Down A Dog With Dementia

If your dog is beginning to struggle with the effects of dog dementia, you may be wondering how to know when it’s time to say goodbye.

Every situation will vary, but there are a few common signs of a dog suffering in their mental decline.

It may be time to discuss quality of life with your veterinarian if your dog with dementia is experiencing any of the following symptoms:

  • Confusion or disorientation that impacts their lives daily
  • Often appearing lost in their normal environment
  • Significant decrease in appetite
  • Changes in behavior such as aggression, severe depression, and any other abrupt changes
  • Frequent abnormal vocalizations
  • Signs of distress such as circling, staring at walls, appearing restless, pacing, etc.

If your dog with dementia is experiencing any of the above behaviors, or any other changes that are deeply concerning, it may be time to discuss the possibility of saying goodbye to your furry friend.

Dementia in dogs is a troubling condition that can disrupt a dog’s life.

Only you will know when it’s time to put your dog down based on their pain or suffering.

There are 14 comments:

  • Joanne at 9:09 pm

    I just put down my 16 yr old Trixi. She declined quickly, I couldnt stand to see her suffer another minute. Endless Wandering, panting, bumping into things, not eating, weird barking at nothing, confused, pacing. Im heart broken.

  • Laura at 9:23 pm

    My 16.5 year old JRT Skittles is doing poorly. She’s basically blind and deaf, and now the doggie dementia. She paces, is sometimes more aggressive, stares at the wall, I have to go outside with her or she won’t potty.

    She was on silegeline (spelling?), but it gave her diarrhea. I give her melatonin at night and sometimes a Gabapentin so I can get some sleep. I gave her a trazadone last night and that seems to have set her back. She was still drugged this morning, and seems a bit “off.”

    Like so many others here, it’s hard to tell when it’s time to let her go. I’m almost positive it’ll be this year, just not sure when.

    • Christine at 11:46 am

      Hi Laura. My 14 year old JRT is experiencing some of the same symptoms as Skittles. I have not put her on any meds as she had severe allergies when she was younger. She pees and poops in the house frequently, even though I carry her outside about 20 times a day. She sleeps alot during the day however she also sleeps through the night, so I am fortunate in that regard. She stares at the walls and is deaf and half blind. She will hear me if I talk VERY loud. She still looks forward to her breakfast and supper and the occasional treat. I also think it will be time to let her go sometime this year. It’s nice to know my JRT is not the only one going through this. Best to you and Skittles.

      Chris and Patches

    • Mary Girardi at 2:33 pm

      Hi Laura,
      I feel for you. I am going through the same thing with my Jack Russell. I’ve made an appt. with her vet, but can’t be seen until the end of the month. His input will help us make a decision wether to put her down or not. You feel like your playing God, with this decision. Prayers go out to you, to make the decision. 🙏

  • Jean at 9:11 pm

    Our seventeen year old dog ‘Jack’ is a Mouzer. A schnauzer Maltese mix. He’s a sweet guy and has been good therapy for all who have needed him but it feels as though he is the one in need now. He gets lost just walking to the door. He turns in circles, looses his balance and often urinates in the house when we are a few feet from him and would easily open the door for him. He panics when we are gone for 10 minutes, upsetting our equally dog loving neighbors. Since my husbands stroke I have become caregiver to both of them. I think I’m very close to putting him down but I love him so much. He saved me when I needed him most. This will be the hardest thing to do. I just need someone to tell me that it’s time.

  • Apryl P. at 8:38 am

    Hi my beloved Yorkie Blue has stopped wanting to play together with his toys as we normally do everyday. For the last 2 weeks he’s up all night aimlessly wandering & pacing around the house…Instead of cuddling & sleeping with me as we’ve done every night for 9 years. I rarely get my daily kisses. His eating habits have decreased. It’s the most HEARTBREAKING experience to see him like this.

