The love of my life, Red, lived with dementia for 2 ½ years and I was always looking for ways to help relieve her dog dementia symptoms.
I’ve written a lot about my experiences and struggles with canine cognitive dysfunction. I say “my” because dementia doesn’t just affect your dog, it affects everyone living in the house and in your circle.
A tough thing to reconcile
Red’s dementia diagnosis, made by me BTW, was such a shock, but the biggest shock came when my vet said there was only one treatment available. I like options and hearing there were none was a bit scary, okay frightening, especially because there was obviously no guarantee this “one” thing would work. The treatment I am referring to is Selgian, the prescription medication available here in the UK and Anipryl, available in Canada and the United States. I’m afraid I can’t speak for other countries.
The next biggest shock came when I started my Facebook group for senior dog parents, Senior Dog Care Club. There were so many stories from members who spoke about the apathy of their vets when it came to helping them care for their “golden oldies”, not to mention being told there was nothing to be done for dementia. The number of animals who must be suffering needlessly is too much to bear.
I know from my own experiences many vets won’t recommend a medication if they don’t feel it works for enough animals, or the evidence is anecdotal. While I intellectually understand that attitude, I disagree with it because what if it would have worked for my pet and I didn’t know about it?
Don’t worry, there are options!
Thankfully there are many alternatives and natural treatments available, so you do have options.
Because of the climate we live in, and I don’t mean weather, I have to write this. First of all, I have no personal association with this company. I am also in no way suggesting you take matters into your own hands, throw caution to the wind and try every snake oil treatment you might have read about. What I am suggesting is to find yourself a vet who is compassionate and caring towards senior animals, do your research, join a group, read about others experiences and make a list of what makes sense to you. Then have a conversation with your wonderful vet and talk about what you’d like to try. A holistic vet is also a great option to consider.
Now to the good stuff!
Have you heard of Senilife? I’ve read many stories reporting great results, including from members of my group, so I felt it was important to delve into this product a bit more deeply.
What is Senilife?
Here is a short description taken from the company website. “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.”
Let’s take a look at what each of the 5 components are and how they combine to help with aging brain issues. Explanations for each component are in quotes and also taken from the website.
Phosphatidylserine – “Improves nerve-cell communication and helps this process continue working effectively.”
Pyridoxine – A naturally occurring form of Vitamin B6 it is “essential for normal brain development, function and heath.”
Gingko Biloba Extract – “Improves cerebral blood flow, increase glucose metabolism, and has a strong antioxidant effect.”
Resveratrol – “Antioxidant which protects neurons from toxic substances which can cause cell death.”
D-alpha-tocopherol – “Natural form of Vitamin E with strong antioxidant action and proven effectiveness on cognitive decline.”
I came across this article, “Improvement of short-term memory performance in aged beagles by a nutraceutical supplement containing phosphatidylserine, Ginkgo biloba, vitamin E, and pyridoxine.” Okay I know the title is heavy, but you might find it of interest.
Will Senilife help?
I know the heartbreak of watching a much loved pup live with dementia, and wanting a guarantee that XYZ will work. I wish I can say this will, but the truth is I have no idea.
What I do know is, just because it didn’t work for one dog doesn’t mean you will have the same outcome. What I also know is how happy I am products like Senilife exist.
There are so many positive results, in my opinion it’s worth a try, but please speak to your vet about it to make sure the ingredients won’t conflict with other medications your dog may be taking.
Can Senilife be used as a preventative?
The makers of Senilife believe you should start giving it to your dog as soon as he or she reaches “senior” status, but what age is that? Opinions vary, especially with all the mixed breeds out there, so this is the guide provided by the company.
Dogs up to 21 lbs – 8 years
Dogs 22-49 lbs – 7 years
Dogs over 50 lbs – 6 years
Will it guarantee your dog won’t get dementia? I don’t think anyone is in a position to make that claim, but it may postpone it, slow down its progression and lessen the symptoms.
Is it easy to administer?
It comes in a capsule which can be given whole in food or a treat, or emptied into/onto the same. Many dogs are too smart for their own good and refuse to eat anything that has “foreign” matter in it. No matter how you try and disguise it he’s not falling for it! I know because I live with one now!
If your dog knows when you’re trying to slip him something, this post has lots of helpful ideas to outsmart him.
What senior dog parents are saying about Senilife
“There were so many positive reviews and this product came recommended by our veterinarian so I gave it a try. By Day 8 I started to notice small improvements and by Day 21 I had my old (not senile!) dog back! Our biggest issue with canine cognitive disorder was the sundowners. Every night brought anxiety, pacing and panting. Now our old lab can peacefully sleep through the night again.”
“After researching the things I was observing, I quickly realized that maybe she did have doggy dementia. I started her on this supplement, not having high expectations. I can say she is a new dog. She is back to sleeping through the night, very energetic and playful during the day, knows which way the door opens and much more. Her cognitive function has improved drastically, she’s well-rested and always ready to play with her toys. We are still on our first bottle of Senilife, but this is definitely worth a shot if your dog is experiencing a cognitive decline.”
“I have a 16 year old cairn terrier who has been declining for the past year, and I decided to give this a try. Prior to starting on the Senilife, he had lost all signs of friskiness and enthusiasm for food and his movements were very slow. He frequently exhibited signs of dementia (confusion, not knowing where he was, etc.) After a couple of weeks on the Senilife, he started bouncing around periodically and seemed to regain some of his previously vibrant personality. Don’t get me wrong–he is still 16 and sedentary 90% of the time, but he just seems happier and more comfortable in his skin. He even runs in the backyard occasionally, which I hadn’t seen him do in at least a year. So I believe this has returned a noticeable degree of quality of life, and i couldn’t be happier. He recently had a complete blood workup (after 6 weeks on Senilife) and his bloodwork was great, so i don’t think it’s having any invisible negative effects. If your dog is going through similar life changes, it’s worth a try.”
“BUY IT !!!! This has literally saved my older dog with dementia!!! I cannot promise results but it has helped our older dog so much it is almost a miracle! Our rescue collie was dx’ed with dementia and our Vet AND a more holistic friend both recommended this so I thought it most likely works. After almost 2.5-3 weeks our baby has quit walking into walls, staring at nothing, and the panting and pacing (all night long!) has almost completely stopped! I was this close to sending him to the Rainbow bridge and am beyond thankful this is working for now. Quality of life is always first and foremost and I strongly recommend trying this but giving it time to work before other things, but always check with your vet first! It has not stopped the incontinence but that is another issue. Love this stuff!!! Make sure to order the proper weight size!”
Where are the negative comments?
Of course there are negative comments, it’s to be expected, and they were from people who didn’t see any results, and that too is to be expected.
Senilife, yay or nay?
As long as my vet felt the ingredients were safe for my dog, I would absolutely give it a try. Imagine if this was “the” product that made a difference in your dog’s life! So what’s it going to be – yay or nay?
Sharing helps others so please leave a comment below, or on my Facebook page.
**I would like to invite you to join Senior Dog Care Club, my Facebook group for senior dog parents. There you will find lots of helpful tips and advice, a place to ask questions and share experiences. I look forward to welcoming you.**
**There are affiliate links in this post, which means if you purchase anything I make a few pennies…literally. That money helps me help homeless animals through donations and fostering, as well as keeping this blog running.**
Your senior dog has dementia and can’t stop circling or pacing
You are about to start campaigning for a ban on fireworks
The sound of rumblings in the sky sends you into a panic
Your dog is left out of family fun days because he can’t handle a car ride
It’s a wrestling match trying to take him or her to the vet
Your dog is destroying your home when left alone
You can’t find the “off” switch when he starts to bark
Don’t worry because help is finally here!
My dog Red has been living with dementia for over two years, and until recently her condition has been stable. Unfortunately her treatments are no longer working and I’ve been searching for an alternative…preferably drug free! I came across this anxiety wrap called a ThunderShirt, and with an over 80% success rate, backed by science and a 100% money back guarantee, I was intrigued and had to learn more.
Easy to use, no training required just put it on your dog
Available in 7 sizes
Over 80% success rate
Claims are backed by scientific support and customer feedback
Rated most effective solution for anxiety by vets in a 2011 survey
Safe to leave on your dog for extended periods of time when needed
Made from a thin, breathable fabric
Can be washed in cold water on regular cycle using regular laundry detergent, and hung to dry
Money back guarantee
If you like supporting companies that do good in the community, then you’re going to love this next feature. Thunderworks, the company that created this product, donates ThunderShirts to adoption organisations around the country. Selections for recipients are made monthly. How fab is that!
