Dog Has Dementia: When To Put It To Sleep? (Counselor)

When your dog suffers from dementia, not only does the four-legged friend suffer, it also becomes increasingly difficult for his people and it hurts the soul to observe his mental decline.

But when does it make sense to put down the dog with dementia?

This post aims to help you make that difficult decision.

When is the right time to euthanize a dog with dementia?

If a dog suffers from dementia, it becomes more and more of a need for care for its people as the disease progresses.

Your four-legged friend needs a lot of attention and can hardly be left alone anymore.

Your family and professional situation is therefore an important aspect that should be considered very carefully.

Of course, this also depends on the stage of dementia in your dog.

If dementia is recognized in time, it cannot be cured, but it can be significantly delayed with appropriate therapies.

If the dementia has progressed so far that the four-legged friend just lies apathetic and huddled together, refuses to eat and no longer recognizes anyone in the family, his suffering outweighs the remaining joy of life.

Ultimately, no one knows your four-legged friend as well as you do. Only you can decide when the time has come to let your dog cross the rainbow bridge.

However, before you make a decision, discuss it with your family and with a vet you trust.

What is the life expectancy of a demented dog?

Dementia usually occurs in small dog breeds from the age of ten, in larger breeds from around the age of seven.

There is no general answer to the question of how old a dog suffering from dementia can become.

Dementia in dogs is not yet recognized as an official disease, which is why there are no studies available.

How fast does dementia progress in dogs?

Dementia in dogs is also known as cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS).

This condition affects brain function. This leads to cognitive dysfunctions that affect the behavior and character of the dog.

CDS is slow and insidious and can develop over several years.

What are the treatment options for dementia?

As in humans, dementia in dogs is incurable. However, if typical symptoms are recognized in good time, the development of the disease can be significantly slowed down.

Ideally, treatment consists of three components, which can also be used when dementia is suspected:


The dog receives medication that promotes brain power and blood circulation. In addition, depending on the stage of dementia, sedatives can be administered to counter restlessness and anxiety.


An important building block is a high-quality diet. The feed should be enriched with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. These fatty acids support brain activity.

Behavior therapy:

The aim of behavioral therapy is to stimulate the brain over the long term. This can be done, for example, with new walking paths, new commands, and puzzles.

End-stage dementia in dogs: what are the symptoms?

There are numerous symptoms that can indicate dementia, but they can only appear together as the clinical picture develops.

One speaks of the final stage of dementia when all of the 4 main symptom complexes appear strongly:

1. Altered sleep-wake cycle

During the day the dog sleeps more than usual, but is restless at night and wanders up and down restlessly, panting or whimpering.

2. Disorientation

The dog is confused overall, running aimlessly back and forth in the apartment as if he doesn’t know where he’s going. Often he can no longer find his food or water bowl.

3. Uncleanliness

The dog has often forgotten its housebreaking and only rarely or not at all shows that it has to go outside.

He often wants out, but then forgets why he wanted out. As a result, he does his business right after the walk in the apartment.

4. Altered interactions and decreased activity

  • Interest in the area wanes;
  • Familiar stimuli such as shouting, ringing the doorbell, throwing treats or balls hardly cause a reaction;
  • Often the owner is no longer recognized;
  • Familiar people and other dogs are no longer acknowledged or even growled or barked at as strangers;
  • The dog refuses to be stroked otherwise, as if it were suddenly uncomfortable for him;
  • Extreme mood swings to the point of irritability. Suddenly moody, anxious or aggressive reactions are not uncommon.

How much does the dog suffer from dementia?

Dogs suffering from dementia no longer react consciously to pain stimuli. He can no longer judge what is good and what is bad for him.

It is therefore very difficult to assess how much the sick four-legged friend suffers from it.

How else can I help my dog?

It’s important to keep mentally challenging your dog. You should always show him how important he is to you.

He needs a lot of patience and attention and should not be left alone anymore.

Good to know:

Even if the dog is only alone for a short time, a piece of clothing you have worn in its basket, a radio turned on or a patient and calm second dog will help.


Dementia is an incurable and serious disease, which, if recognized in good time, can be delayed somewhat in the course of the disease.

In the advanced stage you should think about a rescue by the veterinarian, but not because the dog in need of care has just become uncomfortable.

If your pet is becoming increasingly distressed and you are unable to give it the attention it needs, you should discuss this decision with your family and a veterinarian.

You are welcome to tell us about your experiences with a demented dog in a comment.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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