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Protecting the Minds of Our Pets

With the advancements in science, medicine, and nutrition, our pets have been living longer lives at our sides. The average lifespan of an American household pet is much longer than years past. We are finding that our older pets’ minds can suffer the effects of aging, similar to those seen in Alzheimer patients. Cognitive dysfunction is a diagnosis growing in popularity that affects both cats and dogs. The good news? We can help to protect our pets from this heartbreaking disease with a few simple lifestyle changes.

What is Cognitive Dysfunction?

Feline Cognitive Dysfunction (FCD) or Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS) is a degenerative brain disease affecting senior cats and dogs showing symptoms such as:

  • Confusion – seems lost and wanders aimlessly
  • Disorientation – seems to get “stuck” in corners or around obstacles
  • House soiling – eliminating outside of the litter box or not alerting the owner to go outside
  • Changing sleep cycles
  • Increased aggressiveness
  • Less interest in attention or affection, or becoming clingy and needing constant attention
  • Loss of interest in food and water

Some of these behaviors can be the symptoms of different illnesses. For example, a severe urinary tract infection could cause a pet to eliminate in the house, pace around because of the pain and be less interested in interactions as well as food and water. Consult with your vet to eliminate the possibility of other health issues before assuming the pet is “just old” and nothing can be done to help them.

Now, with the benefits of foods being realized more and more each day, even if your pet is “just old”, there is plenty we can do to help them! While the effects of cognitive dysfunction cannot be reversed, we can help prevent further damage and aid them leading a happy life in their senior years.

How to Help Your Pet

Cognitive dysfunction is thought to be caused by beta-amyloids which cause the build-up of plaques in the brain resulting in cell destruction and brain mass loss. Thankfully, there are foods to aid in the blocking of beta-amyloid build-up!

Here are some foods and herbs that are great for your pets’ brain health:

  • Coconut oil increases the amount of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) which have been shown to block beta-amyloid build up and aid in brain energy and metabolism. Suggested dosage is ¼ teaspoon twice a day per 10 pounds of body weight.
  • Omega-3 essential fats are crucial for brain health! Fish or krill oil also add immune system support, which is extremely important for older pets.
  • Fresh meats suitable for your cat or dog offer much needed proteins they may be lacking in their normal diet.
  • Vitamins E & C and brightly colored fruits and vegetables. Fruits and veggies rich in color have the highest levels antioxidants. Antioxidants are perfect for fighting the free radicals that have been found to cause tumor growth. Carrots, beets, spinach, blueberries, cranberries, pumpkin, kale, are just a few you can try! Be careful to introduce a new fruit or vegetable slowly. And a little goes a long way, especially for small breed dogs and cats.
  • Herbs such as cinnamon, ginseng, ginkgo biloba, bilberry, chamomile and Rhodiola are all excellent sources for cognitive support.

Food and improved diet are not the only things within our control to help protect our pets from decreased brain health. Physical and mental exercises are equally as important. Regular walks help to keep your dog’s blood flowing and increase circulation. Try taking a different route each week or practicing tricks and commands while out to switch up the routine and keep your pup on his toes. Purchase a laser pointer for easy entertainment for you and great exercise for your cat! Brain teaser toys such as hide-away toys or treat puzzles like Kongs are great ways for your pet to utilize different parts of their brain.

By improving the quality of our pets’ diets and ensuring they are receiving the vitamins and nutrients they need for optimum health, we have the chance to ensure their golden years are bright, happy, and healthy. Regular exercise, a healthy diet and plenty of love is what we all need – human or animal.