Treatment of Dementia in Dogs

Senior dog Summer gets a pill

Senior dog Summer gets a pill

There is no magic cure for age-related dog dementia, but a number of treatments appear to help slow the process somewhat, and to varying degrees. The following canine cognitive dysfunction treatments have been shown in scientific studies to help. (References are at the bottom of this page.)

Please check with your veterinarian if you suspect your dog has canine cognitive dysfunction. Even the over-the-counter supplements below can have side effects and interact with other prescription or over-the-counter drugs your dog takes. Some antioxidants have toxic levels.

Prescription Drugs

Package of Anipryl for dog with dementiaAnipryl (U.S. brand name for selegiline)  has been shown to slow the progression of canine cognitive dysfunction. It is a drug that is used to treat Parkinson’s in humans. It is available now for dogs in tablets and chewables. If your vet prescribes it, try to shop around. Its price really varies. The doses for dogs that you can buy on cards are quite expensive. But it can also be purchased in generic tablets quite cheaply.

Some prescription drugs commonly used in Europe for canine cognitive dysfunction are nicergoline, propentofylline, and adrafanil. Of these, adrafanil has shown the most promise in studies. (See references below.)

Specially Formulated Foods

There are many dog foods that claim to be anti-aging, but these two are the only ones so far in the U.S. that have been clinically tested and shown promising results. Links to the studies are at the bottom under References. These foods have been found to be especially effective if coupled with enrichment for the dog.


Enrichment has been shown to help a bit as well.  I have a page of specially selected enrichment toys that are doable by many dogs with dementia. Enrichment can also consist of positive reinforcement based trainingnose work, and anything that helps keep your dog using her mind.


SAMe has recently been tested for treatment of cognitive dysfunction in dogs with promising results. 




The products Senilife and Aktivait contain phosphatidylserine, which is part of a cell membrane that has been used to treat humans with Alzheimer’s disease. Senilife is sold in the US and Aktivait in the UK.



Neutricks contains apoaequorin, a substance derived from jellyfish. Studies indicated that dogs taking it performed better at learning and attention tasks.




Other supplements have even less direct evidence, but include coconut oil and Omega-3 fatty acids. These are both included in the special diets linked above, but in both of the diets it is not known which of the ingredients, or which combination, had the beneficial effect. Please note that gingko biloba, a popular supplement thought to support brain health, has not been tested in dogs, and recent human studies have shown it not to be effective in lessening the effects of Alzheimer’s disease.

Other prescription drugs and supplements can sometimes help with individual symptoms of canine cognitive dysfunction, such as anxiety and sleeplessness. You can talk to your veterinarian about options for your dog.

Please pass the word about canine cognitive dysfunction. Many people only find out about the disease when their dog has a very advanced case. But most interventions are more effective if they are started earlier.



  1. JOAN MARTIN says:

    Can anyone tell me if the effects would be the same on my dog as on a human as far as recognition? Will my dog eventually not recognize or know who I am?

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      It’s one of the known symptoms, Joan, I’m sorry to say. It falls under “changes in social relationships.” But not all dogs get all symptoms. My dog knew me to the end, though she was frail and very confused otherwise.

  2. Fran says:

    I adopted a senior toy poodle that was very ill. He was on antibiotics the first year I had him. After that he developed Sun downing, where he would keep getting up at night, all night, very confused. The holistic vet recommended Neutricks which did great for awhile. I had to add melatonin to it each night. Check vet for dosages. He still barks and snaps at other dogs for no reason but he is ok. He is a little ball of love.

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Bless you for adopting a special needs senior. Sounds like a wonderful little guy. Glad he is doing so well! Take care.

  3. Fran says:

    Thanks Eileen appreciate it. Unfortunately I am back at this page for help. The past several nights he is growling and snapping most of the night. He hardly does this during the day. I have 2 other dogs and we all sleep together so not getting much sleep. He may need stronger meds. Going to make another appt with the holistic vet. Hopefully she can pull something magic out of her bag of tricks.

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Oh Fran, I’m sorry about this difficult behavior. I hope your vet can help. And I hope you all can get some sleep.

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