I found one of the hardest things about Red having dementia was the constant circling. I’ve read a lot about dogs pacing, so perhaps she used to circle because she was blind.
Although dementia is progressive, it is encouraging how many treatment options there are that may help, especially with the anxiety.
I don’t hear as much as I used to about CBD oil, it seemed like it was touted as a miracle for every illness known to man, or should I say dog. Having said that, lots of senior dog parents I know have found it to be effective in helping with the anxiety that is usually present. It is important to note, not every brand is created equal, and there is no guarantee it will work for every dog.
Note: Please check with your vet before giving your dog any supplements, because natural does not always mean safe or appropriate for your dog.
Senior dog parent recommended brands
- Endo Blend
- American Shaman
- Pet Releaf
- Lazarus Naturals
- HempMy Pet
- Bluebird Botanicals
- CBD Brothers
- Blooming Culture
- Creating Brighter Days (Canadian company)
- Pure Life (UK)
This is THE drug for a dementia diagnosis. Containing the active ingredient Selegiline hydrochloride it is sold as Selgian® in the UK and Anipryl® in the US. It has been shown to be effective by prolonging the activity of your dog’s remaining dopamine, which helps by improving memory and helping dogs think more clearly.
Alprazolam (better known as Xanax)
Alprazolam is a “benzodiazepine tranquilizer. It works by depressing activity in a number of areas of the brain…It works as an anti-anxiety treatment, as a sedative, as a suppressor of seizure activity, and as a muscle relaxer.”
Typically used to treat panic disorders due to things like fireworks or thunderstorms, many vets have recommended Xanax to treat the anxiety associated with dementia in dogs.
“Senilife is a supplement containing a unique blend of antioxidants — phosphatidylserine, pyridoxine, ginko biloba extract, resveratrol and d-alpha-tocopherol — which work together to help reduce brain-aging behaviors in as little as 7 days.”
What’s interesting about this, aside from how many dogs with ccd it has helped, the manufacturer states you can start giving it to your dog as soon as he becomes a senior. While there are varying opinions as to when that is, here is the guide they have on their website.
|Dog’s Weight||Age to Administer Senilife|
|0-21lbs||8 years old|
|22-49lbs||7 years old|
|50+lbs||6 years old|
“ThunderShirt’s patented design applies gentle, constant pressure to calm all types of anxiety, fear, and over-excitement issues.” Many senior dog parents I know have seen a big change in their dog’s anxiety level when wearing the Thundershirt, but have a look through the website to learn more about this and other calming products they offer.
Coconut oil is a rich source of medium chain triglycerides [MCT], they are converted into ketones in the liver, which are believed to fuel the brain. As with most things there are mixed reviews as to whether it helps with dementia, but there are a lot of other purported benefits as well.
- Balances thyroid, helping with weight loss
- Disinfects cuts and soothes cracked skin
- Improves skin and coat
- Flea and tick repellent
Read this ⇒ “Top 7 Reasons To Use Coconut Oil For Dogs”
NOTE: I’ve read conflicting information about dosage, from 1tsp for every 10lbs your dog weighs to every 30lbs, but the same sources recommend starting with ¼ tsp. That was too high for my dog and she started showing signs of pancreatitis, so if your dog has pancreatitis I would stay away from it.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, “Melatonin is a hormone that your brain produces in response to darkness. It helps with the timing of your circadian rhythms (24-hour internal clock) and with sleep. Being exposed to light at night can block melatonin production.”
Many dogs with dementia experience something called “sundowning” which means they start getting agitated as night approaches. Because their sleep/wake cycle is disturbed, you may notice your dog sleeping all day, but wandering all night. Melatonin may help restore that cycle.
Clomipramine (brand name Clomicalm)
This is an FDA approved drug for treating separation anxiety in dogs. Since it’s also used to treat other anxiety related issues, it has been prescribed for dogs with dementia.
Typically prescribed for liver support, it is now also used for dogs with dementia.
Novifit is one brand, and here is a quote from research done on the efficacy of this product: “Results from a combination of new research studies of aged dogs and cats suggest NOVIFIT® (NoviSAMe®) Tablets can diminish the effects of age-related cognitive dysfunction. Collectively, the results also support the use of NOVIFIT Tablets supplementation for cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS) in senior dogs and cats, especially for those in the early stages of the disease.”
For more information on how SAM-e can help your dog…
Read this ⇒ “What Can SAM-e Do for Dogs?”