“I’ve spent a fortune over the years on plug ins, pheromone sprays and prescription medications and nothing has helped with LuLu’s anxiety. I put this shirt on her and no more panting and pacing, she lay on the sofa next to me all night!”
“My dog has had dementia for the past 2 years and it’s been a struggle trying to find something to calm him down. He’s anxious all the time – paces, circles, barely rests. I am on a tight budget, I don’t sleep well and I was feeling desperate so I ordered one. I had to try it 2 or 3 times before Charlie started to relax, but the difference in him now is incredible. He’s like a new dog. Thank you, thank you!”
“This was a great choice for our big move! We had a 7 hour car ride with my senior dog who has quite severe anxiety if she’s in the car too long. It worked like a charm and she slept most of the way.”
“ThunderShirt absolutely 100% works.”
The only “drawback” is there is no guarantee it will work for every dog, but they never claim it will. With its’ high success rate in treating dogs for a wide range of anxiety issues, and personally knowing many people who have seen amazing results, I highly recommend giving this product a try.
When you have a dog that suffers from anxiety, no matter the cause, it is heart breaking to watch, and you’re willing to try anything to help. Personally I love the idea of a drug free solution, and with the number of satisfied customers and pups as a testimonial, the ThunderShirt is that solution.
With so much potential reward, how can you not take the chance? If it turns out it doesn’t help your dog there is a money back guarantee. They’ll even give you a refund if you donate it to an animal shelter…as long as you can prove it!
I am happy to recommend this product to anyone who lives with an anxious dog, and am particularly encouraged by how much it has helped dogs suffering from dementia (canine cognitive dysfunction).
I would like to invite you to join Senior Dog Care Club, my Facebook group for senior dog parents. There you will find lots of helpful tips and advice, a place to ask questions and share experiences. I look forward to welcoming you.
*There are affiliate links in this post, which means if you purchase anything I make a few pennies…literally. That money helps me help homeless animals through donations and fostering, as well as keeping this blog running.
It’s easy to assume that the changes older dogs experience are inevitable. While hard to believe, most dogs are considered “senior” around age seven, and around this time, may slow down, sleep more, play less and otherwise show signs of age. But older dogs that get exercise, mental stimulation and specially-formulated nutrition can avoid some of the physical and cognitive changes that can come along with age such as decreased lean muscle mass, reduced mobility, reduced metabolism and changes in mental sharpness. Along with these changes, a senior dog’s nutritional needs change. This is why it’s important to feed your senior dog a food formulated specifically to meet his nutritional needs.
I’ve worked at Nestle Purina for close to 28 years, and as Director of Nutrition Research, I am part of a team of 500 researchers in R&D developing pet food innovations. We’ve been studying aging in pets for more than a decade, and the PetCare Research team that I work with has been dedicated to uncovering the latest advancements in canine cognitive health to keep pets’ brains sharper, longer. As researchers, we asked, “what if nutrition could positively impact a dog’s cognitive health?” And we made a remarkable discovery: it can.
Maybe you’ve noticed that your dog is interacting with you less. Or has lower engagement in daily activities. These are just some of the signs your dog may be aging. And like you, we wondered why. There is a reason your dog may be experiencing these age-related changes. A senior dog study found that around age 7, the glucose metabolism in a dog’s brain begins to change – affecting things like memory, attention, learning or decision making.
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.
Feeding your senior dog Purina Pro Plan BRIGHT MIND Adult 7+ as a daily diet, you may notice differences in the way your dog interacts with you, their interest in play and their ability to adapt and cope with change.
I’ve been doing this for a long time, and one of the most rewarding parts of my job is seeing the difference that this food is making for owners and their senior dogs – it’s really changing their lives. We’ve heard such positive feedback and stories from owners about the impact of BRIGHT MIND Adult 7+ formulas on their dog and how it has changed their relationship.
Ray and Jan, owners of Lady, told us that Lady used to be the queen of playing soccer – any time, any place, she was always ready for a game, eager to run up and down the stairs and catch the ball as fast as she could. But, as Lady got older, things started to change. She started to slow down. She just wasn’t as interested in playing – and she didn’t seem excited about the things she used to love.
Ray and Jan agreed to give BRIGHT MIND Adult 7+ a try, and when we checked back in 30 days later, they couldn’t stop talking about the incredible difference they saw. Lady was once again interested in learning new things, had a bright look in her eyes, and, maybe most importantly, was excited to play soccer again.
If Lady’s story sounds familiar, consult your veterinarian to discuss if a change to your senior dog’s diet could be in order and see how BRIGHT MIND Adult 7+ can help. With the right care, attention and nutrition, you and your dog can make the most of all of your years together.
Janet is the Vice President & Director of the Nestle Research Center (NRC) at Nestle Purina PetCare. She joined Purina in 1990 after receiving her PhD in Animal Nutrition from the University of Illinois. Her team is responsible for developing nutritional innovations for Purina products by continuing to build knowledge to enhance the overall health of our pets so they can live long, healthy, happy lives. Janet grew up on a farm in North Central Illinois and has had cats and dogs as long as she can remember. Janet and her husband currently enjoy the company of three cats: Callie, Lucy, and most recently, King Tut.
My name is Red, or Rosie as my wonderful mom likes to call me, and I am a dog with dementia.
Oh no, I haven’t even started my story yet and there she is with the waterworks already!
This morning my mom, Hindy, decided to write a follow up post about what it’s like living and caring for someone in my condition. Then she got what my human dad calls a “ha ha” moment, and thought of having me write it instead. Brilliant!!
It’s always good to know a bit of background about someone, so here is mine!
I’d love to be able to tell you all about my life before I was rescued, but I’m not a good enough communicator to tell mom my story, so it has to start from when she met me.
Lucky for me my mom has a crazy passion, and soft spot, for oldies like myself, and that’s how she found me. She worked for a few months in the cat room at Tri County Humane Society in Boca Raton, Florida. She loved cats long before she ever had a dog. Go figure!! During her lunch breaks she would walk the dogs in the “oldies room” as it was known. She knows I ended up there after being dumped in an animal control facility. They usually kill dogs like me but luckily, every once in a while, the staff would call the shelter and ask if they would take some old dogs…and I was one of the lucky ones!
When she stopped working there she started volunteering every Sunday. She met another big hearted volunteer named Annie (RIP) who also had a thing for old dogs, and they bonded over that love. They both made sure everyone had two walks when they were there, and Mom made sure there was plenty of cuddle time with me. We’d sit on a bench outside in the sun with Annie and another dog and just chat and relax. They loved their Sundays!
I don’t know what it is about me that made her fall for me, but I’m glad whatever the reason. I’m blind so only know her by voice, but I know how I would jump around whenever I heard that sweet melody. Okay I just put that in to be nice, because I know my dad Raymond would not describe it in those terms!!
Anyway, the staff used to tell her how excited I would get whenever she came to visit.
She couldn’t take me home with her right away because she had moved to Florida and was staying with family while she found a house. They had 3 dogs and 4 cats, and Mom had her 4 cats (no it wasn’t a hoarding situation!!), so I understand I had to wait.
Then she went and adopted someone before me, can you believe it!! My dad used to come to walk us sometimes and one day he met a girl named Josephine. Okay she was pretty I’ll give you that, but that isn’t what pulled at his heartstrings. She was deaf and mostly blind and when she was out with him one day she stopped and leaned against him. Something about that drove him to tears, and next thing you know she left with them. Of course they had their house by then. They knew I was doing really well at the shelter, had plenty of room to walk around (the oldies were in a whole room by themselves), lots of beds to choose from and good food. So good in fact I ate from everyone else’s bowl, until finally they locked me in the bathroom to eat!! Okay I was obese at the time and couldn’t get enough food. Did I forget to mention that? My previous owners obviously fed me too much and I weighed a whopping 18lbs when I shouldn’t have weighed more than 10!!
Anyway my folks took me home a few months later, and that was almost 9 years ago. I wish they knew exactly how old I am but I have no way of telling them. The shelter guessed I was 8, so mom is saying I’m almost 17.
