We love old dogs. They’re calm, trained, loyal, and wise. Although they sometimes need a bit more care for age-related ailments, they are worth it. The physical challenges of age are easier for many families to understand and manage than the mental changes in their elderly dog.

It’s heartbreaking when your beloved old dog goes outside one day and doesn’t know how to return to the house. She stands in the yard until someone brings her back. She starts having accidents. She doesn’t recognize people she’s known forever. She forgets things she was taught as a puppy. It’s puzzling when she paces and barks at nonexistent threats.

 Some dogs start showing canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD) as early as 8 years old. By the time they are 15, almost all dogs will show some signs of impairment. The signs can include disorientation (wandering around like he is lost, confused about surroundings, or failing to recognize people he knows), interaction changes (showing less interest in being social, not wanting to be petted, spending time away from your family), becoming needier, disrupted sleep/wake cycles, house soiling, pacing the floor, showing fear of familiar objects or people, and activity changes. 

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While there is no cure for CCD, there are things you can do to make life easier. Your veterinarian can suggest medications and nutritional supplements that can be helpful to dogs with dementia. Other suggestions include getting them to exercise more, buying interactive toys, and teaching the dog new skills to help with memory and learning.

It might help your elderly dog to take them on walks (at their pace, not yours), keep a routine to lessen their anxiety, remain calm when the dog soils the carpet or wakes you up in the middle of the night, and keep the layout of your home the same. Elderly dogs should always find their food and water bowl in the same place.

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As you navigate your dog’s limitations, you will need to consider when it’s time to set them free. Maintaining the human-animal bond should be the most important goal at the end of any dog’s life. Quality of life should be considered when they cannot recognize their loved ones and are frightened by the world around them. At some point, euthanasia may be the kindest decision. When struggling with such a tough decision, know that you can contact Second Chance’s veterinary services for euthanasia consultation and options.





My name is Coraline, and I’m still a very young girl. We can have a long and happy life together. I do best with women, and I really don’t like cats. I’m sweet, smart, affectionate, active, and healthy. I like to go on long walks, and I’m obsessed with playing ball. I will make a great companion for you and would love another dog friend.