Adaptogens & Nootropics: biohacking your dog

biohacking your dog

Have you heard of people ‘biohacking’ their lives through brain-boosting drugs and compounds? While many pet owners are wondering about biohacking their dogs for cognitive improvement. While some people are actually ‘biohacking’ animals to make them glow in the dark (including dogs), most pet owners just want to enrich and lengthen their dogs’ lives through improved cognition and physical stamina.

Dog owners with high-anxiety dogs, have cancer, are aging, or geriatric dogs may want to include these supplements in their dog’s diet. This is especially true if they have noticed either a minor or significant cognitive decline or signs of canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome (dog dementia).

Since the use of nootropic drugs and supplements are fairly new to the Western world, much more research is needed on many of the nootropic substances for dogs, but we touch on a couple that have been researched specifically for canines.

canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome senior dogs

What are Nootropics & Adaptogens?

The terms adaptogen and nootropics are often used interchangeably.

However, nootropics are described as working to enhance brain health and cognitive performance, whereas adaptogens focus on reducing both mental and physical stress. Adaptogens help the body adapt to various stresses.

The body systems most benefited are the cardiovascular system, immune system, endocrine system, and central nervous system.

Can dogs take adaptogens?

Yes, dogs can take adaptogens, in fact, there are many destress supplements available for dogs that include a combination of adaptogens.

Adaptogens have been studied much more in dogs than nootropics and as you will see below are already included in many calming formulations for anxious and stressed dogs. Besides helping with stress, adaptogens have also been shown to boost cognitive function, improve coordination, and improve your dog’s sleep.

Can dogs take nootropics?

Yes, dogs can take nootropics, however, stick with those that have been studied and placed in the proper formulas for dogs.

Nootropics are also known as cognitive enhancers or smart drugs. They are a large group of supplements, prescription drugs, and synthetic compounds that people think may improve not only their brain’s cognitive functioning but also their dogs.

The compounds are meant to have a positive impact on mental skills and are often given to people suffering from ADHD or Alzheimers (donepezil). However, while given to people with known conditions is commonplace, there is much discussion around the safety and efficacy of nootropics in healthy individuals and now their pets.

Are nootropics safe for dogs?

For an answer to this question, let’s look at what the research says. Many studies like the one showed very little to no side effects when nootropics were given to dogs.

While most research leans towards nootropic drugs being safe in dogs, there are also studies that show deleterious effects of using nootropic drugs in dogs. One study done by researchers in Japan showed toxic lesions induced by nefiracetam in the urinary bladder and kidney were examined by repeated oral administration of 300 mg/kg/day in male beagles. Nefiracetam is a nootropic drug and while the dosage was higher than you would normally give a dog there still is a cause for safety concerns when giving them to dogs.

Needless to say, since the world of nootropic drugs is still fairly new and developing, much more research on safety and efficacy in both humans and their pets is still needed.

Are adaptogens safe for dogs?

In most cases, adaptogens are safe if they are in dog supplements for stress and anxiety.

The adaptogens that are already included in formations for dogs have proven to be efficacious and safe, as long as they are given within the approved dosage included on the packaging.

Biohacking can be described as citizen or do-it-yourself biology. For many “biohackers,” this consists of making small, incremental diet or lifestyle changes to make small improvements in your health and well-being.

4 Common nootropic & adaptogens for dogs

The research around nootropic drugs and dogs shows that there are some compounds safe for dogs

1. L-theanine


L-theanine is a naturally occurring amino acid found in tea but also in many supplements. When studied, it was shown to have a calming effect in dogs. Many pet treats meant for calming anxious dogs include L-theanine.

2. Panax Ginseng

panax ginseng

While many more studies are needed some of the suspected benefits of Ginseng in dogs are:

  • Improve general physical performance
  • Boost immune function
  • Enhance cognitive function
  • Regulate blood sugar levels
  • Hepatoprotectant and boost liver function

Many pet owners give their dogs ginseng because it is said to help them recover from stress and illness. It is also an anti-inflammatory that can help regulate blood sugar. In humans, it is said to boost brain function and reduce brain fatigue

However, there have been limited studies dog on the effects of Ginseng in dogs.

If you decide to give your dog ginseng use with caution if your dog has high blood pressure, an infection heart problems or is on an ant-coagulant medication, insulin, or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

Limited studies in animals have been performed, but there is anecdotal evidence that ginseng works to improve general physical performance, immune function, cognitive function, blood sugar levels, and liver function. Below are studies that have been performed to determine the benefits of Ginseng in dogs

  • Study one: Compared three groups of dogs, (a)those with ginseng & brewers yeast (b) a control group with just brewers yeast (c) an external group. The study found significant improvement in the dogs fed Ginseng and brewers yeast mentally but not physically. No side effects were noted. (Source)
  • Study two: Concluded that KRG accelerates liver regeneration and ameliorate liver injury after hepatectomy in dogs. (Source)
  • Some studies in humans have shown that our bodies may adapt to ginseng, making it less effective after months of use, this may be the same for dogs.