L-Theanine is an amino acid found in green tea leaves, and has been shown to reduce anxiety in dogs. “It is thought to increase levels of dopamine and GABA in the brain, though there is differing opinions on how the substance affects serotonin levels. These chemicals play a role in mood, and can affect how anxious a dog feels.”
Read this ⇒ “Supplement Can Bolster Pets’ Anxiety Treatment”
A synthetic version of L-Theanine, called Suntheanine®, is in the Anxitane supplement.
A traditional herb of both Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, Gotu Kola it is an antioxidant that improves the flow of oxygen to the brain, helping memory and improving mental awareness. It is also good for stress.
In a study conducted on young and old mice, while both showed improvements in learning and memory, the biggest improvement was in the old mice.
For anyone living in the UK or Ireland, nutramind “provides high strength nutritional support for healthy brain function in dogs and cats. It includes the key nutrients for supporting cognitive function in aging pets whilst benefiting younger pets in training and learning.” You can buy this product and nutracalm below through your vet’s office.
Made by the same company as nutramind, this natural calming supplement helped my dog Red with the anxiety associated with dementia.
Trazadone is an “antidepressant that is used to treat behavioral disorders, especially anxiety- or phobia-related in dogs.” Available by prescription from your vet, he or she will discuss the suitability of this medication, and recommend dosage.
SmartPetLove Snuggle Puppy Behavioral Aid Toy
This cuddly toy helps reduce stress, loneliness, whining and barking thanks to the “heartbeat” (with an on/off switch) and a self warming pack.
According to “Herbal support for geriatric animals” published on the Innovative Veterinary Care website, one of the things Rhodiola rosea is used for is decreased memory. “A review published in the American Botanical Council’s journal reported that numerous studies in humans, animals, and in cells have shown that Rhodiola helps prevent fatigue, stress and the damaging effects of oxygen deprivation. The evidence suggests that Rhodiola has an antioxidant effect and enhances immune system function.”
A tree native to China, the extract made from the leaves contains powerful antioxidants that improve brain function and circulation.
“Bacopa monnieri, also called brahmi, water hyssop, thyme-leaved gratiola, and herb of grace, is a staple plant in traditional Ayurvedic medicine.…used by Ayurvedic medical practitioners for centuries for a variety of purposes, including improving memory, reducing anxiety, and treating epilepsy. Research shows that it may boost brain function and alleviate anxiety and stress, among other benefits.”
Sounds like something interesting to investigate should you know anyone who has cognitive issues.
Animal studies show Bacopa reduces anxiety and depression and enhances memory.
Read this ⇒ “Effects of a Standardized Bacopa monnieri Extract on Cognitive Performance, Anxiety, and Depression in the Elderly: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial” – although this study was conducted on humans, there is a portion mentioning animal studies. There are also products made for dogs that contain this ingredient.
“A dog-friendly plant with a distinctive lemon-mint fragrance and flavor, lemon balm is best known as a nervine, a calming herb that soothes and relaxes.”
Read this ⇒ “Ways to Use Lemon Balm on Dogs” .
Read this ⇒ “Lemon Balm Benefits for Dogs”
Fluoxetine, better known as Prozac, is an antidepressant often used to treat depression and sometimes obsessive-compulsive disorder and bulimia in humans.
Many senior dog parents I know have been prescribed Prozac for their dogs’ anxiety. As with most things, some have found it helpful, others did not see a difference.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Not found naturally in the dog or human body, omega 3 has many important benefits:
- Heart health
- Keeps skin and coat in good condition
- Anti inflammatory so may help relieve joint pain
- May improve cognitive function in older dogs
Here are a few senior dog parent recommended brands:
TerraMax Pro Premium Liquid Omega-3 Fish Oil – it’s out of stock on Chewy and Amazon, but you may be able to find it somewhere. I’m leaving it because it was recommended and helped!
Read this ⇒ “Fish Oil for Dogs”
Read this ⇒ “Fish Oil: The Dangers of Too Much”
“Choline (brand name Cholodin®) is a vitamin that is used in detoxification pathways in the liver and as a precursor to nervous system chemicals such as acetylcholine and dopamine. Because of these effects, supplemental choline is used in dogs and cats with seizures and/or cognitive dysfunction.”
Many senior dog parents in my FB group have mentioned the benefits of B6 for dog dementia. I found a lot of interesting information on the AVMA website. I’m going to quote the section on B vitamins in case you aren’t planning on reading it or are just interested in this particular supplement.
