Dementia in Poodles

Health, Poodles | 2 comments

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Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD) is an age-related illness that affects older dogs. Much like Dementia in humans, dementia in poodles can have different symptoms for each dog. Termed with the widely known acronym DISHA, meaning Disorientation, [altered] Interactions with family members or other pets, Sleep-wake cycle changes, House soiling, and Activity level changes, CCD is becoming more prevalent.

While many owners take their geriatric pooch to the vet suspecting a physical ailment, illness, or even behavioral issues, they’re often surprised to find that their beloved friend is suffering from CCD. Though it mimics symptoms of kidney disease, cancer, arthritis, or diabetes, CCD can be noted by any of the following symptoms

Symptoms of Dementia in Poodles

  • Anxiety
  • Changes in sleep cycle (sleeping during the day, awake at night)
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty learning new tasks
  • Disorientation
  • Disregard for normal house training
  • Excessive licking
  • Extreme irritability
  • Inability to follow routes or routines
  • Incontinence (fecal and urinary)
  • Lack of desire to self-groom
  • Loss of appetite

With its slow onset over time, many owners don’t even realize their furry friend is having age-related mental issues. They may just view it as a gradual slowing down or contribute it to any number of other issues older dogs suffer from.

When their walking companion looks to them to find the way home or no longer has interest in chasing the cat or a favorite toy, many people just chalk it up to a difficulty seeing or being tuckered out from the walk. Not many consider that they may be dealing with the doggy version of dementia.

While there are different reasons for the onset of dementia in poodles, or CCD, one description is that abnormal proteins can accumulate in the brain, causing plaque to build up. Over time this can damage the nerves and lower function of the brain. This can lead to memory and motor function loss, as well as difficulty recalling previously learned behaviors.

The more signs or symptoms your poodle displays, the more likely it is that they’re suffering from CCD. Veterinarians use the DISHA standards to help identify the likelihood of CCD in a canine patient.

Brie is still a puppy and is at no risk of dementia. Her only risk factor is cuteness overload – from @benny.and.brie


Disorientation occurs in different ways, like appearing lost inside a familiar area such as your home or yard. They may not know which door to go to when its time to go outside. You might wake up to find your dog in a different part of the house than normal.


While your pooch may have been everybody’s favorite, they may no longer have any interest in the people or animals they used to adore. The mailman showing up might not bother them any longer. Grandma ringing the doorbell won’t result in the same excited wriggle. They may not even show any interest in going for rides in the car or walks.

Sleep-Wake Cycle Changes

Like humans, dementia in poodles might impact the circadian rhythm could be off if they’re suffering from CCD. The inability to sleep at regular times can cause issues with nighttime routines. Sometimes owners find their dog pacing the house at all hours of the night, which can put off the family’s routines as well.

If this is the case, try using a night light or leaving a TV on. Filling the background with white noise is also a good recommendation. When all else fails, talk to your vet about medications to help ease your pooch’s anxiety so you can all return to your nighttime schedule.

House Soiling

If your pooch has been house trained for years but begins having repeated accidents inside the house, there’s a chance it’s related to CCD, especially if they’re in otherwise good health. You can rule out bladder or kidney-related issues as well as diabetes by visiting your vet for testing.

Once your pooch has a clean bill of health, doctors begin looking at the cognitive issues that Fido or Fifi could be suffering from. If your dog has stopped asking to go outside or seems to forget they aren’t supposed to go potty inside, it’s likely that they no longer remember they should be doing these things.

Activity Level

When you’re used to an active, curious dog, then one day you’ve got a couch potato who doesn’t care when you rattle the chip bag or crinkle a fast-food wrapper, you might be looking at a future with CCD. It could be a sign when your dog, who normally has an interest in certain activities such as walks or visits with a favorite person is no longer showing an interest in these things.

Their desire to eat or drink could suffer, causing an additional host of problems. Fifi might have repetitive physical motions such as bobbing her head or shaky legs. Fido might bark at everything that moves when he was previously a quiet and placid pooch.

A Future with CCD

While there is no way to stop the progression of the disease, there are ways you can help your dog deal with the problems. Once diagnosed, you can begin to deal with the issue and help your pup to have the easiest transitions possible as you navigate your way through the next few months or years. Here are a few ways you can help your pooch adjust and slow down the effects of CCD.

Offering foods that are high in Omega-3 fatty acids as well as other anti-oxidants can help to strengthen and promote cell health. Much like older humans, puzzles, or games can keep them more interested and alert. Consider using a food puzzle or dispenser toy to stimulate them and maintain their mental ability.

Playdates can help keep your dog active and alert; just be sure that their playmate is not so exuberant as to injure your older dog. Regular visits to the vet are a must, especially if they’ve prescribed any psychoactive drugs or additional supplements.

Your main goal at this point is to keep your pooch as active and alert as possible to slow the progression of the disease. Enjoy the time you have with them and take each day you’re given as a gift.

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  1. sherry curnutt


    • Chyrle Bonk, DVM

      Hi Sherry,

      There are several causes of circling in dogs, one of which is inner ear infections. The inner ear is responsible for a dog’s equilibrium and having excess fluid from an infection in there can throw them off. Middle and inner ear infections are sometimes hard to treat as it’s hard to get medication into the right spot. Other causes of circling would be canine vestibular syndrome, which again affects the inner ear. You may also notice side-to-side eye movement, called nystagmus, with this one. A stroke can also cause similar symptoms and it comes on very quickly. There may be other symptoms associated with a stroke, including loss of vision and incoordination. Brain tumors and abscesses can also cause similar circling and CCD can to a point cause this. Along with circling and CCD, you may notice that your pup gets ‘stuck’ in a corner, seems disoriented and doesn’t know where familiar things are at, or doesn’t seem to recognize you or family members anymore. Sometimes giving them antioxidants, like vitamin E, can help. But keeping things familiar and not acutely changing furniture arrangements, schedules, etc, can help as well.

      Dr. Chyrle Bonk, Poodled Vet 🙂


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