Keep in mind that Siberian ginseng or Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticoosus) are not the same plants

3. Ginkgo Biloba

gingko biloba

Ginkgo Biloba is heavily utilized in humans and now in some older dogs, the benefits for dogs are:

  • Decrease in clinical signs of cognitive decline
  • Decrease stress
  • Improve memory

Since Ginkgo Biloba has been used for many years in humans there has been more research around dogs and the substance, three are chronicled below.

  • Study one: Scientists studied 39 geriatric dogs while giving Ginkgo Biloba and found that “general behavior” (Apathic, nervous, agitated, general condition) improved significantly (Source)
  • Study two: A second study done in geriatric dogs showed similar results to the first, a significant improvement in cognitive function over a period of weeks (Source)
  • Study three: Scientists in France noted that Ginkgo Biloba is also beneficial for short-term memory, however, the scientist also included Vitamin E and pyridoxine with the supplement.

How much Ginkgo Biloba should I give my dog? It was shown that oral administration of a ginkgo leaf extract in the dosage of 20-40 mg/10 kg body weight once daily for 8 weeks appears to be both safe and efficacious in geriatric conditions and age-related behavioral changes of dogs. (Source)

4. Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is used as an adaptogen, it is an evergreen shrub that grows in African and Asia that is commonly used for stress in humans. In dogs the benefits are said to be:

  • Reduces stress
  • Calming effect
  • May help lower blood pressure
  • Antioxidant effects

Study: One study showed that Ashwagandha was hepatoprotective and anti-inflammatory when given to dogs (Source)

How much Ashwagandha should I give my dog? Dosage: 500 mg-1500 mg twice daily for dogs (Source)

There are also several formulas that include Ashwagandha for dogs listed below

Where can I get pre-formulated adaptogen supplements for my dog?

Adaptogens seem to be more readily available for dogs than nootropics. One trusted brand is Pet Wellbeing, which you can find on Amazon.

Where can I get pre-formulated nootropic supplements for my dog?

While many calming treats for dogs use adaptogens like Ginseng and Ashwagandha, but Nootrodog is the first (and as of writing this is the only) nootropic compound specifically created for dogs.

If you want to give your dog nootropic drugs for their cognitive function it is best to do so with one that is pre-formulated with your pup in mind so you do not have to worry about over or under-dosing.

The active ingredients are:

  • Rhodiola Rosea – Rhodiola is an herb, its roots are considered adaptogens, meaning they help your dogs body adapt to stress
  • Bacopa Monnieri – Bacopa is also called Brahmi, water hyssop, thyme-leaved gratiola, and herb of grace, is a staple plant in traditional Ayurvedic medicine. It has been traditionally to improve memory, treat epilepsy, and reduce anxiety. It has also been shown to alleviate anxiety and stress and boost brain function (Source)

Nootrodog can be found here

4 Other ways to optimize your pets health

homemade dog food

Since much is left to be seen about the effectiveness of nootropics and adaptogens in dogs, you may want to consider other ways of keeping your dog’s brain healthy and functioning at peak capacity.

1. Make sure they get adequate sleep

If you notice your dog isn’t sleeping through the night, try to determine why. If it is due to old age, as some dogs will stop sleeping through the night as they grow into their senior years, speak with your vet about the next steps. He or she may even consider one of the substances mentioned in this article.

2. Ensure they are eating a nutritious diet

Feeding for cognition is important at all stages of your dog’s life, but as your dog increases in age, it is even more important to include things like antioxidants and brain strengthening functional foods in your dog’s meals since many times these things decline naturally. If you want to read more about feeding your dog’s brain, read this article.

3. Manage your dog’s stress

If you notice that your dog is stressed when you leave the home or take him/her around other dogs or for a car ride, there are things you can do to decrease their stress levels and improve their overall quality of life. Just like in humans, stress can be extremely detrimental to your dog’s body and brain function. Try training with your dog or speak to a specialist about what you can do to decrease your dog’s stress. You may even want to try one of the anti-anxiety adaptogens shown above since they are over the counter and already formulated for your dog.

4. Keep your dog mentally active

Keeping your dog mentally active will also help improve their brain function. There are plenty of things you can do, like taking them to new places on walks so they explore different environments to dog games for dogs.

What do you do to ensure your dog’s brain is as healthy as possible? Share this article with someone that loves their dog!


Nutraceuticals in Veterinary Medicine