Albuquerque Journal Article – Help for Confused Older Dogs


We have a 16 year old Chihuahua with worsening cognitive dysfunction over the past 8 weeks. Early signs started 4 months ago. She has been on SAMe and her house soiling has improved. She walks in circles and gets herself trapped and bumps into things. I have read about resveratrol and ginkgo biloba. Not quite ready to lose her but she is getting closer it seems.

Dr. Nichol:

Your elderly dog is suffering from common symptoms of cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS). This is a difficult problem. Our pets seem to get more dear to us as they age. Treatment is worthwhile because it may improve a dog’s quality of life but, like Alzheimer’s of humans, this disease will ultimately worsen. I’m sorry.

You are already doing the right thing by giving SAMe. Supplements intended for humans are OK but your girl will do better with a veterinary brand like Denosyl. Fish oil is recommended to reduce inflammation in the brain. Senilife contains resveratol and ginkgo biloba and helps protect aging neurons. Neutricks (cq), another supplement, also provides neuroprotection and often improves signs of brain aging.

An antioxidant rich diet has been shown to slow advancement of cognitive decline. Purina Neuro Care is a new prescription food with medium chain triglycerides as an alternate energy source for the brain. If your veterinarian has prescribed a special diet for an ongoing medical problem you should not make a change.

Daily running or brisk walking helps older dogs mentally and physically. You can exercise your girl’s brain and keep her occupied with fun and challenging interactive treat puzzle games (

Finally, melatonin can be valuable for dogs who sleep excessively during the day but are restless at night. I recommend a 2-3 week trial of 1 mg for your Chihuahua, given about 2 hours before bedtime. If it helps her sleep better you will too.  This is a stressful situation for committed pet parents; it’s a lot like caring for an elderly person. Be sure to take care of yourself.

Each week I make a video or podcast to inspire and enable folks to bring out the best in their pets. Sign up at no charge on my website I’ll also send you my free Pet Emergency and CPR guide.


Dr. Jeff Nichol treats behavior disorders at the Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Centers in Albuquerque and Santa Fe (505-792-5131). Questions on pet behavioral or physical concerns? For answers, Like my Facebook page at or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.