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CDD – cognitive decline in your dog

Cognitive decline isn’t only a problem for people. As dogs age, they also may show symptoms of canine cognition dysfunction (CCD).

Signs of “dementia” in dogs may include:

• reduced activity
• reduced engagement with their environment or family
• forgetting training/not remembering toilet training
• changed sleep behaviour — affected dogs often sleep poorly at night
• vagueness, seeming to get lost, eg stuck in corners
• increased anxiety, especially separation anxiety
• depression

These signs may be accompanied by age-related loss of hearing or sight. As with humans, there are proactive steps we can take to try to slow down the progression of CCD.

I recommend feeding your dog a whole- or fresh food diet, one that is nutritionally balanced and supports a healthy weight and gut. This reduces the chemical load and supplies a variety of antioxidants and phytonutrients that may benefit the brain. Meat and organ meat contain energy substrates for brain mitochondria. Fruits and vegetables provide flavonoids and antioxidants. Berries contain resveratrol, which has been shown to have benefits in Alzheimer’s disease. You can also add a little green tea.

Add fats in the form of essential fatty acids and medium-chain triglycerides. Omega-3 essential fatty acid supplementation has been shown to improve cognitive function in people and aged mice, as well as provide anti-inflammatory support for joint and skin health.

Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) are fatty acids that have six to 12 carbon atoms linked on a chain. Goodquality cold-pressed coconut oil contains approximately 50 per cent MCTs. Older animals and people are less able to utilise glucose as an energy source. The brain requires a lot of energy to function well, and MCTs provide an alternate energy source.

Increasing evidence suggests dysbiosis may be linked to neurodegenerative diseases via the gut-brain axis. Prebiotics to support a healthy microbiome can be added to food, eg orange vegetables, dandelion greens, chicory root, asparagus or a small amount of apple.

Also, fermented foods such as kefir or pot-set Greekstyle\ yoghurt. A good-quality veterinary probiotic supplement can supply beneficial microbes. Testing the dysbiosis index may identify more specific strategies to balance the microbiome. Faecal transplantation can be considered, especially in dogs with other symptoms suggestive of dysbiosis like gut issues or allergies.

Astaxanthin is a red pigment belonging to a group of chemicals called carotenoids. Natural sources of astaxanthin include algae, yeast, salmon, trout, krill, shrimp and crayfish. Astaxanthin crosses the blood-brain barrier and has protective effects against neurological disorders. Benefits for dogs with CCD include modulation of age-associated mitochondrial dysfunction, antioxidant effects and enhancing immune responses.

Mushrooms are a nutritious food, with protein, antioxidants and vitamins including B vitamins and minerals. Medicinal mushrooms contain bioactive polysaccharides, including beta-glucans, with other benefits such as prebiotic, antibacterial antiviral and anticancer effects. For pets with cognitive decline, medicinal mushrooms provide prebiotic and neuroprotective benefits.

Lions’ Mane (Hericium erinaceus) is a medicinal mushroom that supports nerve growth factor (NGF), a protein involved in pain transmission, and also in the growth, differentiation and survival of nerve cells. Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum) has prebiotic and neuroprotective benefits.

Western herbs that may be considered include Withania (adaptogen), gngko (antioxidant, circulatory stimulant, cognitive enhancer), lemon balm (carminative), chamomile (carminative, mlld sedative) and bilberry (antioxidant) among others. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) herbal formulas are prescribed based on TCM patterns. Benefits are enhanced with regular acupuncture sessions to reduce anxiety and improve blood flow to the brain.

Maintain regular exercise appropriate to your dog’s ability and needs. Exercise improves oxygen supply to the brain, stimulates the mind and benefits muscle strength, joint function and proprioception. Exercise can be combined with short periods of play and can be followed by tactile stimulation with brushing or massage.

Article Featured in WellBeing 210

Dr Karen Bridgman

Dr Karen Bridgman

Karen Bridgman is a holistic practitioner at Lotus Health and Lotus Dental in Neutral Bay.

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