Researchers have found that dogs over the age of seven suffer a decline in brain cells because they lose the ability to use energy-boosting glucose as efficiently as when they were young.
As a result, researchers have identified a range of nutrients which may boost memory, learning capacity and ability to adapt to new situations among elderly pets.
This affects their everyday functioning, leading to small changes in a dog’s behaviour, such as becoming slower and less alert.
Due to advances in veterinary care, nutrition and disease prevention, dogs are effectively flourishing in old age.
This means that like the human population, the number of senior dogs is on the increase, with an estimated 29 per cent being classed as seniors.
One study completed at Toronto University, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, showed that dogs fed a diet containing special dietary fats, known as Medium Chain Tryglicerides (MCTs), found in some natural vegetable oils such as coconut oil, may improve (and help sustain into old age) their memory and learning skills.
These special dietary fats, called medium chain triglycerides or MCTs, are unique in that they can easily be converted into energy that can be absorbed by an aging brain, providing fuel that it needs to help maximise brain function.
Dr Jill Cline, senior research nutritionist at pet food brand Purina, said: “Cognitive decline is usually a slow and gradual process with owners not noticing any changes until their dog is about 12 years old. But, by the time your dog has changed in behaviour it may be hard to do anything about it. Prevention is always better than trying to find a cure, so therefore it’s best to start feeding your dog a senior diet around seven years of age.”
Veterinary surgeon Barton Stephen, who has practised for more than 25 years, said the first step to combating old age in dogs is to accept that a pet is becoming elderly.
He said: “Owners often live in denial. They know their dog is displaying signs of aging, like unusual behaviour, sleeping more and becoming slower and less alert, yet they choose to ignore it. But, the fact is, a medium-sized dog like a Labrador at the age of seven is in his mid-fifties in human terms. The right diet at this stage can have a dramatic effect and help them stay younger, for longer.”
Article originally published @ http://naturalhealthychoices.weebly.com/toronto-univ-study.html and appeared there on June 11, 2013.
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