The hallmarks of brain aging in dogs and cats are summarized by the acronym DISH: disorientation; interaction changes; sleep changes; and house-training is forgotten.
The National Institute on Ageing has recently funded studies on canine brain ageing. There are close parallels to human ageing, and fortunately, dog studies suggest that many debilitating effects of age on the brain may be averted or eased by eating food that protects the brain cells from oxidation.
Dr Norton Milgram, a behavioral neuroscientist at the University of Toronto, found that “it has become clear as we’ve looked at how cognitive changes occur over time, that antioxidants are the best suggestion of a possible useful intervention, because the evidence indicates that oxidative stress is the main factor in brain ageing.” Dr. Carl Cotman, neurochemist at the University of California at Irvine agrees, “ Oxidative damage is a key feature in the aged brains of animals and people.” Dr. Barbara Shukitt-Hale a research psychologist at Tufts University has shown the benefit of a anti-oxidant enriched diet for the ageing mammalian brain. She fed rats a diet rich in extracts of blueberries, strawberries, and spinach and found that she could forestall or even reverse the effects of ageing on the brain both behaviorally and chemically.
Animal and peoples brains are loaded with polyunsaturated fats, which are vulnerable to oxidizing agents. The brain also uses 20 % of the bodies oxygen supply. This oxygen generates free radicals that can damage the membranes of cells making them vulnerable to toxins. Under this oxidation, synapses that allow the brain cells to communicate with each other are lost and there is a buildup of a toxic peptide called beta amyloid. This leads to brain cell dysfunction. The brain is actually poorly equipped to handle this because it has low levels of antioxidants to protect itself and it can’t repair oxidative damage.
Diets rich in fruits and vegetables, vitamins E & C, fatty acids DHA and EPA, carnitine and alpha lipoic acid appear to be very beneficial. These can be added as supplements, or purchased as a ready to feed dog food by Hills called canine B/D, this is available through us
A general guideline to total daily dosage in dogs would be…Vit. A 5000 iu as Beta Carotene, Vit. C 250mg, Vit. E 200 iu as alpha tocopherol, Zinc 7.5 mg, Selenium 15 ug, Copper 1 mg, and Manganese 1.5 mg. Cats would require about ¼ of these levels. These work in harmony so it is important that most or all be given. We carry multivitamins that contain these recommended dosages.
The effects of brain ageing can be subtle and often progress slowly. It is important to pay attention to your pet to see the early signs. We have a checklist that we can use to help decide if there is a problem. Diet supplements and medication can help significantly, ask us for more information.