Witnessing our dog’s aging process is heartbreaking. However, if the symptoms of aging are recognized early, there are things you can do to delay the process.

Today I will discuss cognitive dysfunction specifically. In next week’s blog, I will go over arthritis management.

Cognitive Dysfunction

Cognitive dysfunction is a form of brain aging that can be considered dog dementia. Just like in a human, a dog’s brain ages and the symptoms can be more apparent in some than in others. The collective symptoms of dementia are called canine cognitive dysfunction.


  • Disorientation – appearing confused, getting stuck in corners
  • Acting out of character, development of new behaviors like becoming either overly clingy, or being aloof
  • Development of new fears and anxieties
  • Abnormal vocalization
  • Pacing/restlessness, especially at night
  • Abnormal sleep patterns, like sleeping all day and staying up all night
  • Training and behavioral changes such as soiling in the house and no longer following commands
  • Decreased appetite
  • Loss of interest in doing his/her favorite things
  • Abnormally aggressive/defensive behavior, grumpy


A whole food, fresh diet is the most important thing that you can do for your aging dog.

Commercial raw is the best choice. A commercial cooked diet is a great second choice. Other diet options include balanced home cooked, balanced home prepared raw, freeze-dried, air dried, or human grade dehydrated. Avoid processed kibble and treats.

Omega 3s
EPA and DHA are both vitally important for brain health. Great sources include green lipped muscles, krill oil, and sardines in water (no salt).

Once absorbed into the blood and transported into the brain, antioxidants can prevent oxidative stress to brain cells. This is particularly important, as the adult brain virtually stops replacing dead or dying neurons.

Sources include:

  • Blueberries
  • Green tea steeped in cold water for 12 hours
  • Blackberries
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries.
  • Cooked yellow squash, carrots, sweet potatoes.
  • Steamed broccoli, spinach, kale, green beans

SAM-E (S-adenosylmethionine)

This dietary supplement is a free radical scavenger with antioxidant properties that benefit the brain. As a supplier of a methyl group and organic sulfur, SAM-e drives complex metabolic reactions that control cell growth and lifecycle, inflammation, and brain chemistry.

Other Treatment Modalities

  • CBD oil
  • Ginkgo biloba
  • Melatonin
  • Valerian root
  • Lion’s mane mushroom
  • Acupuncture


How to Know When It Is Time…


Sadly, despite our best efforts, the time will come when humane euthanasia needs to be considered.

First, I suggest trying at least 2-3 of these treatment options and see if there are any positive results.

If nothing seems to be helping and your dog is experiencing:

  • Restlessness and anxiety with the inability to rest
  • No appetite
  • Complete lack of joy or happiness
  • Inability to ambulate

Then humane euthanasia may need to be considered.

Euthanasia is such a difficult decision to come to for your dog. However, a peaceful passing is sometimes the last gift we can give our dogs. If it is time for euthanasia, consider home euthanasia to make the experience as peaceful and fear free as possible.