Dogzheimer’s and Catzheimer’s

By Dr . Joi Sutton|2016-12-28T08:30:27-05:00Updated: November 3rd, 2016|Pet Care, Pet Newsletter|0 Comments
  • Senior with dogs and cat

My 82-year old mother was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Now before any of you smarties start doing math, let me tell you my parents got a late start at having children and I was the youngest child! Sadly, her rapid decline has been a bit of a shock. This apple didn’t fall far from that tree, so I’m worried about my own brain, 30 some years younger. If this is a disease 30 to 50 years in the making, I need to get my rear in gear to limit predisposing factors! I’m now taking a handful of supplements aimed at memory, in addition to the antioxidants I already take. It got me thinking about pets with cognitive decline, so I poked around for products touted to help pets with cognitive decline. If dementia is “type 3 diabetes” in humans, maybe I should bring our attention to our diabetic senior pets! Of course we should strive for good glucose regulation, but there may be more we can do.

Of course, if Fluffy ain’t acting right, don’t assume it is dementia until your vet has thoroughly examined your pet! Check for thyroid abnormalities, pain (such as oral pain or arthritis), metabolic issues, hearing or vision loss or even heart problems. We don’t wish to misdiagnose some other ailment that may cause your pet to retreat as dementia.

What complicates studying dementia in senior pets is that we need to rely on their humans to assess the pets! Some days my mom is better and some days she is worse, but to quantify her Alzheimer’s would be tough. Now imagine quantifying this on pets. It seems that dogs are a good model for studying Alzheimer’s in humans as they get some of the same brain pathology as humans. Dogs and humans can deposit plaques in their brains that result in cognitive decline. Cats are so independent that it seems most of these studies have used dogs. (Again, my theory is that cats are aliens put on this planet to confuse and rule the human species). Behaviors that scientists can use to assess if pets have cognitive dysfunction include their sleeping patterns, how they relate to the family, vocalization, going potty in the house, acting disoriented, etc.

For some reason, my clients tend to be less willing to use supplements for cognitive decline of their pets. I haven’t figured this out yet as I’m all about preventative care. We should not hesitate to give supplements! Here are some products I knew of or have found for animals in my quest:

Novifit (adenyl methionine or SAMe)

I have this product at my own vet clinic. Usually I prescribe SAMe for pets with liver disease but it can also be used for mental decline. The SAMe product I keep on the shelf for liver disease also has milk thistle. Novifit is SAMe alone. I’ve known for some time that my mom’s memory was dodgy, so I personally take a SAMe product made for humans. I am all about prevention, so I take antioxidants at breakfast and dinner and SAMe at lunch.

SAMe is metabolized in the body to glutathione, which is a really important antioxidant in the brain and in the liver. Much of the pharmacology is beyond the scope of my brain, but in simple terms it increases dopamine and serotonin levels and also may improve neurotransmitter receptors. When I looked for potential side effects of SAMe, all I found for humans and for dogs was possible mild tummy upset at the start of treatment. It will take months to see any improvement.


(Brain diet by Hill’s Science Diet) has been out for years now. It has lots of antioxidants and fish oils in it. It has been shown to improve the short-term memory of senile dogs. If a pet has no other diseases that would warrant a different prescription diet, starting B/d at the first signs of senility is a great choice. Of course, speak with your vet who has examined your pet before changing diets! It is a prescription diet.


This drug goes by the name Anipryl. It affects the metabolism of some of the important brain chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin. It may also have some antioxidant qualities. One study shows that 80% of pets with cognitive dysfunction showed improvement at day 30. That’s impressive. Of course, we expect pets with dogzheimer’s will continue to decline just as I expect my mom to decline over time. The most common side effect of Anipryl was mild tummy upset. This drug is FDA approved to improve cognitive function in dogs.


Phosphatidylserine is in nerve membranes. Supplementing it orally may help nerve transmission in humans and in dogs. Senelife and Aktavait are 2 veterinary products that contain Phosphatidylserine, or you can purchase the supplement alone. I take Phosphatidylserine myself—again, I’m trying not to follow the path of my mama. Both Senelife and Aktavait contain antioxidants as well. As you might guess, mom’s brain doctor has her on this supplement.


Apoaequorin is the primary ingredient to Neutricks. It comes from jellyfish. I didn’t find much information for it other than it shows promise for dogs with dementia. In a human study where folks self-reported their level of forgetfulness, there was improvement in 4 reported areas of memory skills at both 8 and 30 days of supplementation with Apoaequorin. And it appears to be pretty safe.


This was a new one to me but I found several brands of this drug made outside the USA. It has several effects but it sounds like the predominant quality is that it improves blood flow to the brain. Keep your ears open regarding this supplement.

I am no molecular biologist. And after a week of reading articles on these products I suspect I understand less than I should. My gift as a veterinarian is to make medicine simple and understandable to clients and readers. Nonetheless, there are several products that we can use for our pets showing signs of cognitive dysfunction. Additionally, coconut oil (medium chain triglycerides) and fish oils (EPA and DHA), and antioxidant vitamins are easy options.

Have a question or comment? Post below or email me at [email protected]. I always enjoy hearing from my readers!

NOTE: Consult your veterinarian first to make sure my recommendations fit your pets special health needs.

About the Author: Dr . Joi Sutton

Dr. Joi Sutton is a 1993 graduate from Oregon State University. She has practiced both in emergency medicine and general practice. Dr. Sutton has done extensive international volunteer work though Veterinary Ventures, a nonprofit organization that takes teams of veterinarians to undeveloped countries for humane medical care. She also runs a small animal practice in South Florida. Connect with Dr. Joi on LinkedIn

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