Dog Breeds Prone to Dementia – Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

Dog-Breeds-Prone-to-Dementia

Just like humans, dogs are susceptible to various dementia-like mental health issues. The most common form of dementia in dogs is known as canine cognitive dysfunction.

Unfortunately, this debilitating issue can result in many symptoms, including memory loss, increased aggression, and poor spatial awareness. While canine cognitive dysfunction can be somewhat unpredictable, certain risk factors can increase the likelihood that a dog will develop some form of dementia as they reach its senior life stage.

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How Can We Help?

To help you understand the risks, we will highlight some dog breeds more prone to dementia than others. We will also explain how common canine cognitive dysfunction is and how it is diagnosed.

We will even list some of the most common dementia symptoms, which can help you spot the early clinical signs in your dog. If you want to know more about canine cognitive dysfunction, you have come to the right place!

What Is Canine Cognitive Dysfunction?

Canine cognitive dysfunction, or CCD, is a dementia-like condition almost always linked to aging. Since it is a neurodegenerative disease, CCD often progresses gradually from mild to life-altering symptoms.

Since it impacts brain function, it usually alters how a dog responds to stimuli. It often presents itself in deficits in learning and memory.

Until relatively recently, we knew very little about CCD. This meant that countless cases of CCD went undiagnosed, and the symptoms were often ignored or attributed to a dog’s old age rather than a medical condition.

What Are the Symptoms of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction?

Since an early diagnosis is the best way to improve the quality of life of a dog with canine cognitive dysfunction, we have listed the most common signs below:

  • General confusion and regular disorientation 
  • Insomnia and restlessness 
  • Extreme mood swings and irritability
  • Lethargy and a lack of enthusiasm 
  • Excessive licking, scratching, and other self-destructive behaviors
  • Incontinence 
  • Lack of appetite and noticeable weight loss
  • Inability to learn new tasks and routines
  • Memory loss, including difficulty navigating familiar environments and routes

If you notice more than one of these dementia symptoms and your dog is in their senior life stage, meaning they are over ten years of age, you should book an appointment with a veterinarian. 

Your veterinarian will be able to assess your dog and determine whether or not their symptoms are simply natural signs of aging or the early stages of CCD. From there, they will be able to discuss treatment options that could help improve your dog’s quality of life.

How Common Is Canine Cognitive Dysfunction?

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As you would expect, the chances that your dog will develop CCD, or some other form of dementia, will increase as the dog ages. According to current estimates, nearly 68% of dogs that reach the age of 16 develop CCD.

That said, it is also believed that many cases of CCD go undiagnosed, as many dog owners simply assume their dog’s changes in behavior are merely signs of aging. 

The following breaks down how susceptible aged dogs are to CCD according to their age:

  • Dogs aged 11 to 12 years – 28%
  • Dogs aged 13 to 14 years – 48%
  • Dogs aged 15 to 16 years – 68%

As you can see, the likelihood of a CCD diagnosis dramatically increases the older a dog gets. In other words, dogs that live longer have a higher chance of displaying dementia-like symptoms.

Regarding overall CCD rates in dogs, it is believed that about 14% of dogs will eventually experience some form of this unfortunate medical condition. Again, many cases go undiagnosed, so the actual rate is likely much higher.

This is why it is so essential to book an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as you notice any of the symptoms we listed above. Ensure you explain the signs to your veterinarian, which will help them make an accurate diagnosis.

Which Dog Breeds Are Prone to Dementia and Canine Cognitive Dysfunction?

dogs dementia and CCD

While all types of dogs can develop dementia and CCD, certain risk factors can make a difference. Recently, it has become clear that certain breeds are more likely to develop dementia than others.

The following three breed categories are believed to be up to three times more likely to be diagnosed with CCD than other dog breed types:

1. Terrier Breeds

Terriers range in size from small to large but tend to share similar temperaments and other features. Unfortunately, they are also prone to certain medical conditions, including CCD. 

Terriers can include the following breeds:

  • Airedale terrier
  • Bull terrier
  • Irish terrier
  • American Staffordshire terrier
  • Australian terrier
  • Jack Russell terrier
  • West Highland white terrier
  • Yorkshire terrier
  • Rat terrier

As you can see, terriers are a diverse dog breed grouping. While they may look physically different, many breeds have similar personalities. This is partly why they are susceptible to the same cognitive issues.

2. Toy Breeds

The toy grouping is the smallest category of dog breeds. These energetic and social breeds also have an increased likelihood of developing CCD and other forms of dementia. Part of the reason for their susceptibility to CCD is the fact that smaller breeds tend to have long lifespans. 

Toy breeds can include the following types of dogs:

  • Chihuahua
  • Chinese crested
  • Cavalier King Charles spaniel
  • English toy spaniel 
  • Italian greyhound 
  • Maltese 
  • Toy poodle 
  • Pomeranian 
  • Shih Tzu
  • Pug
  • Papillon
  • Miniature pinscher 
  • Brussels griffon

Certain breeds, like the Yorkshire terrier, are considered both a terrier and a toy breed, so their likelihood of developing cognitive dysfunction syndrome is relatively high. 

While these small breeds have a heightened risk of developing CCD, they also tend to live longer than larger breeds, so there is a bit of a trade-off for dog owners in deciding which breed to choose.

3. Non-Sporting Breeds

The final breed with an increased likelihood of developing dementia and CCD is the non-sporting breed category.

This diverse group of dog breeds tends to be reasonably intelligent, as most were bred to act as companions, house dogs, and even watch dogs rather than athletic, working dogs. Unfortunately, they also are prone to mental health issues, especially as they reach their senior years.

Non-sporting breeds can include the following types of dogs:

  • Bichon frise
  • Boston terrier
  • Chow chow
  • Dalmatian
  • French bulldog 
  • English bulldog
  • Chinese shar-pei 
  • Finnish spitz 
  •  American eskimo 

Aside from age, high intellect is one of the leading risk factors for this form of canine dementia, so it only makes sense that a breed category known for its intelligence and trainability would be at risk of dementia. 

What Should You Do if You Suspect That Your Dog Could Have Dementia?

If you believe that your dog might be suffering from CCD, or if you have noticed more than one of the symptoms we outlined above, you should first book an appointment with your veterinarian. 

Once your veterinarian has diagnosed your dog, they will recommend various treatment options. 

This can include prescription medications and a variety of lifestyle changes, including establishing a more regular daily schedule, dietary changes, increased physical exercise, and injury-proofing your home.

Resources for CCD Information

For more information about dementia and CCD, consider reading Pet MD’s guide – Dog Dementia – Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, and Life Expectancy.

For those who suspect their dog could be suffering from CCD, consider reading Pet MD’s 7 Signs of Dog Dementia, which covers the common symptoms in detail.


Today’s Veterinary Practice also published a peer-reviewed journal entry on CCD that can be a helpful resource – Management of Dogs and Cats with Cognitive Dysfunction.