Do Dogs Get Alzheimer’s?

A study from the University of California has found that over 60 percent of dogs between 11 and 16 years old had one or more signs of cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS). This syndrome is similar to Alzheimer’s in humans in that in involves disorientation, confusion, memory loss and behavioral changes.

Some signs of CDS are:

  • Forgetting the difference between indoors and outdoors and relieving themselves indoors
  • Forgetting how to use stairs
  • Not recognizing their owners or other family members
  • Staring at walls
  • Behavior shifts from friendly to aggressive for no apparent reason
  • Getting stuck in once familiar places like room corners or behind furniture
  • Withdrawing
  • Not responding when called
  • Decreased activity

CDS can be diagnosed when other causes of the same behaviors are ruled out. For example, vision or hearing loss would cause the same behavioral changes without cognitive decline. Hypothyroidism could also contribute to decreased activity and withdrawing. In other words, a veterinarian would be required to make an official diagnosis. Cushing’s disease can also contribute to CDS in dogs.

There are a variety of treatments for CDS. One of the prescription pharmaceutical treatments for dogs with CDS is Selegiline, which increases dopamine in the brain. Side effects include diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy and anemia. SAMe (S-adenosylmethionine) is an over the counter product that also might have some benefit. (It is also used by people sometimes for depression.) Fish oil has been suggested as a possible treatment, as has a product called Senilife, which contains ginkgo biloba, phosphatidylserine, vitamin E and vitamin B6. One holistic veterinary blogger wrote about another possibility: “Clinical trials have shown that antioxidants, and combinations of antioxidants with acetyl-l-carnitine, vegetable extracts and phosphatidylserine can improve daily function in these dogs.” (Source:

Another holistic veterinarian wrote that there is a connection between CDS and dogs ingesting aluminum: “We found the commercial diets to be the highest source of contamination. Most municipal waters use Aluminum hydroxide to process water and show high Aluminum content. Aluminum feeding and water bowls should be replaced with stainless steel or glass. Never use aluminum foil to wrap food for yourself or your animals ever!” (Source:

While this information has focused mainly on dogs, it should be said pet cats can also experience cognitive dysfunction syndrome. Pets suffering from CDS should not be punished or scolded for doing things they can not help. A diagnosis of CDS and learning to care for a suffering animal can go a long way towards understanding the situation and reducing the pain for both the animal and the pet owner.

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Cathy Noftz
Cathy Noftz6 years ago

~I wouldn't have known animals could suffer this kind of illness~I've had several dogs who lived to a ripe age~None of these symtoms were noticable to me~I will definitly look for these symtoms in the future!~I definitly wouldn't want my pets to suffer unneedlessly!!~

Danielle Herie
Danielle Herie7 years ago


carlee trent
carlee trent7 years ago


patti ng
patti ng7 years ago

Ive never even thought of this before, but it would explain o lot. Thank you. :)

Trish K.
Trish K7 years ago

Too bad there are no homes for dogs with Alzheimer's. I hope people can cope with their sweet friends instead of putting them down. On the other hand, when I get Alzheimer's have me put down please.

Lori A.
Lori A7 years ago

Very interesting, thanks for sharing.

Nina Papaioannou
Nina Papaioannou7 years ago

Poor animals, not able to communicate their problems,,,

Brenda Towers
Brenda T7 years ago

I have never observed it, but how very worrying for the owners.

Gita Sasi Dharan
Gita Sasi Dharan7 years ago

You feel devastated when your pet is ill. When they suffer from old age, we should be there to help and protect them with affection, for they spent their entire lives loving us.

Helane S.
Helane Shields7 years ago

"Doggie Alzheimer's" may actually be canine transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) - a fatal prion disease - like mad cow, scrapie, chronic wasting disease, etc.

Recently scientists have said Alzheimer's and Parkinson Diseases in humans are transmissible prion/protein diseases:

The animal remains in rendered pet food may be the source of prion disease in both dogs and cats. The US Dept. of Agriculture has been covering up for years the fact that 1.9 million "downer cows" - the animals most likely to have Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) - Mad Cow Disease - are rendered into animal feeds and pet food. Only about 5000 are tested for BSE. Rendering does not inactivate prions.