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.

  4. Joanna says:

    Hello All! I would greatly appreciate some input from those who are taking this journey with their beloved senior dog. I am really at a loss of what to do. My miniature dachshund, Noah, is 18 years old and has Canine Cognitive Dysfunction. He has been symptomatic for about 8 months.

    I adopted him from rescue at age 10. He had barely survived being horribly neglected and starved. When he came into our lives he was blind in 1 eye and had no teeth left. We bonded instantly and he has been my shadow ever since. I have spoiled him in every possible way in an effort to love away all the horrible experiences he had before being rescued.

    He is now almost completely blind but physically doing well and has no major chronic health issues other then the CCD. The biggest challenge has been his night time anxiety and agitation (barking, whining, pacing, searching) for which he is inconsolable and often doesn’t seem to recognize me.
    He had been worked up by his long time Vet and nothing else was found to be wrong. We started on anipryl without any results. Then alprazolam (doggie Xanex) and within 1 month progressed to max dose for his size of 8 lbs. It became ineffective in about 2 weeks. So, we moved on to Trazadone 50mg tablets. After 2 months he is at max dose again and now it only works for 4 hrs at night. We tried thunder shirts, snug wraps, calming pheromone collar, and herbal supplements (Zesty Paws Calming Treats Dogs – Anxiety Composure Relief Suntheanine – Organic Kelp & Valerian Root + L Tryptophan) all without success.

    He has always slept in our bed along with 2 other mini-doxies. Needless to say, once he gets agitated everyone wakes up. We don’t mind letting him out once or twice a night if he would go back to sleep. But my husband and I can’t function on 4 hrs of sleep. Our Vet states there are no other meds to try other then stopping the Trazadone and slowly titrating Prozac over the course of 4 weeks. I hate the way this sounds but I can’t be without sleep for 4 weeks and I don’t want to put him through such anxiety/agitation when it might not even work. (I have a health condition which flares if I am sleep deprived for long periods of time).

    The big question is, is it time to euthanize Noah? Is there anything else reliable we could try? Is it fair to Noah to keep going when his quality of life is mostly sleeping/sedation and agitation/confusion? Am I being selfish? Thank you for any advice or feedback.

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Hi Joanna,
      I responded to your other comment with some suggestions but am publishing this one too in case others want to chime in. Good luck!

  5. Debbie Turner says:

    I don’t have any suggestions other than to say I know what’ you’re going through. Our Basset, Bosley, is 14 and I believe has CCD. He is so anxious all the time, continually pacing and wanting to go outside and then just stands there staring into space. The vet started him in Prozac about 2 weeks ago but honestly it seems like he’s getting worse. Everything I’ve read says to give it at least a month, I’m very hopeful it works because otherwise I think we will have to make a decision about whether what to do…. right now his qualify of life is not good. So hard to have to think about these things. Hang in there!

  6. Early says:

    My 17 year old Boston Terrier, Froggy, has all the conditions and symptoms described herein along with renal failure, 15% kidney function, insipidous diabetes, blindness from cataracts…He is on selegiline, desmopresin, prescription dog food, Epakatin, Hemp Seed Calm chewies, subcutaneous fluid treatment…about $500 per month…he will go when GOD personally dispatches an angel to come get him. Living and dying is GOD’S BUSINESS. Froggy may be at funeral before I am at his. My position.

    • Eileen Anderson says:

      Thank you for stating your position politely. You are not alone in your views, and I think it’s only fair that you should get to express them. Best wishes to you and Froggy.


  7. Pam says:

    We went through the same situation with our 15 year old dog about six years ago. We tried many of the medications that you mentioned, with success for anywhere to two to four weeks, and then on to the next. I was the one up with him all night, and was bruised from trying to control his behavior. After about a month of sleepless nights, the vet recommended we make the hard choice. Physically there was nothing wrong with him, and during the morning he was the sweetest most cuddly dog ever. But, in the late afternoon, the anxiety started. We are now beginning this process with our 13 year old hound. I have already advised the vet that when the sleepless nights start, we do not want to continue treatment. I am hoping and praying for you and your friend.

Leave a Reply

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

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.