Can the proper nutrition slow down canine cognitive decline (CCD), and what is the right food for dogs with dementia? Doggy dementia is an increasingly common problem as we take better and better care of our pets, allowing them to live longer. However, watching our canine companions lose their mental faculties can be severely distressing for pet parents.
As our dogs become confused and disorientated, is there anything we can do? Luckily some studies suggest that proper nutrition can go a long way to keeping our senior dogs mentally active. In a previous article, we discussed our aging dogs' nutrition, including the best food for failing eyesight. Now let's look at how to keep a senior dog's brain in good shape.
Food for Dogs with Dementia: Free Radicals and Inflammation
The first key to helping your dog maintain a healthy brain and prevent or slow down CCD is to limit inflammation in the body. The second objective is to limit the amount of oxidative stress that can damage the brain. In this article, we look at some of the basics of limiting chronic inflammation in the canine body.
However, some key points to remember is that raw, meat-based food is generally anti-inflammatory. On the other hand, highly processed kibble and canned food are far more inflammatory. We also want to see quite a few fish and poultry proteins, as well as healthy fish oil in the food. omega-3 fatty acids are great for limiting inflammation in the body.
Another key point in food for dogs with dementia is limiting the number of free radicals that damage the brain cells. This means using natural preservatives and antioxidants in your senior dogs' diets. To protect your dog's brain, look for:
- Plenty of Vitamin E, preferably 300 to 800 IU per day.
- Vitamin C
- A natural source of selenium such as selenium yeast or selenomethionine, not sodium selenite. (The label on the dog food will tell you if they use sodium selenite).
- B vitamins that aid cognitive function, namely; cobalamin, thiamine, and pyridoxine
- Lipoic acid supplements.
Food For Dogs with Dementia: Ketones, Lactates, and Fatty acids.
Along with antioxidants that protect the brain from oxidative damage, good food for dogs with dementia must fuel the brain. Essentially, aging dogs struggle to fuel their brains. Usually, the brain needs glucose as fuel. However, as a dog gets older, they have a more challenging time getting enough glucose to keep their brains working optimally.
Luckily, the brain can use alternative fuel sources. One is lactic acid, a powerful preservative. Another good alternative source of brain fuel is ketones.
For ketones to be effective, an older dog needs both more protein in their diet and purified MCT oil. A diet that contains 6.8% medium chain triglycerides (MCT) can significantly improve brain function. One reason is that it helps ketones pass the blood-brain barrier to fuel the brain in the place of glucose.
Another reason is that dogs given MCT oil tend to have more of the omega-3 fatty acid, DHA, in their brains. DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid primarily found in fish oil and krill oil, is vital for proper brain function. Both puppies and older dogs need more DHA in their diets than adults.
You can read more about MCT oil for dogs in this article.
L-arginine and taurine in Food For Dogs with Dementia
L-arginine is an essential amino acid that is vital for the immune system, renal health, and gut health. However, arginine at the recommended AAFCO levels in dog food may not be enough for aging dogs. Studies of dogs fed a diet supplemented with l-arginine above the daily limits showed better cognitive function for aging dogs.
So when choosing food for dogs with dementia, look for L-arginine on the label or speak to your vet about adding L-arginine supplements to your dog's food.
Another potentially helpful protein is taurine. The brain contains quite a bit of taurine, and although we usually add it to a dog's diet for heart and eye health. It can also work well for an aging brain.
Food for dogs with dementia: Common nutraceuticals
If you are looking for some additional supplements to give your dog, here is a list of supplements that can help boost an aging dog's brain function:
- Choline (found in krill oil)
- Ginkgo biloba
- Polyphenols (found in curcumin + piperine, berries, herbs, and richly colored vegetables).
Some of these, like Ginkgo Biloba, can be found in the human supplement aisle and work by increasing blood flow to the brain. Others are common ingredients in dog food for dogs with dementia. You can find ingredients such as L-Methionine and Inositol on the label.
Finally, food for dogs with dementia should contain supplements that help with anxiety and stress. As dogs lose brain function, they often become confused and anxious. They may also be more aggressive. The two primary supplements that can help with this are L-tryptophan and Alpha-casozepine. Alpha-casozepine is a peptide taken from casein that shows benzodiazepine-like effects for dogs. It is found in a product called Zylkene.
You can read more about nutrition for dogs with anxiety in this article.
Food for dogs with dementia is definitely an option to slow cognitive decline. Knowing what to look for on the label and what supplements you can give your senior dog is half the battle. Of course, prevention is always better than cure, so feeding your dog a healthy diet from a young age is vital to help them age gracefully. Pet parents can also help keep their aging dogs from declining mentally through an exercise routine, playtime, and fun activities.