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

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.

Supplements

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.

References

 

125 Comments

  1. Rhonda Gardenheir says:

    Just want to share my short Sassy B story. Sassy B is an almost 13 year old miniature doxy. She’s always been a very active little girl and loved to play soccer and fetch. She’s totally blind now due to an unsuccessful cataract surgery. After her vision was gone I realized something else was going wrong. Never in 13 years had she ever had an accident in the house ~ and why was she standing in the middle of the room? After doing some research I was surprised to learn that she might be showing signs of dementia. This was in November 2016. I asked my vet and she said we could certainly try the medication that it did work for some. We started Sassy B on Selegiline 5mg. It took about two weeks to notice any change. It helped a lot and she’s doing well. She still stands sometimes looking confused and gets stuck in the corner once in awhile. She still loves playing with her squeaky toy, bumps into the walls several times a day and with hourly reminders goes potty outside. She appears to still enjoy life and I trust she’ll let us know when it’s her time. Try the medication ~ you have nothing to lose! Good luck!

  2. Marie-Louise says:

    Hello Eileen, I read your book. Very helpful and what a darling pooch your beloved little Cricket was. May he RIP. One question. Do you have any recommendations for which treatments — supplements and prescription work together and which ones don’t? For example, you advised not to use anypril and Prozac together (which my vet did NOT tell me.) Thanks you. My dog was a mess for the 2 months I used them together. I now have him — my Belgian Malinois Simba — 12 years old — Senilfe and it is working I think. I also give him on a low level of Prozac, omega 3, truprofen (for arthritis) and glucosamine and melatonin. I just bought the Hills food (per your book) and my dog seems to be acting more nervous again. I wonder if I am giving too much Omega 3 betweent he supplement and the HIlls? I called the manufacturers of the food and they told me to ask my vet. They said they don’t advise that dogs take any other supplements when they are on their product. My vet has been great with my dog his whole life, but when it comes to the addressing the CCD, I think I’m on my own. Please advise.

    • Eileen says:

      Hi Marie Louise,
      Would your vet be willing to work with a vet behaviorist? They deal with dementia since it’s a neurological/behavioral problem and are very familiar with all the drugs, supplements, and interactions. Some VBs will do a single phone consult with a vet for free, or you can pay for a longer assessment. Some do distance consults (I consulted one for one of my other dogs and that worked out great). I can’t recommend about specific drugs or supplements at all.

      If you are in the US, you can use this list. I HIGHLY recommend consulting a VB. This is their specialty. http://www.dacvb.org/about/member-directory/

      I’m glad the book was helpful and thanks for the love for Cricket! I miss her.

      Eileen

  3. Lani Patene says:

    Hi,
    My baby boy Benny, a fifteen year old mini foxi is displaying most of the symptoms of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD). When he’s awake he feels the need to keep walking around no matter what and thats usually bad news when it comes to walls and corners. Its heartbreaking to watch because he would get himself all worked up and start making cries for help, when all he needs to do is back it up a bit or turn his head sideways and HE’LL BE FREE!?I pick him up and hold in my arms, only to get destressed and need to get down and pace again?.
    I feel like im being selfish if i seek help from a vet to help him keep it under control, but then again I love him dearly and has been in my life for almost 12 years, and i dont want to let him go yet. The whole family chipped in, in helping him move around today. It wont be as easy with everyone at work and school.i just dont know anymore.

    • Eileen says:

      Dear Lani,
      A good vet can give you options and probably an informed opinion about whether it would be harmful to take any measures. I feel your heartache. Benny is SO lucky to have such a circle of love and help. Hugs to you.

  4. Carla says:

    Hi,

    My family pet Stan who is 14 1/2 (Jack Russell) has been diagnosed with dementia. It is really difficult as he has had both eyes removed (for health reasons) and his brother had to be put to sleep around two months ago which seems to have made things worse. He was diagnosed last weekend and has started on the tablets. He is excessively licking, pacing around and getting lost (although being blind won’t help), he just doesn’t seem to settle. Unfortunately it is just my mum at home with him and she is starting to struggle because he is just not sleeping. He is waking up at around 2/3am and starts crying until she gets up. She then lets him out to the toilet and he doesn’t go back to sleep he just paces around. As she is having no sleep she is starting to struggle.

    He has a clean bill of health apart from this as his bloods came back all clear. He does take Kidney tablets and is on renal food as his brother Ollie had kidney failure.