I’ve had some health issues
After I got to my new home I was taken to an eye doctor, because my eyes were bulging out of my head and the ‘rents’ (that’s parents to you!!) wanted to know if something could be done to get my sight back. Sadly no, but I was given some kind of needle in each eye to shrink them. Every day since then mom has had to give me eye drops.
I also had a heart murmur, and after a few years was put on medication. I now also have lesions on my liver, my kidneys look like craters on the moon rather than smooth as glass like they should be, I have chronic pancreatitis and dementia.
I’m not in pain but I know my folks are in pain when they see the vet bills!!
How my mom figured out I had dementia
It was towards the end of 2015 and I started pacing, circling, drinking a lot and peeing a lot. My mom assumed it was kidney problems, again, because the drinking and peeing had been an issue in the past. The pacing was new but assumed to be due to discomfort.
She never hesitates to call the vet when she knows something “isn’t right.” So often in fact, one of the guys that works at reception answers the phone “Hello Mrs. Pearson” because he recognises her number. Sometimes she uses the house phone because she doesn’t want them to stop taking her calls!
Anyway, a few visits and tests later our amazing vet couldn’t find anything wrong, but Mom wouldn’t listen. One day the word “dementia” popped into her head and she realised she finally had an answer. I like to think I had something to do with it, because I don’t know how much longer it would have taken for her to figure it out.
She fostered a few senior dogs before she met me, and after, but no one ever exhibited this behaviour before. Of course none of them lasted as long as I have so didn’t get the chance to, possibly, develop dementia.
Anyway she called the vet, told him dementia and he said there was only one drug to help called Selgian. We’re in England but in the States and Canada it’s called Anipryl. The active ingredient is selegiline.
Within a few days I was doing so much better, I continued with all the other meds I was taking and some anti-anxiety help as well. Fast forward to the present. Sadly I’ve gotten worse, now I can’t stop circling unless I’m sitting with Mom on the couch.
Dad helped her put together a nice little home office where she can do her work, but she hasn’t used it in over a year. She doesn’t want to leave me to circle non- stop…it really breaks her heart.
Let’s be honest – I know how hard it’s been for her, especially since I know my dementia has progressed. Add to that the chronic pancreatitis, my near death experience in November and her not having a car (her choice she can’t imagine driving on the wrong side of the car, wrong side of the road with zillions of cars trying to make their way around roundabouts!!) and she feels trapped a lot of the times.
I don’t bounce back like I used to, and after 2 ½ weeks of barely moving off the couch in November, she made “the” appointment for me. I don’t blame her, she loves me so much she wouldn’t let me live that way just because she never wants me to leave her. I wasn’t ready to go so I perked up to let her know it wasn’t time. We went to the vet anyway even though she knew she was going to be bringing me home, but she needed a chat.
Is she ready to let me go?
I know she loves me like crazy, and I know how much she has sacrificed for me, although she doesn’t see it like that. She adopts old and special needs dogs because they are good for her soul, and has the ability to care for us, even if it’s just for a few days until we have to leave. I have stuck around the longest, a record. The shortest is 3 days and the only other dog she had for a long time was Josephine, 2 years.
I take up her whole life, and everything revolves around me so she would be heartbroken and miss me like crazy. The thing about that kind of love is – she would never let me suffer, or allow me to linger because she doesn’t want to face the heartbreak. She will miss me and mourn for me like she has done for every cat and dog she shared her life with. Probably more because I’m her one true love. Okay Calypso the cat was as well. Bloody cat!!
I hear her say sometimes she’d rather I had cancer than dementia. I also know she sometimes wishes I would get a bad test result, or leave quietly in my sleep. I don’t blame her for feeling that way. Dementia is a horrible disease. I’m not in pain, but I’m confused. She knows I still remember my housetraining when we’re outside, but she also knows I can’t “wait” anymore. I feel bad our entire floor in the whole house is covered in pee pads.
She hates the way it looks, she says the mess gives her a migraine (not literally), but she also will do it because it’s for me. She also knows I’ve become a bit obsessive about not being able to settle until I’ve peed, had enough to drink, circled a little then she wraps me up in a blanket and puts me next to her on the couch.
I also know she goes out for a short time when she needs a break, but would never leave me for too long because she worries about me.
So, is she ready to let me go? When the time is right, yes.
Am I ready to go?
Now that’s the question you’re all asking isn’t it? Am I ready to go? A lot of you believe we’ll tell you when we are, but I don’t believe that’s always the case…at least it won’t be in the big signs with blazing letters you’re all expecting. You love us so much, and your hearts are breaking at the thought of losing us, you can’t always see if we’re ready, even if we’re showing you we are.
I want you to know I’ve had an amazing life. Tri County saved me, then mom saved me again. I’m well traveled, been in cars, on trains and planes. I’ve even taken bike rides in a basket! We visited Toronto in the winter, no I wouldn’t go out in the snow, moved back to the UK (first time for me), then we did the snow bird thing for a few years and spent the winter back in Florida. Last year I got to spend 4 months in Spain, and had to listen to mom try and learn Spanish for months before that!! We’ve been to tons of places in England, I’ve experienced so many things even if I couldn’t see them. I’ve also eaten in a few cafes!! They even bought me a stroller so they could always take me with them. I’m also proud to have comforted a few other seniors who have passed through our doors. Yep, I’ve had a great ride.
Sure there are medications and supplements to help us when we can barely move. Of course you are amazingly creative when you’re trying to get us to eat. Don’t get me wrong, we are so grateful we were lucky enough to share our lives with you, but sometimes we’re left in pain, or living a life without the dignity we would like. Sometimes just because there is something else to try, it isn’t morally right to do it.
My mom often advises to try and forget your sadness for just a moment, and try and put yourself in your animals’ shoes. Would they want to live the way they’re living?
I know she’s struggling with that question every day. She likes black and white, not judging quality of life. She had to make a decision based on quality of life one time before, with Josephine, and it was hell for her. She was haunted by it for months afterwards. Did she wait too long? Should she have done it sooner? That’s why I know she wants a clear sign – a bad test result or me making it obvious.
For now I’m still barking when I don’t get my food on time, I found something to eat that I love and won’t cause a flare up of my pancreatitis. It’s finally starting to get nice out, and you know what that means? More walks to the beach, or rides in my case, on the weekend with Jack, Mom and Dad, and probably some more visits to the cafe. You never know, I may be well enough to make that big trip to Canada in the summer mom wants to take, because I know she won’t go without me!
I will do the best I can to help her, but we’re all presented with challenges in life to teach us lessons. What you’re supposed to be learning from your challenge I can’t say. What I can say is we love you more than we can express, and are grateful for the care you have given us, whether we spent our whole lives with you, or you saved us in our later years.
Please honour that love by letting us go if we’re in pain or just aren’t doing well. Speak to your vet, find support where you can but don’t let us linger. We’ve had an amazing life and when we’re ready to cross the bridge, please help us and we will care for all the others you have lost before us.
I have to get mom some Kleenex now because she’s crying all over me!
I can’t think of anything more rewarding than making the last years of a pet’s life the absolute best they can be. There are many issues that may need to be addressed as our pets age, including mobility, pain, changes in vision and hearing, cognition or senility, dental care, incontinence, cancer, and changes in appetite and nutritional needs.
Many seniors have changes in mental status us they age, but owners may or may not recognize the changes as being signs of cognitive dysfunction. The most common clinical signs of “senility” include increased total amount of sleep during a 24-hour period, decreased attention to surroundings, disinterest, apathy, decreased purposeful activity, loss of formerly acquired knowledge (including elimination behaviors), and intermittent anxiety shown as apprehension, panting, moaning, or shivering.
There are some easy ways to help our pets maintain good mental health and slow their decline into dementia. These can include the use of puzzles or games that require the animals to find a hidden treat. Nina Ottosson and Kong toys are great examples. They come in different levels of complexity and the level of difficulty can be increased as the pet learns how to work the puzzles.
There are many supplements that can increase brain activity and slow the signs of senility. One of my favorites is coconut oil. Coconut oil improves brain energy metabolism and decreases amyloid protein buildup that causes brain lesions in older dogs. I usually feed 1 teaspoon per 20 pounds of body weight twice daily. Work up to this dose gradually, as stools may soften at higher doses. Be sure to feed cold pressed, organic coconut oil.
Phophatidylserine, a natural phospholipid, improves memory and cognition. This can be found in many supplements available on the market. Dosing is generally 25 to 100 mg per day, depending on size of the pet.
