How to Take a Pet Away From a Dementia Patient

Taking the pet away from a loved one with dementia can be challenging for a caregiver. Pets (mainly dogs) offer physical, social, and emotional support for the person with dementia. Losing a pet can create stress and anxiety in the elderly. This is one of those situations where a caregiver’s patience and overall ability to deal with difficult situations is thoroughly tested. 

Before taking the pet away from a dementia patient, you must know that animal shelters are not keen on giving puppies or kittens to elderly owners. They are worried about the safety of the animal once the senior person passes away. 

What I am trying to say is, do not give away your pet hastily. You might not get another one easily unless you are willing to go to the pet store. 

This article arms you with vital insights on how to take a pet away from a dementia patient.   

How the pet makes them feel

You must know how an elderly person feels about their pet. Sometimes a person with dementia loses interest in the pet, in which case giving away the pet becomes easy. 

Elderly folks in the early or middle stages of dementia may make a reasonable decision to give away the pet as it’s in the best interest of both parties.  

If they love having the pet around, they might be very upset if you were to take it away from them. In such a scenario you must put your loved one’s needs first. You can let the pet stay for a few more days and see how it goes. 

If your loved one falls into a more severe category, it might not make sense to keep the pet. 

When to take the pet away from a dementia patient 

It is common for people in the early stages of dementia to get upset over small things, sometimes for no reason. They may not like it when you or other members of the family take the pet for a walk. They may want the pet to be in their vicinity all the time. 

Such a situation can be managed. You don’t have to give the pet away if the dementia patient begins screaming, yelling, or crying when the pet goes out on a walk. You can convince them that you will let them spend enough time with the pet. But the pet (let’s assume a dog) also needs to go outdoors. It is not healthy for a dog to stay indoors for a long period of time.   

So when should you take the pet away from them? What is the biggest indication? 

You should take the pet away when it’s no longer safe for the patient and pet to be together. You should begin planning the transition the moment the patient begins to exhibit aggressive behavior. Limit the time they spend with the pet. By planning early, you can make it easy for the patient to deal with the loss.  

Talk to other members of the family. It’s important that everyone is on board with the decision to take the pet away. 

How to talk to the dementia patient about taking the pet away

Compassion and understanding are key when convincing a dementia patient to acclimate to change. Logic might not work here. So, don’t get upset if they brush away or dismiss your well-thought-out arguments. 

Let them know that you are on their side. Be soft-spoken. Don’t give them a reason to be mad or angry at you. Reassure them that it’s okay for them to give up their pet because it is beneficial for both parties. 

Find someone who can take care of the pet

Giving away a pet does not necessarily mean surrendering it to a local public animal shelter or animal control. Most dogs end up getting put down there. You can always find a foster home for your pet. Interview several families who are willing to take care of your pet, choose the one that is genuinely inquisitive. 

When it comes to giving away a pet, a foster arrangement is always the best option. You will also find rescue groups in your neighborhood who are willing to take care of the pet. 

If you are a remote caregiver to a dementia patient you can offer to take the pet yourself. That is if you live an hour or more away from your loved one. That way, they won’t feel bad about the detachment as they can meet the pet once or twice a week. 

What if the dementia patient has lost interest in his or her pet

Don’t be surprised if the dementia patient loses interest in his or her pet. They might also forget their name, or in some cases refuse to recognize them altogether. As a family caregiver, you must learn to accept the fact that your loved one is losing their grip on reality. They have begun to forget the names of those who once used to be near and dear. It’s the way dementia works. 

I know some cases in which the dementia patient was convinced that the pet had passed away. Folks who are severely affected by dementia might also mistake other objects or people for the pet. They might urge others to act or behave like pets. 

If this happens with you, try not to bring the pet into conversations. Find a foster home for the pet and give it away without making a big deal. In some cases, the dementia patient remains unaffected, and they do not resent the loss of their buddy

How to take a pet away from a dementia patient staying in a nursing home

I am assuming you are a family member of someone with dementia. Your loved one stays in a nursing home or a long-term care facility. And they have a pet who stays with them at the nursing home. 

Your loved one is struggling to take care of the pet due to cognitive decline. The nursing home staff is asking you to take away the pet to make life easy for them, other residents, the pet, and your loved one. 

What is the right course of action?

It all depends on what you want. Do you want to relocate the pet to your home? Will it upset your loved one? 

You don’t have to do anything under pressure. If the local law or the state regulations permit your loved one to keep a pet in a nursing home, you can ignore the request made by the nursing home staff. 

The health and well-being of your loved one come first. You should think about relocating the pet only if it affects the health of your one. The choice is yours. Either way, be prepared for a negative reaction from the nursing home staff. Remain calm when you have to, but be assertive when needed.


Having a pet can add joy and companionship to the life of someone with dementia. However, sometimes it becomes necessary for them to go separate ways. As a home caregiver, you always want to make decisions that favor your beloved parent, sibling, or spouse. But not at the expense of their personal safety. 

Take things slowly and remember, this is not an easy situation and nobody is going to blame you!


  1. Do you know California law concerning pets in memory care facilities (and on what basis they can or can’t be removed)?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *