- Dog brain health changes over time — When a dog ages, it’s natural for cognitive function to decline. It’s also possible to slow its progression.
- The right nutrients make a difference — Choosing the right supplements, foods, and treats makes a big difference in an older dog’s brain health.
- Exercise for the brain is important — Learning new tricks and engaging in training is brain cardio, which keeps it healthier longer.
We all know dogs need daily walks to exercise their bodies, but what about their brains? Dogs’ brains, like our own, need stimulation and nutrition to function at their best in their senior years. Their brains undergo oxidative stress, which affects learning, memory, and function. A few ways to combat that include:
- Dog treats with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids
- Raw sweet potatoes, squash, or pumpkins
- Training and teaching them a new trick
👉 Omega-3s are necessary for healthy brain development and cognitive function throughout every life stage of pets and people.
Because omega-3s are often missing from modern diets, we look to supplements to fill this nutritional gap. ZipZyme™ Omega is fresh food grown directly from ocean algae with special enzymes that multiply the body’s amount of DHA, the most important omega-3. It works to convert excess sugars to healthy fats that stop the accumulation of unhealthy fats and help support a balanced metabolism in our pets.
Cognition and dog brain health
Dogs with canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD) may show signs as early as 10 years old, according to research conducted by the University of Tokyo. CCD or cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS) is a normal part of the aging process in senior dogs. Some medium- and small-breed dogs may also be more prone to developing CDD and similar health conditions.
👉Learn more about the symptoms, causes, and ways to prevent CDD in our guide to dog dementia.
Using nutrition to improve dog brain health
Though CCD can’t be cured, pet owners can slow the disease. Recent studies have examined the effects of nutrition and how small changes can positively impact cognitive function in senior dogs. It’s always best to talk to your vet first and consider their guidance. In the meantime, here are some of the more common nutrients and vitamins believed to improve your dog’s brain health.
Omega-3 docosahexaenoic acids (DHA). These essential nutrients can help prevent cognitive decline and positively impact a dog’s overall health. The best cognitive supplements for dogs use the correct practices, sources, and techniques for extracting DHA. When selecting a brand, choose one that extracts these essential nutrients from ocean algae rather than from the fish that eat the algae. ZipZyme™ Omega is the only fresh wholesome food alternative to omega-3 supplements.
ZipZyme™ is not extracted oil but fresh DHA grown from the source.. This fresh food can be added to your dog’s daily meal routine — it comes in one-teaspoon servings packaged to prevent the oxidation and spoilage that affects all fish oils. DHA is an essential fat necessary for healthy brain development and cognitive function at every life stage.
Antioxidants. An antioxidant is any compound that protects against cellular damage. They target free radicals that cause toxins to build up in the brain. Antioxidants include vitamins C, E, and D, beta-carotene, and others. Take caution, though, as some antioxidant-rich human foods are not safe for dogs. Safe choices include blueberries, carrots, spinach, and sweet potatoes.
Vitamins, amino acids, and minerals. Dogs produce amino acids naturally, but sometimes, they can fall short. L-carnitine and l-arginine are two amino acids tied to improved dog brain health. Vitamins, like vitamins C and E, and minerals can also boost brain health.
Dog food for the brain
Choosing dog food isn’t always complicated, but it can be when considering special needs or preferences. Here are some important ingredients to keep an eye out for when looking for the ideal diet rich in omega-3 DHA:
- Sweet potatoes or squash. This generally includes anything in the cucurbit family, like watermelons, cucumbers, and pumpkins. We recommend Blue Buffalo’s Basics Senior Turkey & Potato Recipe Dry Dog Food.
- Multi-protein labels. Like with all labels, it’s best to double-check the ingredients list. Generally, multi-protein labels signal a good source of omega-3, omega-6, and many nutrients for dogs at any stage of life.
For dogs with food allergies or special needs, consider supplements or specially formulated dog food.
👉Keep in mind that sudden dietary changes can sometimes lead to irritable bowel syndrome.
Treats for dog brain health
Green-lipped mussels are a popular and tasty treat to improve your dog’s brain health. These beneficial shellfish are native only to New Zealand, so chances are you’ll find these tasty treats in an online shop. We’re partial to Dr. Marty Freeze Dried Raw Dog Treats due to their all-around health benefits, but keep in mind they go through the same extraction process as fish oils.
You can also purchase healthy dog treats that don’t have seafood, or make some homemade dog treats that deliver nutritional value. Browse our list of dog-safe foods for beneficial options right in the kitchen.
Use training to improve dog brain health
Dogs love having a job and connecting with their owner. Teaching your pup a new trick or training them for sports — like rally obedience or agility — are just a couple of ways to introduce them to a new routine and ensure they’re mentally stimulated.
Here are a few simple and effective at-home methods to keep your pup’s brain sharp and healthy:
Play brain games — Simple games like hide-and-seek encourage dogs to work their brains (and noses) while having fun. You can also motivate them with scent work by hiding treats throughout your home or yard. In addition to being fun, brain games have been shown to prevent the loss of neurons in dogs’ brains.
Switch up your walking route — Dogs get bored just like we do. If you walk the same path each day, try switching things up. New smells and sights can help keep your dog’s brain sufficiently stimulated.
Purchase a puzzle toy — Puzzle toys challenge dogs to use their brains to work for food or treats. A snuffle mat encourages dogs to use their noses and foraging skills. Similarly, interactive dog toys require pups to learn and repeat actions to unlock prizes. There are even puzzle feeder toys that allow mealtime to double as a mental enrichment exercise.
👉 Whether you’ve got a puppy, adult, or senior dog, brain health is important throughout any life stage and can help set your pet up for a long and happy life.
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Frequently asked questions
How can I improve my dog’s brain health?
You can help them stay sharp with just a few changes. First, add dog brain supplements to their diet and switch to high-quality dog food. You can also engage them in training and enrichment exercises that keep their mind and body active.
What are the signs of CCD?
Early, common symptoms of CCD in dogs include pacing and circling, as well as changes in their gait and posture. Owners may notice that their aging dog has become clumsy. As CCD progresses, dogs show signs of confusion, disorientation, memory loss, and increased anxiety — much like Alzheimer’s disease in people. Changes in sleep, appetite, and energy levels are often seen, too.
What vitamins help dogs’ brains?
Vitamins C and E are beneficial to a dog’s brain health, particularly as it relates to cognitive decline with aging. Other things, like omega-3 DHA, antioxidants, and different amino acids and minerals, can also help them stay sharper for longer.
Are there ways to slow the progression of CCD in dogs?
Yes. Research has shown that supplementation with antioxidants and amino acids can improve a dog’s ability to fend off age-related damage to their brain.