“Certain B vitamins, especially thiamine (B1), pyridoxine (B6), folate (B9), and cobalamin (B12), are important for neurodevelopment and cognitive function.79–84 Deficiencies in B vitamins can lead to a high blood concentration of homocysteine,82–84 which is a risk factor for brain atrophy, cognitive impairment, and dementia in humans.79,82,84–86
Long-term provision of B vitamins reduces homocysteine concentrations, oxidative stress, and brain atrophy and improves memory and cognition, compared with results for a placebo.83,87 However, use of B vitamins to slow brain atrophy and cognitive decline provides benefits only in human subjects with high blood concentrations of omega-3 PUFAs.75
The B vitamins are thought to serve roles in dogs and cats that are similar to their roles in humans. However, deficiencies of the B vitamins are uncommon in dogs and cats. The authors are not aware of any studies that found a benefit of increasing the amount of B vitamins beyond the amount typically provided in nutritionally balanced pet foods.
However, studies of dogs88 and cats89 revealed cognitive benefits for animals fed a diet supplemented with a blend of B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and other nutrients. Because of the design of the studies, it could not be determined whether the B vitamins specifically contributed to the benefits.”
“A nutritional supplement to aid a healthy central nervous system and support brain function in older dogs, Aktivait helps to avoid free radical damage and promotes brain signals.” Visit their website to learn more about this and other products you may find helpful.
RESCUE REMEDY® PET
Valerian/Valerian and Scullcap
Valerian root is known for its sedative qualities, Scullcap is a plant with anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacteria, anti-histamine and sedative properties. My vet recommended the combination to help with my dog’s anxiety, but many can benefit from Valerian alone.
Turmeric Golden Paste
I’m sure you’ve heard about the health benefits of turmeric for humans, but did you know it’s also great for dogs! It’s a powerful antioxidant that has helped many senior dogs with arthritis and even dementia symptoms. The recipe can be found in the files section of my FB group Senior Dog Care Club.
Read this ⇒ “Turmeric Used on Animals/Humans“
Mothers release comforting or dog appeasing pheromones to help their puppies feel comforted and secure. Adaptil mimics those pheromones in the form of a plug in, spray or collar. Learn more about this product and if it’s right for your dog, by visiting their website.
“Zylkene is a calming supplement that contains a natural ingredient derived from a protein in milk called casein that has clinically proven calming properties to help relax cats and dogs.” This is one of the products my vet recommended for Red when she had dementia. Visit their website for more information.
Hill’s Prescription Diet b/d
“Prescription Diet™ b/d™ Canine is a complete pet food for the nutritional for dogs with behaviour changes associated with old age.” Here’s some more information from their website about the product and how it helps.
- Helps support brain function
- With specially selected antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids to maintain brain function and learning ability in older dogs.
- Clinically proven to help maintain learning ability, social interaction and sleep patterns in older dogs.
Purina Bright Minds Adult 7+
According to Janet Jackson, Director of Nutrition Research at Purina, “Our team of Purina scientists discovered that nutrition can positively impact a dog’s cognitive health and developed a breakthrough nutrition innovation – BRIGHT MIND Adult 7+ – to support cognitive health in dogs ages seven and older.
BRIGHT MIND Adult 7+ formulas contain enhanced botanical oils called MCTs, which have been shown to promote alertness and mental sharpness in dogs seven and older. MCTs provide an additional source of energy for the brain cells to naturally nourish their minds and help them think more like they did when they were younger. When added to the daily diet of dogs seven and older, formulas that contain enhanced botanical oils promoted memory, attention and trainability.”
Through a Dog’s Ear
Through a Dog’s Ear is bio-acoustically engineered music, proven to help calm anxious dogs. This was a game changer for me in dealing with Red’s dementia. She would wander for hours, but once I played this CD she would settle in less than a minute. A 13 minute snippet can be found on Youtube so you can try before you buy.
Believe it or not, this is a trick many senior dog parents use and they have found it helps their dogs settle and sleep better.
Often recommended as part of an overall treatment plan, many senior dog parents have reported positive results in terms of a reduction in dementia symptoms such as anxiety.
Whether you’re ready to book a session or just want to have a chat to see if it’s right for your dog, please be sure to find a qualified and experienced vet.
While not an actual treatment, “Remember Me?” is a book written by a woman who shared her life with a dementia dog. I have never read it, but I’ve heard wonderful reviews from senior dog parents in my group so I wanted to mention it. I hope it brings you comfort.
Other dementia articles to read:
I’m a dog trainer specialising in working with senior dogs. Whether you have health & wellness concerns, or you’ve just rescued an older dog and need training tips, I can help! Sessions are conducted via Zoom and I offer a FREE 15 minute no obligation chat. To book, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit my website.