Dementia in Dogs Explained After Clip of Pet Staring at Wall Goes Viral

A TikTok video of a dog displaying signs of dementia has gone viral. The 10-second clip shared by user Jade (@wherejadeplays), the owner of the dog, shows a Jack Russell Terrier with dementia staring at the corner of a wall next to a washing machine.

Jade wrote: “A common sign for dogs with dementia is staring at walls or in corners. I like to think they’re just watching their favorite show. #seniordog,” in a post sharing the video, which has had at least 8.1 million views and 660,300 likes since it was first posted back on February 23.

The video shows the dog standing still before his trance is broken by a person’s voice and then moves towards the person calling him. See the TikTok video here.

In a thread of comments for the post, Jade said her dog, who is also going blind, was diagnosed with dementia and displays this behavior throughout the day “whenever he doesn’t have anyone around to follow.”

She said: “It’s not something in the walls he can hear ’cause he’s pretty much deaf and has done this in the four different places I’ve lived in since diagnosis.”

Much like Alzheimer’s (the most common type of dementia in people), dog dementia— known as canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD)—is a condition associated with aging and changes in the brain, veterinarian Dr. Lindsay Butzer, a spokesperson for Zesty Paws, told Newsweek.

She explained: “The older we and our dogs get, the more our brains atrophy and experience cellular decay. While the exact causes of CCD aren’t fully understood, researchers agree that it’s associated with the related changes within the brain as dogs get older .”

Research has shown that usually smaller dogs, such as terriers and toy dogs, as well as dogs with lower-activity lifestyles are “relatively more prone to dementia,” Butzer said.

Signs of CCD are often summarized by the acronym DISHA, which stands for disorientation, interactions changing with family and other pets, sleep-wake cycle changes, house soiling, activity level change, with disorientation perhaps being the most common marker. Staring at walls or corners would fall under the disorientation category, the veterinarian said.

Dogs with CCD may display disorientation by “forgetting where to go” in areas they have been familiar with and routinely navigated in the past. For example, rather than heading into the bed at night, you may see the dog in a different area or “just staring into the distance,” she said.

“Unfortunately, as is the case with many activities that humans with dementia engage in, the cause for this behavior in dogs with CCD is not understood terribly specifically beyond the fact that we know it to be a symptom,” she noted.

While there is no cure for CCD, some treatments can help a dog feel more comfortable. Veterinarians can prescribe anipril, a drug that helps with some CCD symptoms by stimulating dopamine. For over-the-counter options, products with therapeutic ingredients like ashwagandha (a medicinal herb) and chamomile might help, butzer advised.

“It also helps to keep to a routine as much as possible as it helps with the anxiety and confusion associated with CCD,” the veterinarian said.

Several other TikTok users shared messages of support for Jade, including some who were previously unaware of dog dementia.

User5071970171861 wrote: “I wasn’t aware that dogs could get dementia. Sooo sweet! thank god he has you!”

User Nikki wrote: “I knew they got cancer but not the mental disorders, dogs don’t deserve any suffering [pleading face emoji] I’m sorry to hear I can’t imagine that kinda pain.”

Jade said: “I didn’t either until it happened to my boy so that’s why I wanted to share so people can learn about it.”

Others shared their own experience with dog dementia, such as user Laura who wrote: “My dog ​​had dementia got lost in our own garden that she had known for 16 years. I’ve never known my heart to hurt so much.”

User Winter wrote: “My family dog ​​had dementia during the last year of her life and she’s also a Jack Russell. [pleading face emoji].”

Newsweek has contacted @wherejadeplays for comment.

Other Signs of Dog Dementia

In addition to disorientation, below are some other signs of CCD, as outlined by Butzer:

  • Changes in interactions: CCD may manifest in the way a dog interacts with humans and other animals alike. If they’ve been sociable and friendly in the past, they may begin to show signs of being uncharacteristically disengaged or cranky.
  • Changes in sleep-wake cycle: Dogs experiencing CCD often lose track of when it’s appropriate to be active or resting. If they don’t go to bed at their usual bedtime and sleep more during the day than night, CCD could be the cause for this behavior.
  • House-soiling: While there are more than a few reasons for a dog to go to the bathroom in the house, if they’re doing so in conjunction with one or more of the other signs of CCD, it’s even more likely that there is an underlying cognitive issue .
  • Decreased activity levels: Disengaging or acting aloof and distant during activities that they normally enjoy or take part in is another sign of CCD.
A Jack Russell Terrier dog laying on a carpet floor. A video capturing a Jack Russell Terrier with dementia staring at the corner of a wall has gone viral on TikTok.
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