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.**
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. **
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.