Sam-e, or adenosyl, is an antioxidant that supports brain health and improves sleep quality and memory. Dosing ranges from 90 mg daily for small dogs and cats, up to 425 mg for large dogs. This should be given on an empty stomach.
Omega 3 fatty acids decrease inflammation, improve cognition, and lower blood pressure and triglycerides, all of which improve brain health by improving heart health and circulation. There are many omega 3 fatty acid products on the market. I prefer products sourced from the Scandinavian waters or New Zealand, as these tend to be the cleanest.
A product call Neutricks, contains Apoaequorin, which replaces calcium-binding proteins and helps protect brain cells during the natural process of aging.
For dogs with anxiety, melatonin can be used to improve sleep and decrease anxiety. This can be given at bedtime or twice daily, if needed. A dose of 3 mg is sufficient for most pets.
Feeding a species-appropriate diet is critically important for senior pets. Grass-fed and free-range meats are higher in omega 3’s and lower in bacterial contamination. Organic, dark leafy greens will support liver function and circulation, while providing B vitamins that are necessary for brain function. Vegetables should be finely ground or lightly cooked in coconut oil to release the nutrients needed.
Caring for senior pets may require a little more work, but they can remain happy and healthy for many years, continuing to bring joy to our lives. Go give your senior a hug!
This post was kindly written by Dr. Judy Morgan. Dr. Morgan is a nationally renowned author and veterinarian certified in acupuncture, food therapy, and chiropractic care for dogs, cats, and horses. As a sought after speaker, Dr. Morgan shares her insight with weekly blogs, podcasts, and videos! Visit her website at drjudymorgan.com.
**There are affiliate links in this post, which means if you purchase anything I make a few pennies…literally. That money helps me help homeless animals through donations and fostering, as well as keeping this blog running. **
Through a Dog’s Ear: Music to Calm Your Canine Companion Review
The CD called Through a Dog’s Ear is incredible, and it helped me during some rough times. If, like me, you have a dog suffering from canine cognitive dysfunction (doggy dementia), your dog gets extremely stressed during thunderstorms, he’s cowering under the bed every time fireworks go off, or he’s suffering from separation anxiety, you’re going to want to read this review. Then you’re going to want to order this CD immediately!
If you run/work/volunteer at a shelter or rescue facility you’ll want to keep reading as well. It has not only helped my dog Red calm down significantly, it has helped me relax as well.
I am so amazed by this product I simply had to share my experience with you.
Through a Dog’s Ear is one hour of classical music (Bach, Rachmaninoff, Mozart, Schubert, Chopin, Beethoven, Schumann) played on a piano, solo. Amazingly it has been bio acoustically designed to calm your dog, and clinically tested on more than 150 dogs in a variety of settings, with very impressive results.
This particular project came about when a pianist named Lisa Spector, who helped raise guide dog puppies, noticed how calm they all became when she would play. She contacted a bio acoustician (someone who studies the effect of music and sound on the human nervous system) about making a musical album for dogs. And that’s how the story began. More about that later!
I would like to share the benefits it has brought to my life
I discovered this music just over two years ago when I was at the end of my rope, watching my dog Red wander for hours without any way to get her to settle. While researching things I could do (the vet had no explanation when all test results came back fine), I came across a 13 minute sampler of Through a Dog’s Ear on YouTube. I played it and I am not exaggerating when I say that a dog who would wander for 4 hours without stopping was sleeping in less than a minute.
A fluke you say? Definitely not! I played that CD for weeks, and while there had been the odd occasion when it took her longer to settle, it typically takes just a couple of minutes. What a relief for Red to be able to rest! Once I found out she had dementia and started her on medication I didn’t need to rely on it as her only relief, but I still play it because it’s so calming for her…and the music is incredibly beautiful!
The CD comes with an interesting booklet that explains the background of this endeavour, the studies undertaken, and how it came to be.
Advice on how to get your dog used to the music, as well as handling some of the common anxiety producing events like thunderstorms, fireworks and separation anxiety is also included.
A 2002 study conducted in shelters in San Francisco and Belfast found that classical music relaxed dogs, while heavy metal made them agitated. No surprise as I’m sure the same can be said for many humans!
Four hours of “specially orchestrated and arranged music” was created, and clinical testing was done by a veterinary neurologist. More than 150 dogs from shelters, vet clinics, groomers, service dogs, as well as pets were the “test” subjects.
After two years and two rounds of testing, it was determined that not just any classical music, but bio acoustically arranged classical music was the most effective over pop and heavy metal. 70% of dogs in stressful shelter environments, and 85% of dogs in their homes were noticeably calmer after listening.
It is recommended to play this music for your dog when he’s in a relaxed state, on at least four separate occasions. This creates a positive association between the music and his calm state, so when he’s anxious and hears it he should get back to that relaxed state. If you don’t see results, play it a few times when he’s calm and then try it.
When I first stumbled onto the music it was on YouTube so I wasn’t aware of this advice. I just turned it on and it worked. The creators are the experts so you might want to follow their suggestion, but that is entirely up to you.
Curious about how other peoples’ experiences compared to my own, I read a lot of reviews. As you would expect, there have been dogs who did not benefit, but that is to be expected. It would be unrealistic to expect everyone to benefit to the same degree.
From my experience I cannot think of a single drawback.
“I love this CD! And so do my dogs! Wow, it’s so great. Very relaxing music, so I can enjoy listening to it too. Within 20 minutes of putting this in, all three dogs – even the hyper puppy – are laying down and chilling (: And believe me that is a rare moment in a house with 3 dogs. What a great tool for problems like separation anxiety too.”
“This CD is sensational. The music is beautiful and our 2 high-strung terriers relaxed very quickly when we put the CD on. We played it in the car as well as at home, and after only a few weeks they seem calmer even when the music isn’t playing. It should be a part of every dog owner’s essential care kit.”
“I used this first on the 4th of July. The worst day of my dog’s life. I put on the music, turned on the fan for a little block out noise and she lay down quietly right by the music. The whole night she would wake up a little look around then lay back down. This really works. Then I tried it out on the next thunderstorm. Same thing. Incredible. I’m telling you, try it, you will not be disappointed.”
“My nine year old dog has recently developed separation anxiety when left alone at home. Unfortunately, she chooses to show me how she feels by peeing inside when I’m gone! I bought this CD and played it on a loop for my dog while I was gone a couple of hours. For the first time in ages, there was no mess in the house when I returned. Now I play the CD every time I have to leave the house. I had been taking my dog in the car with me everywhere but can’t do that now that the weather is getting warmer so this CD is a real blessing!”
Caring for a senior dog with dementia, or any dog with anxiety issues, can be challenging. We want to do the very best we can, and if there is a product out there that can help, why wouldn’t we buy it?
I believe Red would be much worse off without Through a Dog’s Ear. Thankfully she now has a lot more calm and peaceful moments than she would have without this product. I’m grateful I found it.
As you can tell I highly recommend this product, and I do believe every household would benefit, no matter the circumstances causing anxiety.
I have experienced its effects personally, read glowing reviews from many satisfied listeners, it is created by experts, and tested in a variety of situations with impressive results. What more can you ask for?
I would love to hear about your experiences, so please leave a comment below.
If you share your life with a senior dog I would like to invite you to join my Facebook groupSenior Dog Care Club. There you will find lots of helpful tips and advice, a place to ask questions and share experiences. I look forward to welcoming you.
Doggie dementia is not something everyone is familiar with, I wasn’t, and if that’s the case how do you even recognize if you have a dog with dementia?
There are a couple of important points I need to mention. First of all, many of the signs we attribute to “my dog is getting older and it’s normal” can actually be indicators that your dog is beginning to experience, or is already in an advanced state of, Canine Cognitive Disorder (CCD). That’s the medical term for doggie dementia.
The second thing I want to add is – many dog dementia symptoms are the same ones you would see in other illnesses.
If symptoms can mean different things, how you ask will this help you figure out if your dog has dementia?
Good question, and the answer is coming up.
I have created a thorough checklist, divided by category, for you to search through and tick off the signs your dog has been exhibiting. Then download the printable version and bring it to your vet. If you can take a video of some of the behaviours you’re witnessing that would also be a great help.
Since dementia is diagnosed by a process of elimination, your vet will conduct tests (probably just blood and urine initially) to rule in, or out, other possibilities, and may conduct further tests if necessary. If every other possibility has been discarded, then it will stand to reason it’s dementia.
Sleep and awake patterns
Changes in sleep pattern
Sleeps more during the day, less at night
Wanders or cries at night
Keeps family up at night
Performing the same behaviours over and over
Having trouble eating or drinking i.e. finding the bowls, keeping food in her mouth
Doesn’t respond to her name
Doesn’t respond to cues/commands
Seems lost or confused in familiar surroundings like the house or yard
Gets stuck in corners or other tight spaces and just stands there
Has trouble with stairs
Stares into space or at walls
Difficulty finding the door
Stands on hinge side of the door
Doesn’t get out of the way when the door is opening
I urge you to take note of your dog’s behaviour, and use the downloadable checklist to keep track of the signs you’re observing. It’s also a good idea to take a video and document what you’re seeing. Take both to your vet, and see what he has to say.
In my case my vet had never seen any signs of dementia in Red, because she seems perfectly fine during the few minutes we’re with him.
I hope you have found this checklist helpful, and the sooner you have a diagnosis of dementia in dogs, or any other issue, the sooner treatment can begin.
Has your dog been experiencing any of the symptoms on this list. Has he been diagnosed with dementia, or was it something else? What treatment plan has he recommended and has it been helping?
I would like to invite you to join Senior Dog Care Club, a new Facebook group for senior dog parents. There you will find lots of helpful tips and advice, a place to ask questions and share experiences. I look forward to welcoming you.
Ever since Red was diagnosed 2 years ago, I’ve learned how many options there are to treat a dog with dementia.
When I first realised my sweet girl had dementia, (yes it was me my vet never mentioned the possibility), I was given a prescription only drug called Selgian, and told there was nothing else to treat her with. I have a fantastic vet, but he does not prescribe supplements so I took his recommendation and started her on it right away. As much as I prefer a more natural approach when possible, I will absolutely use drugs when necessary. She would wander and circle for hours without settling, I was at my wits end and didn’t even know the reason for her behaviour. I wasn’t going to say no to something that could help.
Long story short within just a few days I noticed a big difference, and haven’t looked back.
My search for more ways to help
Over time I started researching other ways to help with her doggie dementia symptoms. I did a lot of Google searches, and joined a FB group, and the amount of information I got was astounding. Supplements I had never heard of were actually helping alleviate some of the symptoms, and dog and parent could rest. Each time I found something of interest I ran it by my vet. He may not stock alternatives but he’s open to hearing about them and commenting when he can.
I wish our vets were a bigger help and support in this instance
This is not vet bashing, this is me wishing more of them had a bigger arsenal and support system when it comes to recommendations to help our dogs.
I see firsthand what a cruel disease dementia in dogs is. Of course all disease sucks (how else can I put it), but to watch your dog circling aimlessly, stuck behind a door, staring blankly at a cupboard or crying for no apparent reason, not much is more heartbreaking.
A couple of vets I’ve spoken to will not recommend or even mention an option if they haven’t personally tried it, and there’s no “scientific” proof it works. I’m not going to comment on that, but I will say I’m happy to consider options based on the experiences of others in the same boat.
What is the best natural treatment for a dog with dementia?
The best natural treatment is the one that works for your dog. I’m not being funny, this is serious. I love that we have options and like anything, not every treatment will work on every dog. The best product ever may work for your dog, but not for mine so luckily there’s something else that may be the best for us.
A routine and a schedule are crucial
I am a firm believer in the importance of a routine and schedule in a dog’s life (cats as well to a certain extent), no matter the age. From the day a new dog walks into my home they are on a schedule, and in the case of a dog with dementia, it’s particularly helpful.
In their confusion they do get some comfort in knowing what’s happening when, and I see that with Red. She’s always known exactly when it’s feeding and walking time, but of course sometimes things come up and her schedule has to be adjusted slightly. When that happens she doesn’t handle it as well anymore, most noticeably if it’s first thing in the morning. She starts her day unsettled and can find it difficult to adjust once I’m back. What often happens is she can’t stop wandering, and she’s anxious.
She also used to be fine on day trips or a few hours out with us, but now I find she’s a bit more anxious during those times as well so I prefer to leave her at home if it won’t be for too long.
A quick word of caution
Natural doesn’t mean harmless, so I do recommend you find a holistic vet or a vet trained in alternative therapies to speak with first regarding dosage, suitability for your dog etc… I know not everyone does that, so whether you decide to seek advice or go it alone based on what you read here and elsewhere is entirely up to you.
I’m not a vet, and aside from the products I’ve personally given my dog Red, the others I listed are based on research and experiences of other users.
Some on the list are the herbs or single ingredient, others are “finished” products that contain them.
Where dosages are listed I would consult a holistic vet to determine whether it is a suitable product for your dog, and the dose is appropriate.
Needed to produce acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that mediates brain function like mood. A deficiency of this neurotransmitter is believed to be a contributing factor for dementia.
Shown to be effective in reversing signs of dementia in dogs and cats
“Recommended dosage is 50 to 100 mg daily for a 50-pound dog.” (Natural Dog Health Remedies)
Helps prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine in the brain
Helps improve memory and energy
Stimulates the appetite in people with Alzheimers
Slows the effect of free radicals on the body
Leave a light on
A few members in my Senior Dog Care Club FB group have mentioned leaving a light on at night. I’ve never tried that because Red is blind, but they have found it helps comfort their dogs, especially if they start to wander at night. Sounds like it’s definitely worth a try!
Omega 3s are “good fats” that have anti-inflammatory properties, can reduce cholesterol and prevent blood clots.
Krill Oil and Flaxseed Oil are both excellent sources.
(A note about Krill, not to discourage you just inform – because it’s such an excellent source of omega 3s krill fishing has increased while habitats have been disappearing)
Made naturally in the body and found in every cell
Antioxidant that can stall or improve mental decline
Here is a brief explanation why coconut oil is sometimes recommended to help a dog with dementia.
The theory behind coconut oil’s potential use in AD [Alzheimer’s disease] is that ketones might provide an alternative energy source for brain cells that have lost their ability to use glucose as a result of Alzheimer’s disease pathology.” (petmd.com)
An important thing to be aware of is the high calorie content in coconut oil, and large amounts can cause diarrhea, pancreatitis and gastrointestinal problems
I have tried it for Red, and gave her about 1/8 tsp, and it didn’t take long for a touch of pancreatitis to rear its ugly head, and that’s too dangerous to risk so I immediately stopped.
Has been used to treat dementia in dogs – enhancing long term and short term memory
Melatonin, a naturally occurring hormone secreted by the pineal gland at the base of the brain, is used for dogs with anxiety, suffering from epilepsy and to help restore the sleep/wake pattern which is often disrupted in dogs with dementia.
It works within just a few minutes of taking it, and can last for about 8 hours. In an article on the American Kennel Club website the recommended doses for dogs are as follows –
Under 10 lbs – 1 milligram
10-25 lbs – 1.5 milligrams
25-100 lbs – 3 milligrams
Over 100 lbs – 3-6 milligrams
Obviously you can see quite a wide range in terms of weight, so it’s best to start with a lower dose and see how your dog reacts, then increase as needed. Have a chat with your vet to see what he has to say.
An Ayurvedic herb used in India to enhance memory and concentration
An anti oxidant that helps neutralize free radicals
An antioxidant that helps neutralize free radicals
Helps optimise the function of neurotransmitters in the brain
Traditional herb of both Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine
Improves the flow of oxygen to the brain, helping memory and improving mental awareness
Strong performance in Alzheimer’s studies
Reduces depression and agitation in dogs with CCD
Resveratrol (Japanese knotweed)
A chemical extracted from grapes, it is an antioxidant that protects against free radical damage and beta-amyloid deposits (problems that affect blood vessels)
Helps support cognitive health
Alpha Lipoic Acid
Antioxidant used to slow CCD (canine cognitive dysfunction)
Antioxidant used to slow CCD
Green Tea Extract
Flavonoids are powerful antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables, that protect the brain against toxins, promote memory, and reduce inflammation. Green tea extract is a good source of flavonoids, but can be toxic to dogs if taken on an empty stomach or in too large a dose. If this is an option you’d like to explore, it should only be administered under the direction of a veterinary professional.
Valerian root is an herbal supplement with mild sedative qualities that humans have traditionally used to alleviate insomnia, stress, and anxiety. Integrative veterinarians also recommend it for their anxious canine patients. My vet recommends valerian with skullcap as he feels it works better.
“Researchers aren’t precisely sure how valerian works, but they think it may increase the amount of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. “Valerian root is believed to work via the receptors of the GABA, which blocks nervetransmissions between neurons that stimulate activity. Therefore GABA has a calming effect,” explains Wynn, who is board certified in veterinary nutrition.” (petmd.com)
Bach Flower Remedies
A system of 38 different flower remedies, Rescue Remedy is the one most commonly used for helping deal with anxiety in pets. I know it has gotten mixed reviews as to its efficacy in helping reduce anxiety, and it has never helped any of my dogs. Having said that, they claim to be able to help with a variety of issues by combining various remedies. If you’re interested in learning more about them, I have included a link to their website.
Lavender essential oil
A few weeks ago I bought Lavender essential oil because I read it had a calming effect and helped with anxiety. Yesterday was the day I finally decided to open it since keeping it in the box was not going to help Red. There are various ways to use the oils but I decided I wanted to diffuse it, even though I don’t own a diffuser!! Thank goodness for Google and I found this very helpful article called “DIY Scented Votive Candles With Essential Oils.”
This is all a bit confusing, people wondering if they’re giving their dogs marijuana. There is a difference between CBD oil from Hemp and CBD oil from the cannabis plant, and the oil given to dogs is not marijuana but hemp. It has been quite successful in helping with epilepsy, and many pet parents use it to help with the anxiety that accompanies dementia. As with most things, it has helped some dogs and not others, so it’s a case of trial and error.
I haven’t tried it yet for Red although I did order a bottle so I could have it on hand. I’m a bit on the fence about it at the moment because I think what she’s taking now is fine, but I may have a reason to try it down the road.
Here are some brands recommended to me by a holistic vet and those who have found CBD oil helpful. One point – my holisitic vet recommends organic.
Turmeric not only has amazing health benefits for us, but it does for our dogs as well, including helping with the symptoms of dementia. Given the huge amount of information about turmeric and golden paste I decided rather than writing an article about it and re-inventing the wheel as it were, I would link to some so you can get a better understanding of what it’s all about.
Senilife supports brain function in older dogs and contains ingredients such as Ginko Biloba, Vitamin B6, cod liver oil and Vitamin E.
“Aktivait for dogs is a feeding supplement designed to help maintain optimal brain function during ageing in dogs. Aktivait capsules contain natural antioxidants and other nutrients renowned for their beneficial effects on the brain. Aktivait capsules help restore and maintain your dog’s energy levels and vitality, and can improve their memory and mental alertness.” (product description from petprescription.co.uk)
One of the members of my Facebook group, Senior Dog Care Club, recommends Heart Health by Animal Essentials. She has found it very helpful in helping her dog handle dementia. I have no experience with this product but I wanted to mention it for anyone interested in looking into it.
Nutramind is a high strength support for brain and mental function, consisting of Omega 3s, gingko biloba, fish oils and B vitamins.
My holistic vet mentioned nutramind and few weeks ago, but when she mentioned it was a high strength oil, I was concerned because of Red’s susceptibility to pancreatitis. I decided to try it, just not give her the whole gel cap at one time. It’s been about 3 or 4 weeks since I started her on it, and I give her one whole capsule a day which I prick and squirt onto her breakfast. Thankfully she hasn’t had any adverse reaction and I like knowing she’s getting all these very helpful ingredients.
Manufactured in the UK by the same company that makes nutramind, it was created to calm anxious dogs, cats and horses, and help reduce unwanted behaviours. Red takes one in the morning and one in the evening to help with her anxiety. It’s as easy as opening the capsule and sprinkling it on her food with a little water mixed in.
Here is the ingredient list –
L-Tryptophan – is a natural amino acid found in many proteins which is involved in the production of the hormone Serotonin and has been shown to help support aggression and stress.
GABA – is an important neurotransmitter in the brain and is responsible for relaxing the nervous system. Maintaining GABA can help support anxiety and phobias.
L-Theanine – is an amino acid component of Green Tea and is involved in Dopamine neurotransmitter function. It has been shown to have a calming effect in dogs and cats.
Passiflora Incarnata – Commonly known as passion flower this extract has long been known for its ability to relax and reduce tension. Biochemical studies show that natural flavonoids are a key active ingredient and that Passiflora aids the effectiveness of GABA brain receptors which promote relaxation.
B Vitamins – helps to optimise the integrity and function of neurotransmitters within the brain.
Studies have shown acupuncture and acupressure has helped humans with dementia, “Acupuncture Rejuvenates Alzheimer’s Disease Patients” and has been known to slow the progression of canine dementia, supporting brain function and cognitive responses. Not to mention how beneficial it is to your dog’s overall well being.
I took Red for twice weekly treatments for 3 months, and while I didn’t notice a difference at the time, when I stopped it that’s when noticed how much it helped with her overall wellness.
Fruits and vegetables
Antioxidant and anti inflammatory properties found in certain fruits and vegetables may decrease the risk of cognitive decline i.e. spinach, blueberries, raspberries, carrots, tomatoes. Consult with your vet before adding them in case there are restrictions on certain foods due to health issues.
Hill’s Prescription Diet
A few days ago I discovered Hill’s makes a canine dementia formula. I know that a home made or raw diet would better suit an article on natural treatments, however this formulation does have a lot of natural supplements added. The quality of the supplements and how much has actually withstood the manufacturing process are not issues I can answer, but this is another potential weapon in the fight for our dogs.
“Some natural compounds also exist for the treatment of cognitive dysfunction in North America. Hill’s Prescription Diet b/d Canine is the only diet tested in both laboratory and clinical trials. The diet is a sodium and phosphorus restricted senior diet with added alpha-lipoic acid and L-carnitine, which help mitochondria function more efficiently. It is also supplemented with antioxidants, such as vitamin E, vitamin C, selenium, flavonoids, carotenoids, and omega-3 fatty acids. This diet was tested in a laboratory for more than two years. From that study, the researchers learned that a combination of brain enrichment and this fortified diet is the most effective in improving learning and memory.” (dvm360)
This has been the most incredible thing I could have done for Red. Even when she’s feeling particularly anxious, I put on this CD and she calms down very quickly. Created by a psychoacoustic expert and veterinary neurologist, studies have shown it reduced anxiety behaviour and induced calmness in 70% of dogs in shelters or kennels, and 85% of dogs in households.
Remember Me?: Loving and Caring for a Dog with Canine Cognitive Dysfunction
This is a book I have heard so much about, I thought it would be a good idea to mention it here. It is all about living with a dog with dementia and I know of so many people who have read it…and loved it. For those of us living with dogs with dementia we can use all the help, advice and support we can get and it seems like this book is a must have.
Dementia in older dogs – conclusion
A diet rich in antioxidants, mental stimulation and some physical exercise have been known to improve cognitive abilities. If your dog does have dementia, get him to the vet as soon as possible, since your best chance of helping is before the disease has become too advanced.
Read about my experiences caring for Red, who suffers from dementia in dogs.
Let me know what supplements you have found helpful by leaving a comment below, or on my Facebook page.
I would like to invite you to join Senior Dog Care Club, a Facebook group for senior dog parents. There you will find lots of helpful tips and advice, a place to ask questions and share experiences. I look forward to welcoming you.
If you have a dog with dementia like I do, I hope you will find this post helpful. I had quite a struggle before Red was diagnosed (by me initially, then my vet agreed), and I know how tough it can be to handle, so I wrote this post all about how I care for my dog in the hopes it will help others.
Red has been living with dementia for about 2 1/2 years now, and I admit there have been some challenging times. It’s not something that affects only the dog, but has an impact on everyone in the household, especially the primary caregiver which is me! I find that most of my day is devoted to making sure she’s okay. Whether that’s having to work on my laptop while sitting on the couch rather than at my desk so she can sit with me, taking her out umpteen times to pee, trying to calm her down when she circles endlessly or hand feeding her because she’s not quite sure how to eat at times.
I have written other articles about this condition, so if you’d like more information….
I have adopted a few senior dogs over the years, but all their problems were eyes, ears and kidney related. When Red’s behaviour started to change dementia never even entered my head. I can tell you from now on it will!