    Can anyone recommend anything for getting him to sleep longer at night? He is a happy little soul, always wagging his tail and he loves it when I bring over my 1 year old Jug. It is just the sleeping that has become the issue.

    Thanks,
    Carla

    • eileenbanderson@sbcglobal.net says:

      I am so sorry this is happening. Could you ask your vet for something for the nighttime pacing? The vet could prescribe something to complement the dementia medicine (which takes a while to kick in). I’m so glad Stan still has such happiness in his life.

  5. April says:

    My girl eevon was 16 years old in April she’s a Norwegian Elkhound mix (she’s always been vocal, a bit bossy and very very mischievously smart.) I got her for my 16 birthday when she was 8 weeks old and she was my very first dog (we had a field spaniel as a family and my sister had a Dalmatian at the time also.) Eevon was MY dog and we were best friends (when she wasn’t up in my dad’s lap.) One Christmas family had come to see us, we had gone out on the porch, there were two dozen freshly baked cookies on the table (no one thought she would get to them) but she pushed a chair out from under the table ate a dozen cookies and than tried to put the chair back but it was turned slightly so it didn’t fully go under. She stole i don’t know many loaves of bread off the counter and than ignored you when you found the wrapper. Her and my dad were so close, not that he would want you to know it, when i was 18 he passed away from a rare cancer. She took it just as hard as we did, she laid in his wheelchair, his coats and we both had to be there for each other. When she was 14 I’d taken her in for her senior exam they asked if she was staring into space, getting lost in the house or seemed anxious. At the time she was perfect besides her arthritis but a few weeks later she started having mild symptoms. It seemed to come and go with most of the time being fine so I didn’t give it much thought we walked in the evenings with her leg harness and she was sleeping through the night. Back in February of this year she started keeping me up at night I was getting maybe 8 hours in 2 days so we went to the vet and they prescribed melatonin. That seems to help, she’s also on gabapentin and rimadyl for her arthritis. We still do short walks a few times a week in the evening and she loves it. I do help her get up off the floor, i do some light stretching with her hind legs with cool packs and heat packs, she used to herd me everywhere now it seems like I’m herding her and she follows me like a fluffy shadow, I’m still up with her between 11 and 2 in the morning at times but other times she’s asleep at 9. She forgets what way doors open, she hates being left alone, I filled my iPod with relaxing music that is on 24/7 now for her and she has different calming treats when she needs them. I’m home all day everyday with her the rare times I go out, I’d say 2-4 days out of the month and never over night, I try to be home by 11/12 at the latest but usually earlier. Now it seems when I go out I get frustrated texts from my mom about her constant barking because I’m not there. My family always tells me I’m so patient with her, that the barking drives them crazy, she won’t let them help her up and she will snip at them. If it were possible to take her with me I would, now I feel bad for wanting to leave the house even for a few hours and when I’m home she’s very happy. I’m going to try a calming pheromone plug in or collar. I’m going to sleep in a shirt for a few nights and try leaving it with her. I’m hoping we can make it another year but even that is painful to think about. A year isn’t long enough, she always seemed like she would defy age but for now she doesn’t seem unhappy and I don’t mind helping her get around. I share my eggs with her when I make eggs, I cook special cookies for her and her siblings (14 year old rein black lab chow pit mix, 6 year old castle chihuahua and 1 year old Sam Axe red point Siamese) and I recently made frozen peanut butter yogurt banana treats for everyone for reins birthday. It’s so nice to find others that are going through this and I’m so sorry for anyone who has lost their babies.

    • eileenbanderson@sbcglobal.net says:

      Thank you for telling the story of you and your wonderful dog. It does get really hard on the family when they bark a lot, especially at night. Have you thought of asking your vet for something gentle to help her relax? I hope for another good year for you and Eevon.

      • April says:

        About a week or two ago she started letting my mom help her up and actually falling asleep without me home. She’s asleep by 10 usually unless a storm is coming, sometimes she wakes me around 2/3/4 to go outside but mostly sleeps all night. I’m not sure what changed, I guess she had to decide to let others help her but I’m the only one she will let do her exercises. The melatonin seems to help her gently fall asleep and stay asleep but not so deeply that she will potty on herself. She’s actually back to begging for treats and our food which she hasn’t done in a long while. I’m hoping her progress continues, I’m really hoping that 17 won’t be as hard as I thought it would be and maybe together we can keep her mind fresh and clear.

