How Do I Know if My Dog Has Dementia?

How do I know if my dog has dementia

Dear Hindy,

My wife and I live with Ronald our 10 year old Lab mix, and recently we’ve noticed a few new behaviours. I did some research and they seem to indicate symptoms of dog dementia. I had no idea there was even such a thing and we’re not sure what to do.

Thank you,

Steve and Amanda

How Do I Know If My Dog Has Dementia

Dear Steve and Amanda,

Thanks so much for writing in, and I understand how confusing this must all seem. Don’t worry I will do my best to help you figure it out.

The thing about dementia in a dog is, because many of the symptoms are similar to other health issues, pretty much the only way to diagnose it is by a process of elimination.

I recommend you call your vet right now to make an appointment, then carry on with this post so we can take a look at some of the signs of dementia in dogs.

This checklist is sorted by category so you can easily tick off the behaviours you’re noticing and print it out to take to your appointment. One more very helpful piece of advice – take a video when possible, it will help your vet with a diagnosis!



  • Goes outside and wanders, then pees and poops in the house
  • Doesn’t let you know she has to go out like she used to
  • Seems to have forgotten her training


  • Seems fearful and/or anxious
  • Barks for no apparent reason
  • Aggressive but never was before
  • Trembles for no apparent reason
  • Afraid of people she knows

Sleep and awake patterns

  • Sleeps more during the day, less at night
  • Wanders or cries at night


  • Performs the same behaviours over and over
  • Has trouble eating or drinking
  • Doesn’t respond to her name or cues
  • Wanders aimlessly/paces
  • Seems lost or confused in familiar surroundings like the house or yard
  • Gets stuck in corners or other tight spaces and just stands there
  • Stares into space or at walls
  • Doesn’t recognize family or friends
  • Gets stuck under or behind furniture/wrong side of door
  • Walks in circles, usually in one direction 

Interaction with family and others in your household

  • Doesn’t look for attention like he used to
  • Walks away when petted
  • Withdrawn from family

Activity level

  • Less interested in his toys
  • Plays very little or not at all


I hope this helps, and please keep me posted on what’s going on.

Take care,




Hindy Pearson
I am a dog trainer and behaviour consultant, specialising in working with first time dog owners. Whether you're thinking of getting a dog and aren't sure if it's the right time, or you've been sharing your life with one for awhile but there are issues you can't resolve, I am here for you. No matter where in the world you live I can help.


  1. Beth Patterson

    Another important thing to consider is if your senior dog is on any new medications. We thought my sister’s dog had dementia until she stopped taking Tramadol. While she was on the Tramadol she had lots of potty accidents and didn’t seem to know us a lot of the time. Once she stopped taking it, she went back to her old self.

    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      Thanks for that tip about Tramadol, an important thing for those whose dogs take it to know. It’s great news your sister’s dog didn’t have dementia and the negative effects were reversed once the dog stopped taking it.

  2. Dorothy "FiveSibesMom"

    Wow…this describes my adopted furangel Chelsey to the “t.” Chelsey began with small things like suddenly not liking thunder, then fireworks, then the pacing started, and then getting lost in corners, then licking hundreds of spots on our rug, staring off at the ceiling, becoming destructive, and finally not recognizing us at times and quickly turning from having fun to becoming aggressive to our other two Husky pups and to my daughter. She had just received a clean bill of health three weeks prior, but it all started to change so quickly. Sadly, at 13, in just a few short months she developed full-on dementia and it went downhill very fast with almost all of the above symptoms. At the time (2006) there was not much info out there about dementia in dogs. I remember sitting in the vet’s office six months later with my Huskies for a check-up and saw on the vet’s TV news about a new medication for dementia. Six months too late for my sweet Chelsey. Still miss that girl. Pinning this great info to share.

    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      I’m sorry to read about Chelsey, and thanks for helping to share this important information. Although this was a number of years ago for you, there are still lots of vets who are telling their patients’ people there is nothing to help with dementia. I guess they missed that broadcast!


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