What I saw going on with Red
There was a period of a few weeks when she would pace endlessly, and nothing I did helped her settle. She would go in her bed for a few minutes, then get up and wander. I remember one evening she paced for 4 hours, I was stressed beyond belief and when I could no longer cope I closed the door and went to bed. Thankfully she eventually fell asleep.
Red had some kidney issues and also wasn’t concentrating her urine around that time, so I assumed her inability to settle was due to some pain or discomfort as a result of those issues. Naturally we made more than one trip to the vet to try and solve the mystery. He ran tests and found nothing wrong, and he said whatever problems she was having would not make her uncomfortable and cause her to pace. He’s a great vet but there wasn’t anything he could do for me, and the word “dementia” was never mentioned as a possibility.
The importance of knowing your pets
This situation is a perfect example of the importance of knowing your pets. My vet couldn’t find anything wrong with her, but because I know Red so well, I knew there was. A couple of days later the words “doggie dementia” popped into my head. I have no idea why because, like I mentioned earlier, I had no experience with this disease and knew nothing about it. All I can say is, luckily it did. I went to my vet with my diagnosis and he agreed it made sense. Red had never displayed any unusual behaviour during her appointments, she seemed perfectly fine so my vet only had my observations to go by.
Because of my experiences I recommend you take notes of your concern, and a video if it’s about a specific behaviour and bring them to your appointment. That video can go a long way to helping your vet diagnose a problem if your dog isn’t exhibiting any signs he can see.
I am including this printable checklist for you to fill out and take to your appointment. It is another tool to help him determine if your dog does have dementia.
As soon as we decided it was dementia my vet prescribed Selgian (in the UK, Anipryl in the US), and by the third day I noticed she had calmed down significantly. To keep her calm she takes a product called Nutracalm twice a day, sprinkled on her food. This product is only available through vet offices and is manufactured in the UK so I don’t know if it’s available in other countries.
I have also started giving her Nutramind – a capsule containing high strength omega 3s, vitamin E, B vitamins and Ginko Biloba.
The other thing I did a lot at the beginning was play a CD called Through a Dog’s Ear. It is bioacoustically engineered classical music proven to help calm dogs, and it worked/works miracles. When she would start to pace endlessly I would play the CD, and within one minute she would be resting. The music is so beautiful and calming, it would help me relax as well.
You must take care of yourself
You’ve taken your dog to the vet, you’ve started treatments, you’re playing the calming CD, and you’re loving her. That’s all you can do. Wait, there is one more thing you can do and that’s take care of yourself.
I hate to admit it, but I didn’t always cope as well as I would have liked. It was unbearable seeing my precious Red like that. She’s the love of my life, and I was helpless. She’s blind, so I have to be extra aware of what she’s doing and separate what is because of the blindness, and what is not “normal” behaviour for her.
Because I work from home (running this website), I’m with her all the time, and don’t get much of a break. At times I found myself close to breaking point, helpless and stressed. I left my husband in charge a few times when I had to get out of the house. One day I went shopping, one evening I went for a brisk walk along the beach, sometimes I listened to guided meditations.
Go to a yoga class, meditate, go shopping, have dinner with friends… Whatever you like to do to unwind or escape, do it. It will help you stay calm and patient while helping your pup cope.
How Red is doing
Red is 16 with a few health issues, all of which are under control except her dementia. In the past several weeks I have noticed it’s started to rear its’ ugly head again. I always have my dogs on a schedule and a routine, and it’s more important than ever for Red to stick to that routine. Other than her usual walks and a short outing here and there, she’s much more comfortable in familiar surroundings. She still eats but mostly I have to hand feed her, and she won’t eat her canned food unless it’s baked first.
I do not believe in heroic measures – meaning keeping my animals with me no matter what I have to do, just because I can’t bear to say goodbye. Of course I can’t, Red has been with me for 8 years and I love her like crazy. So much that my only concern is the quality of her life. Those are the absolute worst decisions to make, but unless something major happens, the decision will boil down to that.
How I care for Red, a dog with dementia – conclusion
If you notice your dog circling, wandering aimlessly, getting stuck behind doors, not seeming to recognise you, having trouble eating or anything else out of the ordinary please see your vet right away. Dementia can only be diagnosed by process of elimination so if all test results come up normal, mention the possibility of dementia to your vet and start your dog on medication right away. There are also supplements and alternatives many people have had success with like melatonin, omega 3s and CBD oil. If your vet cannot help you, speak to a holistic vet for additional treatment options.
I do hope you have found this post on how I care for a dog with dementia helpful.
Does your dog have dementia? Do some of the symptoms sound familiar but you don’t have a diagnosis yet? Please leave your comments below and I will do what I can to help.
I would like to invite you to join Senior Dog Care Club, a new Facebook group for senior dog parents. There you will find lots of helpful tips and advice, a place to ask questions and share experiences. I look forward to welcoming you.
Dementia, senility or Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD) – whatever you call it, dementia in dogs does exist.
It’s probably sounding a bit scary but don’t worry, I’m going to walk you through what this is, how it’s diagnosed, and the treatment options available. One thing I always like to mention that is relevant for all pets, but seniors in particular, is the importance of keeping an eye out for changes in behaviour. If you notice anything different, no matter how subtle you think it is, my advice is to make a note of what you’re witnessing, video it if possible and make an appointment to see your vet.
What many people assume is just a natural part of aging could in fact be signalling a problem. A problem caught early stands a much better chance of being treated or at least managed.
UPDATED SEPTEMBER 13,2018
Since the writing of this post my muse Red got her wings (RIP May 18, 2018)
What causes dementia in dogs?
Some vets are sure of the causes, others not so much. Here is what I have discovered.
Free radical damage which harm healthy cells in the brain
Decreased dopamine production (a neurotransmitter essential for effective nerve transmission)
Not enough blood getting to the brain
You probably will never know the exact cause, but that has no impact on your ability to help your dog cope.
Will my dog get dementia?
It is thought the rise in cases of dementia is a result of our pets living longer.
I haven’t been able to find any definitive statistics on the percentage of senior dogs likely to be afflicted with dementia. The figures I did find were wildly different, but I’ll share them anyway.
Around 25% of all dogs over 10 will be afflicted
50% over the age of 11
23% 12 and over
41% over 14
Over 60% or 68% have at least one symptom by the age of 15
See what I mean?
If I were you I wouldn’t get too hung up on these figures, but rather spend time on the rest of this post. I would also like to mention I haven’t found any evidence to suggest certain breeds are predisposed to developing dementia.
Like I mentioned earlier, just because your dog may be displaying some of these signs, does not automatically mean he has dementia. It does mean there is an issue that needs to be addressed, and the only way to do that is by seeing your vetsooner rather than later.
What I find helpful both for me and my vet, is to make notes ahead of the appointment. Sometimes we’re nervous during an appointment and of course time is limited, so having a list of questions or in this case symptoms you’ve been observing can save time. Taking a video of behaviours you’re observing would be of tremendous value, since it is unlikely your vet will see indications during the appointment.
There isn’t a test to diagnose CCD, but a diagnosis is typically made based on the exclusion of other possible explanations for your dog’s changed behaviour.
When you meet with your vet he will want to hear what you’ve been observing, and he will watch the video if you have one. Urine and blood samples will likely be taken as a way to test for other possible explanations. What comes next will depend on the results of the tests.
For the sake of this article let’s assume all other possibilities have been ruled out, and your vet has concluded dementia is the only possible explanation. While there is no cure or a way to halt its progression, there are things you can do to slow it down and help your dog cope with its effects.
Please be sure to check with your vet before introducing anything new. Natural does not always mean safe or appropriate for your dog.
This is THE drug given for a dementia diagnosis. Containing the active ingredient Selegiline hydrochloride it is sold as Selgian® in the UK and Anipryl® for dogs 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.
Natural treatments are becoming increasingly popular, so it’s encouraging to know there are options for those who prefer them. Personally I would not give up on the Selgian or Anipryl in favour of a supplement but I would, and do, absolutely use them in combination.
