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Supporting Brain Health in Pets

What happens to our pets’ brains as they age?

Just like humans, aging pets face physiological changes that can affect their cognition, metabolism and more. And just like with humans, more and more research suggests that supporting cognitive function early in life will help prevent age-related changes to the brain.

Aging pet brains are confronted with gene expression changes that can affect how abnormal proteins are handled, the amount of tissue present and even the rate at which new neural pathways are formed.

The good news is that preventing age-related cognitive decline is possible with the appropriate nutrients and in the right environment.

What nutrients can help promote your pets’ brain health?

The first class of nutrients to be aware of is antioxidants. More than just a buzzword, antioxidant supplementation can be extremely crucial, especially for older pets, as the body’s ability to deal with damaging free radicals decreases with age.

One of nature’s most powerful antioxidants comes in the form of a trace mineral: selenium. Research suggests that organic selenium can reduce the beta amyloid burden (i.e., abnormal proteins in the brain), minimize DNA oxidation and assist in preventing age-related neuropathologies associated with cognitive decline.

Secondly, omega-3 fatty acids, such as DHA and EPA, have neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory properties that assist in supporting brain health.

Finally, specific functional nutrients — like amino acids and B vitamins — may be able to help increase blood flow to the brain and play a role in overall cognitive development and function.

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Brain care and cognitive function in dogs

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Pets experiencing age-related cognitive decline may present with:

  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Separation anxiety or “clingy” behavior
  • New fears, phobias or aggressive behavior
  • Increased incidences of soiling/relieving themselves in the house
  • Making loud or abnormal noises or “talking” more than normal
  • New destructive or compulsive behaviors
  • Sleep disturbances

3 steps for supporting your pet’s brain health

  1. Choose quality nutrition from the start. Read feed labels and look for added ingredients in your pet’s food, such as 100% organic selenium and omega-3 fatty acids.
  2. Manage your dog’s and/or cat’s weight. Scientists are beginning to find links between cognition and obesity. Maintaining a healthy weight is important for dogs and cats for many reasons — brain health included.
  3. Provide environmental stimulation. Promote your dog’s and/or cat’s mental flexibility by enhancing their daily routines and environment. For dogs, this could mean a new exercise routine or pattern, and for cats, this could look like new toys or habitat additions. Continually introducing pets to a healthy amount of new stimuli helps increase neural pathway formation and keeps their brains young.