Got an aging pet on your hands? If you don’t you may well soon, so pay attention:

From the files of “I-believe-it-because-my-behaviorist-told-me-so” comes a new approach to treating cognitive dysfunction in aging pets.

“Cognitive dysfunction”—as in, sometimes disoriented, occasionally confused, often engaging in repetitive behavior such as circling and pacing, exhibiting altered sleep/wake cycle patterns, and often suffering generalized anxiety or serenading us with inappropriate vocalization.

We occasionally call it “dogzheimers” or “catzheimers” but when we do so we’re really just acknowledging the dementia these pets suffer. We typically don’t go so far as to classify their condition beyond the recognition of the general syndrome of “cognitive dysfunction.”

For these pets, cats and dogs alike, few medications have been known to help. Though selegeline (Anypril, by Pfizer) has been used to some effect in dogs, my experience with it has been distinctly underwhelming.

For dogs, behavior modification therapy and anti-anxiety medications like Prozac (fluoxetine, marketed as Reconcile for dogs by Lilly) have been far more effective for me. But the effects are limited and the dementia, usually progressive I spite of these approaches.

Moreover, nothing seems to work for cats beyond a stable home environment, attention to vision, hearing loss and other health concerns (which can exacerbate confusion), and keeping a strict schedule of feeding, brushing, etc. to minimize disorientation. (All of which, incidentally, are recommended for dogs, too.)

That’s why anything new on this front is welcome by me and others who find themselves frustrated by the continual decline of our clients’ beloved pets.

Enter Virbac and its new supplement, Novifit-R. Here’s its pitch:

SAMe, (S-adenosyl methionine), is a well-documented endogenous compound essential to sustaining processes of intermediary metabolism that are most affected by aging: cell membrane protection, antioxidant activity, and neurotransmitter turn-over and tissue regeneration.  Based on SAMe's mechanism of action and established applications in human and animal neurology, oral supplementation offers new hope for the management of declining mental functions in senior dogs and cats.Virbac has developed a biologically available, stable and active form of SAMe called NoviSAMe and presents it in an enteric-coated tablet for use in dogs and cats. A double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial was conducted on this new presentation and revealed its effectiveness at reducing signs associated with cognitive decline in dogs.

Will it help? Dunno. But SAMe is safe, helps liver function and, if you’ve got the cash, is well worth a go. Given that so many of my cognitively-challenged geriatrics are also on NSAID pain relievers (Rimadyl and Metacam, primarily), SAMe is already on the menu.

After reading a not-yet published study, my local veterinary behaviorist (Dr. Lisa Radosta) is on board with it. And that's enough endorsement for me when you consider the dearth of SAMe side-effects.

Here’s hoping enough of my clients will try it so I can come back to you a few months from now with a more positive review. In the meantime, you’ve got little to lose…‘cept a few more bucks a month, right?