Some of the options are –
Melatonin – dogs with dementia may experience something called “sundowning” which means they start getting agitated as night approaches, and they tend to sleep all day and wander at night. Melatonin can help restore the sleep/wake cycle
Coconut oil – is a rich source of medium-chain triglycerides, believed to be used as fuel by the brain. You do have to be careful with doses, especially if your dog is prone to pancreatitis. I gave Red less than 1/4 tsp and she started to show signs so I immediately stopped it
B vitamins – For their antioxidant properties. My vet recommended B complex, but he also gave Red a couple of injections of B12 I believe it was to boost her up a bit
Omega 3s – Omega 3s such as Krill oil is critical for cognitive health. My holistic vet recommended flaxseed oil
CBD oil – Cannabidiol oil is a product derived from cannabis, and many dog parents have reported very good results. Although my holistic vet does not promote it in her practice, she did recommend buying organic and starting off with 1 drop and seeing how it goes. There are usually amounts listed on the bottle as a guide.
Golden paste – There seems to be more and more buzz about the health benefits of turmeric for humans and dogs alike. It’s a powerful antioxidant and I have read a lot of testimonials from dog parents who have seen amazing results for a variety of issues, including doggie dementia. This article “Healing With Turmeric Golden Paste For Dogs” explains all about it, and includes a recipe to make golden paste at home.
NutraMind – Manufactured by the same company as nutracalm, it is a high strength supplement to support brain and mental function. Again take note if your dog is susceptible to pancreatitis, although Red has been okay on it so far and it’s been about 3 weeks.
Thundershirt – The company claims Thundershirt works on over 80% of dogs with anxiety. I have heard positive and negative reviews, but that’s the case with most things isn’t it? It’s trial and error.
Acupuncture – Acupuncture is often recommended as part of an overall treatment plan, with many dog parents reporting positive results. If you do want to give it a try please make sure you go to an experienced, qualified vet.
Senilife – It is an oral supplement made up of antioxidants used to treat the symptoms of brain aging in dogs. To learn more about this product, here is a link to the company website.
Valerian/Valerian and Skullcap – Valerian root is known for its sedative qualities, Skullcap is a plant with anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacteria, anti-histamine and sedative properties. My vet recommended the combination for my dog but many benefit from Valerian alone.
Giving your dog a challenge will help keep his brain active. Things like interactive toys and even teaching old and new tricks can help.
Through a Dog’s Ear
Through a Dog’s Ear is bioacoustically engineered music, proven to help calm anxious dogs. Studies conducted in shelters have shown remarkable results in helping them relax in what is a stressful environment. A 13 minute snippet can be found on Youtube for you to try before you buy.
I believe a routine is important for all dogs, but particularly for dogs with dementia who derive comfort from a schedule. If you don’t have one in place try and start something right now, and it can be as simple as feeding and walking your dog at roughly the same time each day.
What I do for Red
It was about 2 1/2 years ago when I first noticed Red was wandering, uncomfortable and not able to settle. In addition to that she was drinking and peeing a lot. At around the same time she was having some kidney issues, so I naturally assumed there was something about her condition that was making her uncomfortable. I’m a regular presence in my vet’s office so of course I called for an appointment to discuss what had been going on.
My vet assured me her condition would not have made her uncomfortable or caused the wandering. Being unfamiliar with dementia at the time, it was not something that had entered my head, or my vet’s head obviously. I know Red very well and I couldn’t accept there was no explanation for her behaviour. She would circle for hours and I was losing my mind. There were times it got so bad I had to leave the house to take a break. A few times I closed the door and went to sleep and let her wander. She did eventually settle but who knows how long that took.
I want to say I’m not proud of having to take time to myself, but it was extremely stressful not to mention heartbreaking when nothing you do helps your dog.
I don’t recall how I found Through a Dog’s Ear. I must have heard or read somewhere about music calming dogs and what a difference it made. I found it on YouTube and I’ll never forget the first time I played it. Red had, literally, been wandering for hours and when I started that music it was like a switch was flicked and she calmed down and within a minute or two she was resting, even sleeping.
At the beginning, especially before there was a diagnosis, I played that all the time. The music was incredibly beautiful I would find myself snoozing as well.
The word “dementia“ popped into my head one day, which is odd considering how I knew nothing about it but once it did and I did some research I realised all the pieces fit. I immediately called my vet who said it made sense to him as well. He ordered Selgian for me right away and within a few days I noticed a big difference. To this day she takes one 4mg tablet a day. My vet said there were no other treatment options, but that was not acceptable. Trust me my vet is amazing but he doesn’t know that much about natural supplements, and I think if something hasn’t been scientifically proven he doesn’t mention it so I did my own research.
She takes nutramind and nutracalm (which I believed are made here in England). Nutracalm is for dogs who are stressed by fireworks and thunderstorms so the relaxing properties prevent Red from getting anxious. She was on one capsule for a long time, now she’s on them twice a day. A few weeks ago my holistic vet recommended nutramind as it’s made up of omega 3s and ginko biloba. I do think it has been helping her as well.
B vitamins are very good for dogs with dementia and I give Red a B1 vitamin everyday. She gets other Bs in supplements she takes for different reasons.
My holistic vet also prescribed .2ml of berberis.
She started going for acupuncture a few months ago, and helped a lot with her overall wellbeing. I know there is mention of it helping dogs with dementia but I can’t say whether or not it’s made a difference. She hasn’t been in a few weeks due to transportation issues. I found with acupuncture in general I didn’t see the results at the time, but I saw a big difference when we stopped it and I mean for the worse so obviously it has been beneficial for her.
From the moment my dogs step into my house, they have a routine and a schedule, and I know how much that helps Red. I never used to have a problem taking Red out for hours, but just last week we had company and I took her with us in her stroller. We were only out for about 4 hours but I could tell she was getting agitated. She’s blind, which has never affected her before, but combined with her dementia she was stressed being away from her familiar environment.
Red has some vestibular disease so her circling is aggravated by her dementia. In order to help keep her calm she sits with me on the couch during the day while I work. I do believe it gives her some security, and allowing her to circle for too long causes her anxiety.
Why I added natural supplements
If you’ve read my posts before, you’ll notice how often I talk about the importance of involving your vet in your pet’s care. I love my vet, I think he’s amazing but…he does not deal with natural and alternative treatments. He is open to them, he knows a bit about some of them, and is always willing to listen when I talk about something I’ve read, but he’s all about the drugs. Yes those drugs have helped Red tremendously, but when he told me the only treatment for dementia was Selgian, I could not accept that. I did my research and found lots of alternatives people were having varying degrees of success with, and because I personally prefer a kinder gentler approach to treatment when possible, I felt it was important to add them into the mix to see if they would help…and they have.
There isn’t necessarily a way to prevent your dog from getting dementia, but the tips listed below are really the things we should be doing with, and for our dogs no matter the age.
Feeding a nutritionally balanced diet
Antioxidants to destroy free radicals before they harm healthy cells
Don’t overwhelm her with too much “new” stuff – people, toys…
If you don’t already have a schedule, create one for feeding, walking and bedtime. Structure is good for all dogs, but can help confused dogs even more
Keep commands short and simple
Take care of yourself
This is huge, trust me! Caring for a senior dog who isn’t well can be very stressful, you may not even realise the effect it’s having, until you feel like you’re going to snap.
You have to take care of yourself because living with the constant worry will make you sick, and that is unfair to you, and no help to your dog.
I know you’re worried about leaving him/her alone for too many hours, so don’t.
Put your sneakers and headphones on, and go take a 30 minute walk on the beach, or in the park. You’ll feel so much better when you get back.
Prefer something closer to home? Try meditating for a few minutes, it will do wonders.
Have someone you trust come over and dog sit, then go to the mall, have lunch with a friend or both!
If it’s become harder to let your dog sleep in your room with you, then set her up on a nice cozy bed in another room. You all may sleep better.
Believe me, I know how difficult it is to watch your dog wander aimlessly, and how helpless you feel. I’m going through that right now with Red. But no good can come out of you ending up a wreck.
The better you care for yourself, the better you will care for your dog, and she needs you to help her.
How to help a dog with dementia – conclusion
Believe me, I know how scary, sad, frustrating and cruel dementia in dogs can be, but don’t despair. I hope this article about how to help a dog with dementia has given you options and helped you feel less alone.
Share your experiences in the comments section below, or on my Facebook page, dedicated to people who share their lives with senior dogs.
I would like to invite you to join Senior Dog Care Club, a new Facebook group for senior dog parents. There you will find lots of helpful tips and advice, a place to ask questions and share experiences. I look forward to welcoming you.
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