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Cognitive dysfunction syndrome: Can medication treat dementia in pets?


Senior pets, like people, can suffer mental decline that is not considered a normal part of aging. Last time we wrote about how one form of dementia — cognitive dysfunction syndrome or CDS — can be treated with diet and supplements. This week we’re looking at a commonly prescribed medication for treating CDS. (Read all our CDS posts.)


Cisco Kid is a healthy senior Pit Bull mix and staff fave at Little Rock, AR’s
Humane Society of Pulaski County.

There are not yet many medications to treat cognitive dysfunction syndrome in pets. Anipryl, the brand name for a drug also known as selegiline hydrochloride or L-deprenyl, is currently the only FDA-approved treatment for CDS in dogs.

(There is no drug approved for treatment of CDS in cats, although some veterinarians report promising results using L-deprenyl in cats.)

Anipryl increases the dopamine levels in dogs’ brains to improve memory and help dogs think more clearly, but it has a varying success rate.

In one study by manufacturer Pfizer Animal Health, 69% of pet parents who treated their dogs with Anipryl for one month reported improvement in at least one symptom of CDS, compared to 52% of those who gave their dogs a placebo.

Like all drugs, Anipryl comes with a risk of side effects, including — but not limited to — diarrhea,
vomiting, restlessness or hyperactivity, loss of appetite, seizures, staggering and

If your dog has CDS, ask your vet about prescription medications in addition to dietary and lifestyle changes — and be sure to mention any other medications or supplements your pet is taking, including flea and tick products, which may cause negative interactions.

Though CDS has no cure, using a mix of cognitive enrichment, routine, diet and medication can slow the progression of the disease and improve the quality of life for your whole family.

Tell us: Does your dog or cat show signs of CDS? What did your vet recommend?

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More on this subject: Anipryl® – Help for senior dogs?

More about cognitive dysfunction syndrome:

Blog: Changing your pet’s diet to treat dementia

Blog: How thinking games help senior pets stay sharp

Blog: Could my senior pet have dementia?

Blog: What are the signs of dementia in pets?

Blog: How is dementia in pets diagnosed?

You might also like:

Article: Age-Related Health Problems by Breed

Article: A Companion Animal’s Golden Years

Article: The Special Needs of the Senior Cat

Video: Adopting Senior Dogs

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