  6. Marcia says:

    I just found this site—-I have had so much trouble with my 10 year old maltese—she just started doing everything you all have said about your dogs.
    she has not slept in two days, barks at me for long times, claws at things and walks the house all day. the vet gave her some meds but it wired her so bad.
    today he gave me trasadone(spelling) to give her half before bed. I have never had a dog with this, and I have had many. she just keeps walking. eats well and pees outside. I live in Phoenix and can not walk her in the afternoon due to the high temps. I have a buggy for her and try and walk her at dusk.
    it is just sad to see this,
    thank you for this site.

    • eileenbanderson@sbcglobal.net says:

      I’m sorry you are having a rough time with your Maltese. Keep in touch with your vet and ask for some other options. There are drugs that help, but each individual dog is different. Hugs.

  7. Andrea says:

    Your recommendation of the crappiest foods makes me wonder about how credible the rest of your information is. Those foods should not even be called “prescription” diets. Good supplementation is enough. People with dogs with dementia don’t need to be dealing with dogs with skin problems as well. The ingredients are pure crap, GMO’s & synthetic vitamins from China.

    • Eileen says:

      I’m sorry you’re disappointed in the site. But you misunderstand. I do not recommend any foods. I am not a vet or a certified nutritionist, so I would never recommend a food, medicine, or procedure. What you see on this page is what the science has shown so far. People can draw their own conclusions.

      Perhaps in the future, a diet similar to what you or I prefer will be tested. Perhaps there will be specially formulated diets that have the substances that correlate with helping prevent or slow dementia along with the types of other ingredients we would prefer. This is what has been shown to this point.

  8. Lisa Kern says:

    My Jack Russell Chihuahua baby is 13 and I believe from doing some online research and reading the comments on this page that she does indeed have CCD. I have been noticing signs for a little while now – she is blind in one eye and seems to be losing her hearing; she wanders around in the yard completely lost and when i call her she seems confused as to where the noise is coming from; she now goes to the bathroom in the house even if she was just outside; she walks into walls and has fallen down the steps twice. I put up a child gate at the steps so she cant fall down and I watch her closely when I am home. She is my baby and I am struggling with the thought that I am going to lose her far sooner than I am prepared for. She doesnt want to eat her dry food anymore so I bought wet food for her to eat and I feed her my leftovers just so I know she is eating. She sleeps all day and most of the night. Thankfully she still seems to know who I am and wants to sit with me as often as she can. I will become heartbroken if she gets to the stage of not knowing me. I am crying writing this as I just want to tell someone how important she is to me and how much I love her. I think I am going to try to order the senelife mentioned here quite often and she if that helps at all. Thanks for listening.

    Lisa

    • Eileen says:

      Dear Lisa,
      I can tell how much you love your dear little one.There are a lot of people here who understand something of what you are going through. I’m just so sorry you are having to go through it. Good job on the stairs–stairs were one of the first things I had to gate off, too. I’m so glad your dog still knows you and seeks you out. I hope you have some very good times left with her.

  9. Jennie says:

    My 9 yo boxer has become aggressive to our other dogs over the past 3 months. Health wise she is fine, per all lab work done. My vet has suggested dementia, so I am trying the senelife now. Will it help with this? She has been around the other dogs for years, but it appears that something snapped.
    Any thoughts or ideas would be greatly appreciated

    • Eileen says:

      Hi Jennie,
      I’m sorry you are having a hard time with your boxer. Senilife appears to slow the brain deterioration in dogs with dementia. The two studies on it showed that it positively affected several different types of behavior. No one can really predict the exact behavioral changes it may prompt in any particular dog. But if the aggression is due to dementia, the drug might help. I’m glad you went to your vet. Did the vet rule out most other possible causes of aggression?

  10. Vicky Darrien says:

    Our 8 year old, 1 eyed cocker spaniel has just been diagnosed with dementia. Reading the symptoms it looks like he has been showing various symptoms for some time. We got him 3 years ago, just after he had his eye removed, but unfortunately there was no history for him. He had been abandoned with the sore eye and suffered really badly from separation anxiety. He has a gret temperament but is loosing interest in meeting other dogs, food etc. Its so sad. Vet has given us vivitonin to try. Fingers crossed it works.

  11. Amy says:

    I am so glad I came across this site. My 17.5 year old cocker spaniel was diagnosed with sundowners (which I think is the same thing) about a year ago. Basically roaming at night with an inability to settle. My vet did an aggressive treatment with medicine and his systems disappeared within 2 weeks and for almost a year.