  • Bill Michalek at 1:57 am

    I’m so mixed up right now. Our 10 year old Frenchie has dementia, I think. That’s what’s tearing me up. Two weeks ago she seemed fine. Then she became a little off her schedule. No potty at bedtime, unless we stood out with her and made her go. Then she started acting like a zombie, like she wasn’t there. We discovered two days ago that she can’t see. I’m not sure if she’s not seeing or not recognizing what she’s seeing. She’s bumping into everything. How can this happen in just two weeks? I don’t know if it’s dementia or not, but it sure ticks most of the boxes. What’s unfair is she never had a period where she acted really old. I don’t want to let her go.

  • RosaLee Pagliaro at 2:45 pm

    Thank you for your post. My 14 yr old baby has the same symptoms.

  • Maureen at 2:50 pm

    My 16 year old rescue poodle has been diagnosed with Canine Dementia. He is also blind and deaf. He has a good appetite but shakes all day, licks everything in sight, barks excessively for no reason, has multiple “accidents”, is confused, staggers and snaps/growls at one of my other poodles. He does not seem to be in any pain. I need to hold him as much as possible to calm him.
    How do I determine when it is “time”? He does not seem to be in any pain, but how do I make the “quality of life” factor?

  • Stuart at 7:35 pm

    Our schnouser, 13.5 years old. He has accidents, quit often, even after being outside. Doesn’t answer to his name much, grumpy in morning and wants to eat always. Drinks like crazy, pants, nips at you when drying him off from rain. Many times, just stars at walls or behind door and is lost. Sleeps most of the day and wanders at night, pacing. My wife is not ready. Know people that have this breed and say 14-15 years if lucky for their life. I believe, after being a quiet obedient dog, full of life and play, chasing squires, which he can’t see anymore – I believe it’s time to say goodbye.

  • Victoria Severson at 1:27 am

    We are deeply in this right now as I listen to my beloved Eddie cry and bark. He is also blind in one eye and mostly deaf. Tears are streaming down my checks as I consider our options for him. I think the kinder gentler thing would be to let him go but I’m the one who is being selfish in holding on and allowing him to suffer not knowing what to do.

    How can I make the call?

  • Leslie Carney at 3:34 pm

    Our Lucy is a 16 year old Dachshund. She has had old dog disease in the past with pacing, head tilting and going around in circles which was difficult. Over the last several years she has had more periods of disorientation, confusion, vocalization, pacing, anxiety, wanting to eat all the time which seems to be dementia. I can’t hardly go anywhere because she is attached to me and has anxiety separation. She will sometimes not sleep at night and wants to pace around the house and sometimes has potty accidents. She has really been bad this week since I left her alone on Saturday for most of the day. It has been very stressful seeing her suffer so much. I have been wanting to put her to sleep and I really feel guilty about it. My husband and son want to wait and don’t feel it is time but I am the main caregiver and I am at the end of my rope. I have been to the After Hours Clinic in North Little Rock, Ar and they are great. I mainly just wanted to verbalize my feelings and ask whether taking her to the After Hours Clinic would be better than her regular vet if I decide to put her down.

    • Amber at 6:54 am

      Leslie, thank you for sharing your story as it can help others who may be struggling with the same issues with their dog’s dementia. Putting our pets down can and will often be the hardest thing we can do. Of the hundreds of messages we receive, the number one thing people always mention is the struggle of when to euthanize. If your 16 year old Dachshund isn’t in pain and still has ‘quality of life’ then you can always wait. Only you will be able to make that decision since you are the main care giver. Regarding After Hours Clinics vs your regular vet, if it was me I would go to my regular vet as they will have a history with my canine friend. There are also options of euthanizing at home. Your regular vet might offer that service, where they can come to your home to provide that service.

    • Donna Lane at 3:00 pm

      I am going through the same exact thing with my 15 year old dachshund Sabrina.
      It is heart wrenching to see the constant pacing and staring off into nothing. Mine is also mostly blind.
      Thank you for the question as I wonder the same thing daily..

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