Why Is My Senior Dog Walking in Circles?

Senior dog walking in circles

If you catch your dogs walking in circles for a good amount of time, and we are not talking about the circles they do before laying down, it could be an indicator of underlying health issues. But don’t panic, keep an eye on them and seek professional advice from your vet.

In this article, we take an in-depth look at the common reasons and how to support your furry buddy in the golden years.

Two years ago, my mom noticed some behavioral changes in her 12-year-old dog, like wandering around, getting stuck behind the doors, and feeling uneasy very often. Mumi now is 14 years old and while some of these behaviors have progressed, my mom has ensured that we provide the happiest life for his senior years. 

But, what causes these weird behaviors? Is it true that dogs can suffer from dementia? And if so, what can we do to help them to have a happy life? Let’s see the answers to all your questions in this article.

Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome

Unfortunately, dogs as humans can develop cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS), also known as dementia. CDS symptoms include disorientation, confusion, and repetitive behaviors such as circling. 

What are the first signs of a dog’s dementia?

Early signs of a dog’s dementia can include getting stuck in corners, changes in social behaviors, changes in sleep patterns, accidents at home, changes in appetite, anxiety, etc. 

What are the stages of a dog’s dementia?

The symptoms and progression of CDS can vary from dog to dog but there could be some patterns. In the early stages, the signs are mild and easy to miss. As the cognitive functions decline they become more evident and repetitive. 

How long can a senior dog live with dementia?

The lifespan of a senior dog with dementia can vary depending on various factors, including the dog’s overall health, the severity of the cognitive dysfunction, and the quality of care provided. Early detection and intervention can help improve the quality of life for dogs experiencing cognitive decline.

What breed of dog is prone to dementia?

Typically small dogs live longer than large dogs and therefore they are more prone to develop cognitive dysfunction syndrome. However, the syndrome is more closely associated with age rather than specific breeds. 

What are other common causes?

Behavioral Causes

Anxiety or stress, often triggered by changes in the environment or routine, can lead to repetitive behaviors, one of which can be circling. Compulsive behaviors, such as obsessive tail-chasing or shadow-chasing, can also manifest as circular movements. Additionally, age-related changes in behavior can result in a senior dog’s inclination to engage in repetitive activities.

Environmental Factors

Changes in the environment, such as moving to a new house or rearranging furniture, can also disrupt a dog’s sense of familiarity and trigger disoriented movements.

Sensory Impairment

Senior dogs often experience sensory impairments, such as vision and hearing loss. These impairments can contribute to a dog’s difficulty navigating its surroundings and result in circling behavior. 

Pain or Discomfort

Conditions such as arthritis, which are common in older dogs, can result in joint pain and stiffness, making movement challenging. Muscle weakness or stiffness can also contribute to the circular movement pattern exhibited by senior dogs.

Vestibular Disease

Another potential cause is a vestibular disease, which affects the inner ear and can lead to balance issues and disorientation.

Neurological Disorders

In some cases, brain tumors or lesions can result in abnormal behavior. These tumors can affect the dog’s coordination and cause neurological symptoms. Other neurological disorders, such as epilepsy, can also manifest as circling behavior in senior dogs.

Treatment and Management

If you notice your senior dog walking in circles, it’s crucial to consult with a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis. The vet will conduct a thorough examination, possibly including blood tests, imaging scans, or other diagnostic procedures, to identify any underlying medical conditions. And then they can suggest what is the best treatment for your pup.

If the diagnosis is Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome, the treatment includes:

Changes in Diet and supplementation

Ensure a diet that includes: 

  1. Antioxidants are anti-inflammatory and protect the brain from oxidative stress.
  2. Omega 3 reduces inflammation and promotes cell membrane health.
  3. B Vitamins promote normal brain development, function, and neuronal health.

Other supplementation can include Ginkgo biloba, Turmeric, Acetylcarnitine, etc.

Cognitive enrichment 

It consists of regular exercise, social interactions, and mental stimulation with new toys or practicing new commands. 

Tips for Supporting Senior Dogs with Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome

  1. Ensure a comfortable and familiar environment. You can help reduce disorientation by minimizing changes in the house, like keeping their bed, food, and water bowl in the same place. 
  2. Create a routine and stick to it. Routines create predictability and reduce anxiety. 
  3. Ensure regular exercise tailored to your dog’s abilities, as well as mental stimulation through interactive toys or puzzles. These activities engage the dog’s mind and body, providing enrichment and reducing boredom.
  4. Talk with your vet to design the best diet for your dog’s needs.
  5. Most importantly spend quality time with your dog and provide comfort and reassurance.
Is it normal for senior dogs to walk in circles?

While occasional disoriented movements may occur in senior dogs, persistent circling can indicate an underlying issue that requires attention.

Can anxiety cause a senior dog to walk in circles?

Yes, anxiety or stress can lead to repetitive behaviors, including walking in circles.

What can I do to reduce my senior dog’s circling behavior?

Consult with a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and follow their recommended treatment plan. Provide a comfortable and familiar environment, engage in mental and physical activities, and ensure your dog receives regular veterinary check-ups to monitor the condition.

Can sensory impairments contribute to a senior dog walking in circles?

Yes, vision and hearing loss can disrupt a dog’s spatial awareness and result in circling behavior.

How can I support my senior dog’s overall well-being?

Providing a comfortable environment, a balanced diet, regular exercise, and love and attention are essential for supporting the well-being of senior dogs.

Final Thoughts

If you observe your senior dog walking in circles, it’s essential to consider both medical and non-medical factors that may contribute to this behavior. By consulting with a veterinarian, you can determine the underlying cause and develop an appropriate treatment plan. Additionally, providing a supportive environment, engaging in mental and physical activities, and prioritizing your senior dog’s well-being will help ensure they enjoy their golden years to the fullest.

Katherine Ortega

Blogger and pet lover. I've been around dogs my whole life and have experience caring for all types, sizes and ages of pups. Senior dogs hold a special place in my heart 💗

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