In their puppy years, dogs need plenty of stimulation and attention. As they age, it’s even more important to maintain your dog’s cognitive health. Like humans, dogs can experience cognitive decline in their later years, and you might notice they’re more lethargic and less prone to excitement. While all dogs tend to slow down a bit in their senior years, there are ways to prevent cognitive issues—like cognitive dysfunction syndrome—from affecting them. One of the main ones is through their diet.
Cognitive dysfunction syndrome
First, it’s important to be aware of the symptoms and causes of cognitive dysfunction syndrome—also known as dog dementia. While the most common signs tend to be general slowness or uncertainty in their routine, there are other telltale signs that age is setting in:
- Frequent licking
- Bouts of aggression
- Staring at blank walls
The exact cause of cognitive dysfunction syndrome in canines isn’t known, but it likely has to do with cellular degradation as the result of age—similar to cognitive decline in humans. Strokes are also thought to play a part.
No pet owner wants to watch their pet’s lucidity slip away, and it can be difficult to help them without being able to talk with them. Nevertheless, there are things you can do to protect your pup against dog dementia. While cognitive dysfunction syndrome is unavoidable in many cases, studies have found that some types of food can be beneficial in keeping your dog’s mind healthy.
How food affects your dog’s cognition
We all know nutrition plays an important role in keeping our bodies healthy. Dogs are no different. Foods aimed at managing heart disease, diabetes, inflammation and other physical issues can all be found in most pet stores. There are also plenty of multivitamin supplements and dietary additions available to canines. Logically, just like how food can improve your dog’s physical condition, it can also improve their mental condition.
Studies show that compounds like alpha-lipoic acid and L-carnitine help maintain cognitive function in the face of aging, and antioxidants such as vitamins E and C protect cells from free radical damage. Foods rich in cognition-boosting compounds could be your dog’s first line of defense against cognitive decline.
Foods that may benefit a dog’s cognitive health
There are plenty of foods high in vitamins and antioxidants that can vastly improve your dog’s mental health over the course of their life. Omega-3 fatty acids can be great for a dog’s cognition. In humans, they’re often used to treat problems with inflammation and have even been known to help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Omega-3 fatty acids are common in fatty fish, but you can also give your dog a fish oil supplement.
Bone marrow is another thing that most dogs enjoy that can also benefit their mental health! The marrow found in bones usually has a large presence of brain-healthy nutrients like calcium, glucosamine, collagen and more.
Since dogs love bones, why not fix your furry friend a delicious bowl of bone broth? Like bone marrow, bone broth includes essential nutrients like calcium, glucosamine and collagen. Bone broth also features several amino acids, gelatin and chondroitin, all of which are excellent for your dog’s holistic health.
The benefit of antioxidants
Antioxidants are also essential to brain-boosting nutrition in dogs. Vitamins E and C are quite beneficial and can help keep age-related damage to the brain at a minimum by fighting free radicals—unstable particles that can damage brain cells. Both of these vitamins are found naturally in many types of foods, including peanut butter and pumpkin. There are also vitamin C and E supplements available for dogs.
Blueberries are packed with antioxidants, and dogs enjoy them as a tasty treat. They’re also a common ingredient in many types of natural foods. Not only can blueberries help with cognitive function, they also aid in lowering inflammation levels. Other benefits of blueberries include better eyesight and their ability to promote new cell growth, which is important for staving off cognitive decline.
Finding the right kind of pet food
If you’re in the market for a pet food that protects your pup’s cognitive health, do your research and check the ingredients. Some pet foods may say they are designed to improve a dog’s mental faculties but might not include all the nutrients your dog needs. Check the ingredient panel for all the vitamins and nutrients mentioned above—especially vitamin C, vitamin E and multiple antioxidant sources.
In addition to their daily food, you might consider giving your pup human foods as treats that will also benefit their cognitive health. What dog wouldn’t enjoy an extra bite of blueberries, peanut butter, bone broth or other flavorful ingredients?
While picking the right food doesn’t guarantee that your dog’s mental health will improve, it’s important to do all you can to keep your pup healthy. It’s a good idea to combine healthy foods with cognitive toys that stimulate your pup. At the end of the day, keeping them nourished and engaged is the best way to prevent the onset of dog dementia.