Pet Health

10 Signs to Tell if Your Ageing Dog is Confused

Confusion among canines is a common flaw when your dog gets older. Unlike other defects associated with aging, confusion is much more severe. It is a sign of serious mental disorder a problem known as Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome. Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD) is a mental condition similar to dementia or Alzheimer’s disease in humans. It is related to the aging of a dog’s brain. Even though the symptoms may seem mild at first, they gradually worsen over time – a process known as cognitive decline. As a matter of fact, estimates show that by age eleven, fifty percent of dogs display signs of CCD.

By the time, they reach age fifteen, the percentage increase to sixty. With such alarming figures, it is important for every dog owner to know if their senior companion is falling victim to this mental dysfunction for early detection and treatment. Here are ten signs to look out for when telling if or not your dog seems somewhat confused.

Ten signs of a confused dog:

You see signs of Anxiety and Restlessness

Senior dogs with CCD tend to pace or wander aimlessly all over the house especially in the night. They may also be hostile to some family members or other pets in the home. These dogs tend to develop separation anxiety – they somehow become too clingy and don’t want to let go. If your dog seems restless, try to calm them down. Maybe a stroll down the park will do the trick or gently rub their coat as a massage therapy.

They do things repeatedly

If four-legged friend keeps walking around in circles, or does something repeatedly then they may be somewhat confused. They may start barking, panting or whining repetitively with no apparent reason. This may be a result of getting lost in the house or lack of recognizing familiar faces in the room. As a defense mechanism, such dogs may start to bark continuously due to the confusion. It would be best to give them a toy that they’re familiar with as a method of calming them down.

Loss of housetraining

Canine seniors might have a problem when it comes to potty time. With years of potty training down the drain, your dog starts to urinate and defecate in the house. They usually forget the designated place for soiling even after taking them outside many times. However, before considering this act as a sign of dementia, it is important to rule out other medical conditions by visiting your vet. It’s also important not to scold or try and retrain them, as this will increase their confusion. Unfortunately dealing with accidents in the house comes with the territory of caring for elderly pets.

They’re Less Interested in Interaction

Dogs with cognitive dysfunction tend not to seek out human interaction and often walk away while being petted. They seem less interested in greeting family members when they get in the house as compared to the past. Such dogs usually become uninterested in play time and may lack excitement even when rewarded. In most cases, cognitive dysfunction dogs are unfamiliar with the family members and that is why they seem less interested in interaction. They may shy away in the corner or even aggressively attack the person trying to play with them.

Behavior changes

Confused dogs tend to have fluctuating behavior changes. Often due to the confusion they may suddenly become irritable and snappy. Even dogs that were once very placid can withdraw into self and have episodes when interrupted. They activity levels also may be altered. They seem less interested in play time activities, have decreased levels of stimuli or deficits in memory and learning new tricks. Confused dogs are also slow and experience a lot of shaking and trembling whether when standing or lying down.

Change in sleeping pattern

Confused dogs tend to have irregular sleeping patterns. They may either sleep more than normal or have a reversed sleeping pattern. Such dogs may also have insomnia – they sleep a lot during the day and stay awake most parts of the night. These dogs also experience sleep walking due to the confusion. Older dogs tend to have bladder problems or joint aches that keep them awake most of the night. That is why it is important to rule out these two conditions as the cause of insomnia.


Confused senior dogs keep having a difficult time getting in and out of the door or from corners. They forget simple tricks like rolling over and have a difficult time learning new ones. They may also forget their names when called a result of not correctly processing the command or act given. High chances are that such a dog is confused and is suffering from CCD.

Appear distant and unresponsive

A confused dog is mostly distant and doesn’t respond well to commands given. They don’t react when their name is called and seem to have a rather blank look in their eyes. Such dogs may be suffering from hearing loss, a defect common in most senior dogs. However, in the case of cognitive dysfunction the dog may be having a hard time comprehending the action issued out.

Loss of appetite

Older dogs may forget to eat or have a low appetite. They seem less disinterested in feeding time even when offered their favorite snack. They appear to forget the taste of food and the hours they are met to be fed.


Senior Dogs with cognitive dysfunction may appear disoriented or confused, even at home. These dogs tend to get stuck behind doors and in corners and appear worried about being lost. Sometimes they fail to recognize familiar faces or bark at unusual hours. Vision or hearing problems can also be the cause of disorientation, so it’s best your vet checks for these before making any diagnosis.

Visit a veterinary for a correct diagnosis

Please note that the first step to solving any behavior problem is to rule out any medical causes. That’s why it is important to keep tabs of all behaviors you have noticed the timeframe, frequency and make an appointment with your vet for further discussion and professional opinion.

In most cases confused dogs suspected of having dementia are prescribed with Anipryl medication that helps reduce the common signs of dementia. Some are helped with DAP to minimize senior dementia anxiety in older dogs.

Tips for managing confusion dogs

Once you have diagnosed your dog, you can try to manage the condition by:

  • Not changing the pattern of the house: Don’t change the setting of the furniture as this tends to confuse the dog even more and make him more nervous.
  • Keep your dog’s food and water in an easily accessible place.
  • Consider buying a dog crate where you can keep all his essentials and toys in a single location.
  • For dogs that are stiff and weary, raise their food and water bowl to their level, so they do not have to bend.
  • When stepping out of the house, leave your dog secure, either in his crate or a confined space. This prevents chances of him get lost in the house, and the familiarity will reassure him.
  • Follow a strict routine: confused dogs will less likely get confused or have accidents when following a strict schedule. Take your dog outside regularly to relieve himself and also take him to the same patch each time.
  • Give your dog plenty of exercise within the limits of his or her physical abilities with lots of reassurance and praise.
  • Have a diary of the signs he is showing and scale them from 1-10 how badly they seem to impact his day. You will begin to see if the signs are getting worse.

Tips on how to prevent confusion in dogs

Even though there are no proven techniques of preventing brain aging, some simple techniques are recommended to keep the brain active, something that is thought to slow degeneration of the brain nerves.

  • Regular play time and changing the games played
  • Regular exercise: like going for walks
  • Create challenges – hide treats, and encourage agility play. Here’s our list of puzzle toys to keep your dog’s brain active.
  • Feeding your dog a well-balanced diet with essential vitamins and fatty acids


Confusion among dogs mostly result from brain degradation due to advancement in age. It is primarily associated with senior dogs. They tend to forget simple routines and even their names.Such canines are at times hostile to their family members and even bark or even pace up the house restlessly. In such a case, it would be best to seek medical advice since such signs may also result from a medical problem.

If your dog is confused, there are certain things you can do to manage the condition. Try regular exercise and keeping things monotonous to avoid confusing the dog further. After all, dogs are man’s best friend. That’s why we need to support our four-legged friend in his time of confusion with understanding and encouragement.