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A poor diet and inactivity can cause many issues in pets.  For one we already know that obesity is on the rise, as over 50% of dogs are overweight in America.  Obesity in itself gives way to diabetes, arthritis, causes the heart to work harder, skin problems, heat intolerance and IVDD.

But a recent article suggests that a poor dietary lifestyle with no exercise could cause something even more sinister to happen to our pets.

“We are seeing an increase in pet obesity. Just as we see health problems among people who are less active so we see the same problems with their pets eating more and getting less exercise and this may lead to an increase in dementia.” – Prof Holger Volk, of the Royal Veterinary College

What exactly is dementia?  Dementia or canine cognitive dysfunction is caused by brain disease, brain injury, genetics and/or aging of the brain.  This presents issues with memory, awareness and anxiety.

Similar to humans, the following symptoms can be present in your pups:

  • Disorientation
  • Confusion
  • Lower tolerance which can lead to aggression
  • Decreased activity
  • Reduced social activity
  • Pacing
  • Staring at walls
  • Irregular sleep cycles
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fecal/urinary incontinence.

Roughly 50% of dogs over the age of 11 show clinical signs of dementia, while 68% of dogs over the age of 15 show at least one clinical sign of canine cognitive dysfunction.  Being a prisoner of this disease is not only difficult for your pup, but it’s so heartbreaking to watch.

What is a pet parent to do?  Is there a cure for dementia?  Unfortunately, there isn’t an actual cure, but it can be naturally treated and combated against.

  • Food & Exercise: A study done on Beagles has shown that those who have a diet rich in antioxidants have improved cognitive function.  Vegetables and fruits such as blueberries, carrots, asparagus, pumpkin, squash, coconut oil and broccoli all help improve memory.  Because dementia is being linked to obesity, a more active lifestyle (games, walks, playing fetch, etc) will help to keep your pup looking and feeling healthy.  Mental stimulation is important too, try some of these very cool treat puzzles by Nina Ottosson.
  • Anti-inflammatories: Chronic inflammation has been shown to be present in patients with dementia/alzheimers disease.  Often NSAIDS (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) would be prescribed but can cause more harm than good.  Omega-3 fish oils and curcumin (turmeric) are natural and safe alternatives.  Not to mention, curcumin is considered more powerful than it’s pharmaceutical counterparts and has been shown in studies to fight alzheimers disease, cancer and cardiovascular issues.
  • Melatonin: This hormone is an antioxidant and has anti-aging properties. Perhaps this is why it seems to secrete less in older individuals that exhibit clinical signs of dementia and alzheimers disease.  In some studies, Melatonin appears to have neuroprotective capabilities.  As a side note, before bed I give Angelo melatonin, not only does it help him sleep better, but I’m positive it’s helping his cognitive function as well.
  • Spaying/Neutering: I’ve written about how early spaying/neutering can have ill effects on pups, that include higher cancer incidences and extreme arthritic problems.  But one study points to neutered males having significant more cognitive impairment.  Take this for what you will, but the studies are favorable for keeping your pet intact (at least until the age of 2).
  • Co-Q10: This is a naturally occurring antioxidant and is more known to help with cardiovascular disease than dementia.  However, recent studies suggest that Co-Q10 protects brain health, and those with higher levels of Co-Q10 had a 77% less risk of falling victim to dementia.
  • Astaxanthin: This red and tongue-twisting antioxidant has many health benefits.  It has been known to help with skin issues, arthritic problems and heart health.  A few years ago Japanese researchers found that astaxanthin has the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier and work it’s powerful antioxidant abilities on the brain.  Prior research has shown that those suffering from dementia have abnormally high levels of Phospholipid hydroperoxides (PLOOH).  PLOOH accumulates in the red blood cells, but those who took astaxanthin every day for 12 weeks had a reduction of PLOOH.  Thus, potentially making astaxanthin a weapon against dementia.

Do you know a Dog that is battling dementia?  If so, what methods are being used to treat it?  Comment below and don’t forget to share!

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