    Unfortunately a horrible experience at an emergency vet a week ago changed all this. He roams the apartment constantly morning and night, panting and bobbing his head up and down. It is horrible to see. Due to an injury caused by that vet he’s on pain meds and Xanax to try to keep him calm. But this is definitely not the way I want him living. I don’t know if after his injury heals he goes back to his old self or not.

    Right now in terms of supplements he only takes glucosamine (actually by injection) and an omega salmon oil. I’m not sure what my vets plans are drug wise. Will ask him about the drug above. But would like to know peoples thoughts on the supplements above. What worked. Do I start then all at once phase them in? Do I wait for my vet to do a new drug prescription?

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Oh Amy, I’m so sorry for your cocker’s setback. I sure hope he can bounce back.

      In my opinion, these questions are probably best for your vet. Even supplements can have advserse interactions. I really hope your dog can recover. It sounds like he was doing so well. Take care.

  12. June Lewington says:

    I have a 15 year old Shitzu who is blind and deaf he still enjoys his food which is home cooked my gobs never ate commercial pet food the two previous to him lived to 17 and eighteen years of age. But he is showing signs of dementia. When we came back from walk today he usually goes straight to sleep. But today spent wandering from room to room or just sitting staring he also went into another room and was stuck in corner I kept lifting him onto settee where he sleeps but next minute he was down again on floor I have a cat he used to love and sleep next to but he now growls when he comes near him I have a younger Shitzu of 3 and he doesn’t seem to mind him yet I have had dogs all my life and never experienced this before he is also waking up very early but luckily goes out of cat flap he has. Never done anything indoors yet I am going to order your book

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      June, I’m sorry you are going through this. Be sure and talk to your vet; long-term or situational meds can really help. I hope the book helps. Take care, and give your boy a special treat for me.

  13. Kelly says:

    Hi Eileen, I am most of the way through your book and want to thank you for sharing your experiences and continuing to follow up with questions left on this page – It is very helpful resource.

    My 13 year old Chihuahua, Diego, has recently developed many of the symptoms of CCD. We went to the vet and have a prescription for Anipryl, but the brand name drug is not available in the 5 mg dosage. I have called all pharmacys in my area, looked online and even called the manufacturer, Zoetis. We have a generic of selegiline and I was wondering if there are any studies of the effectiveness of the generic version, (I can not find any). Any feedback that you have heard of on the use of the generic versus the brand name drug?

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Hi Kelly,
      So sorry for the delay in answering. OK, please understand that I an not a medical person or a veterinarian or anything like that. I am very careful not to give medical advice. But I can tell you that the drug that was used in the actual studies testing its effects on CCD was selegiline. This article, for example, talks about the studies using selegiline. Anipryl is never mentioned. So check with your vet, but that’s a pretty good indicator in my opinion.

      Good luck with Diego, and thank you for your kind words about the book and the site.
      Eileen Anderson

  14. Darlene says:

    Thanks for all the Information. We have a 15 year old yorkie-poo who has gone deaf this year and is definitely struggling with dementia. He gets very anxious in the evening scratching doors and continually asking to go out. Then he does fall asleep with us but then wakes up barking randomly throughout the night. We started him on new food (honest kitchen) as well as denosyl and neiutricks supplements which definitely seemed to help about 6 months ago but it seems that his symptoms are back the last few weeks. I see that you mention senilife and I was wondering if it’s ok to give him that on top of the other supplements he is on. And also if there’s anything else that anyone would recommend. Thanks so much!

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Hi Darlene. It sounds like you are taking great care of your little guy. You’ll need to ask your vet about possible interactions. Some supplements can interact with each other or with prescription meds. I’m glad the site was helpful. Take care!

  15. Hyeonggyeong Oh says:

    Hi Eileen.
    I’m so glad to find the information I need. Thank you.
    My 15 years old Miniature Pinscher was diagnosed with diabetes and cushing.
    And he shows some signs of dementia.
    May I share your article in Korean community for sick animals?
    (http://cafe.naver.com/healingdogcat)
    Of course I’ll disclose the source of the article.
    We don’t have any information about dog cognitive dementia.
    I beg you.

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Hyeonggyeong Oh, yes, absolutely you may. Thank you for asking. I hope things go well for your min pin and thank you for sharing this information.

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