Can Dogs get Alzheimer's Disease?

Sheri Cyprus

Older dogs can get a disease very similar to human Alzheimer's disease. They can become disoriented and forget once-familiar people, animals and surroundings. This is called Cognitive Disorientation Syndrome (CDS).

Veterinarians can perform neurological tests to see if a dog has developed Alzheimer's disease.
Veterinarians can perform neurological tests to see if a dog has developed Alzheimer's disease.

Symptoms of CDS, or Alzheimer's disease in dogs, include getting lost in familiar places and not greeting people as enthusiastically as they once did. Also, CDS is likely to cause house trained dogs to soil in the house as they may think they are actually outside. Wandering aimlessly and being less social with other animals and people are other common signs of this condition.

Dogs with CDS may sleep more during the day and less at night.
Dogs with CDS may sleep more during the day and less at night.

Like human Alzheimer's, Alzheimer's disease in dogs is associated with abnormal aging. CDS, as with Alzheimer's disease in humans, is thought to possibly be partly due to free radicals in the body or to dopamine and other neurotransmitter fluctuations. However, both human Alzheimer's and CDS are at least partly caused by altered brain chemistry and degeneration that is not caused by regular aging.

Veterinarians sometimes prescribe dopamine for CDS. Research has shown that this therapy has worked to restore some normal cognitive functioning in some dogs. This may give animals afflicted with CDS a better enjoyment of life in their senior years.

A veterinarian will go over the symptoms when CDS is suspected and compare it to the dog's behavioral history. Usually, the vet will also perform an extensive medical and neurological check up. Alzheimer's disease in dogs is quite common.

CDS may cause aggression even in very gentle dogs. The aggression is likely to be caused by the loss of brain cells due to brain degeneration. Changing sleep and wake patterns are also associated with the condition. The dog may sleep a lot during the day, but less at night.

A vet may prescribe dopamine to treat a dog with cognitive disorientation syndrome (CDS).
A vet may prescribe dopamine to treat a dog with cognitive disorientation syndrome (CDS).

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Discussion Comments


I have a lab chow mix. He has all the signs. He will start pacing in a circle from the kitchen into the living room back to the kitchen. Then he starts shaking really bad. When I walk him, he goes to the bathroom while walking. Both number 1 and 2. There are days where he will just stare at floor and not move for hours. I am really thinking about having him put down. He has had 17 long happy years and I hate seeing him suffer this way.


I have a male chihuahua who is 9 years old. He has been having symptoms of CDS. He forgets to go outside, and has trouble walking. At times he even does not want to eat. It is very difficult to watch.

At a young age he was diagnosed with epilepsy, which has gotten worse over the past few months. This is the most difficult disease to watch my chihuahua go through, as my grandmother passed away with this same disease.


It is a dreadful disease.


I am very scared about this happening to my baby boy. his breed is more apt to get this disease. It scares me so much, I get so emotional about it because my great papaw had it, and I don't want to suffer again with my other half of me getting it. he is my world and shouldn't have to go through that, nor should others.


This is so frightening -- I didn't even know that dogs could get Alzheimer's. It's sad enough when a human gets dementia or senility, but I can imagine that for pet owners, it might be even worse to see their dog suffering in that way.

Has anybody reading this had a dog with Alzheimer's? What was it like?


From what I know about them, Pomeranians are known for being pretty aggressive and anxious dogs. Mine has always been really alert and yappy. When we first got her, she would be up every night barking at every movement and sound. My vet has told me that Pomeranians tend to have more health problems than other dogs, and especially neurological ones. The symptoms you’re talking about could definitely just be due to the breed, and her epilepsy. But it could still be helpful to talk to your vet when any symptoms are getting worse, no matter what they are.


I’ve had one of my dogs for over ten years now. I think she’s about 12 or 13 now. A veterinarian has never formally diagnosed her, but she displays a lot of these symptoms. For the past couple years, her sleep patterns have definitely changed substantially. She sleeps almost all day and she’s very anxious and alert at night. She is not constantly aggressive, but she has become a lot more impatient with people. When she was younger, she was diagnosed with epilepsy that’s also gotten a lot worse as she’s gotten older. Does anyone know if CDS is more common in Pomeranians? Could these other symptoms be linked to her epilepsy?

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