With age, there are changes occurring in the brain that affect behavior, memory, and learning in both dogs and cat. Studies have shown that animals can suffer from a similar cell-degenerative condition as that in humans. There is an analog to Alzheimers disease in dogs that is called Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome.
If your dog has this problem, you might notice behaviors like forgetfulness, disorientation, not recognizing family members, sleep disruption, and other mental lapses.
Canine Cognitive Dysfunction is fairly common in aged dogs and it is thought that 25 percent of dogs older than 10 years of age show at least one of the major symptoms associated with brain aging. This number goes up to 60% in dogs 15 years of age.
How can we, as owners, help our dogs as they age?
Recent research has shown that one of the most significant factors in avoiding a decline in thinking ability involves keeping mentally active. This makes sense really. The brain is like a muscle and it needs to be worked out. People who engage in challenging mental activities, such as solving crossword puzzles, playing games, engaging in new activities, taking courses, traveling, reading, or engaging in social activities with many different people, are more likely to avoid an age-related decline in mental ability. Its the same with pets. Keeping aging pets mentally active can greatly slow down the mental deterioration observed in learning and problem-solving.
Walking seems to be especially good for the brain because it increases blood circulation and the oxygen and glucose that reaches the brain. This may even be a more efficient process then more strenuous exercise, as there is less competition with the other muscles for the aforementioned oxygen and glucose. Simply stated, going for walks with your dog will help them (and you) to oxygenate the brain and help to increase blood flow. This serves to enhance energy production and to clear waste materials. The brain will work better and the negative effects of aging on cognition can be staved off.
It always seems to come back to the basics: diet, exercise, and nutrition. We have also been seeing more and more research on the positive effects of Omega-3 fatty acids on cognitive decline. So a possible consideration for nutritional support could be supplementing the aged dog with fish oil containing high levels of pure Omega-3, like Celavin™.
Related: 5 STEPS TO CARING FOR SENIOR DOGS