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If there’s anything better or more lovable than a senior dog, I haven’t found it yet! Those silver muzzles. Those soulful eyes. Those sweet souls.
Although it varies by breed and size, most dogs are considered “senior” by the time they’re seven years old. But as with humans, age is just a number for dogs… especially if their parents take proactive steps to keep them healthy, stimulated, and active.
This includes their brains, not just their bodies. That’s because pets often experience a decline in their cognitive abilities as they age. This condition is called Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS), and its symptoms appear in about 23% of dogs between the ages of 12 and 14 and 41% of dogs 14 and older.
Common symptoms of CDS include:
- House soiling
- Disorientation or confusion
- Sleep or activity changes
- Wandering or pacing
- Not responding to name or commands
If you notice any signs of CDS in your dog, talk to your veterinarian right away. But it’s never too early to start being proactive about your dog’s cognitive health. Luckily, there are a number of things you can do to help boost your senior dog’s brainpower, including giving food and supplements designed to support brain health and keeping them mentally stimulated.
Brain Food for Senior Dogs
The right food can support your dog’s brain, lowering his risk of experiencing cognitive decline. It may even help to reverse some of its effects.
Studies have shown that a diet rich in antioxidants is good for brain health. If you’d like to add some antioxidants to your dog’s diet, talk to your vet about giving him extra vitamin E, vitamin C, or colorful fruits and veggies like raspberries, blueberries, carrots, or spinach.
Another option is to switch to dog food, like Purina Pro Plan BRIGHT MIND, that’s specially formulated to support brain health. This dog food contains a blend of brain-supporting nutrients as well as botanical oils that support cognitive health and promote alertness and mental sharpness.
Brain Supplements for Senior Dogs
A supplement for senior dogs is another way to support your pup’s brain health through his golden years. If you decide to supplement, though, you’ll want to make sure that the one you choose is effective, and that it contains ingredients that can help your dog’s brain as he ages.
I give my own dog, Chilly, Vetericyn’s ALL-IN lifestage supplement. It comes in three formulas to give dogs in any life stage exactly what they need to keep them as healthy and energetic as possible. The senior formula delivers ingredients to promote healthy joints and bones, good digestion, and a strong immune system, but it also packs a powerful punch to your dog’s cognitive function.
ALL-IN for senior dogs contains MemoRem® Neuro-Complex which is designed to help nutrients cross the blood-brain barrier and support the brain’s nerve cell function. It supports memory and is important for the synthesis of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, epinephrine, norepinephrine, and thyroid hormones.
ALL-IN also helps protect brain cells by scavenging free radicals, reducing inflammation, and improving cognition. The MemoRem® Neuro-Complex is also supplemented with hydroxy-tryptophan (hTP), valerian root extract, and ginkgo biloba to promote restful sleep, reduce anxiety, and improve memory in aging dogs.
ALL-IN works with your dog’s body to deliver the nutrients to the right spot in your dog’s body and to make sure that they are absorbed once they get there. And it can even help your dog absorb more of the nutrients in his food too!
Mental Stimulation to Help Senior Dogs
The right food and supplements for senior dogs can do your furry friend’s brain a lot of good, but keeping his mind active and engaged is so important too. Here are a few ways to give your dog a mental workout.
Spend Time Together
Quality time with your dog will strengthen that precious bond you share, but it’s also great for his cognitive abilities. Playing together is one great way to exercise a dog’s body and mind.
Hide and seek is a great game to challenge your dog’s mind. Hide treats, a favorite toy, or yourself, and let your dog figure out the hiding place. When he’s rewarded with a yummy treat, sweet puppy talk, or a round of play with his favorite toy and human, he’ll be sure to work extra hard to find even the most well-hidden goodies.
Most dogs love a good game of fetch, but you can add a mental challenge by using a toy with an irregular flight pattern or one that bounces erratically when it lands. The Chuckit Ultra Ring enagages your dog’s brain and natural chase instinct since he never knows where it will bounce or roll once you launch it. You can save your arm muscles and keep doggy drool off your hands by using the convenient
Ring Chaser Launcher for hours of fun.
Teaching your dog a new trick is another great way to bond and challenge his brain at the same time. Whether you’re teaching him to pick up his toys or roll over on command, he’ll love spending the time with you, and his brain will love the mental exercise.
Throwing something new into your dog’s routine will also encourage mental sharpness. It could be as simple as changing up the route you take for your daily walk or visiting a different park than usual. Exploring the new sights and smells is a great mental challenge.
Toys and interactive feeders can keep a dog’s brain busy once playtime with the family is done.
Most dogs love the challenge of a puzzle feeder. All you have to do is insert a few small treats or pieces of his dry food and he’ll have the fun of figuring out how to get them out to enjoy them. One of Chilly’s favorites is his Bob-A-Lot. He never gets tired of rolling it around and gobbling up the treats as they fall out. And I never get tired of watching him. I feed him all of his kibble and his ALL IN supplement right from this very toy! That way he has to work his brain to eat.
A KONG toy is another great option to engage your dog’s brain. Simply fill it with something yummy, like natural peanut butter or KONG’s Easy Treat paste, and your dog will get busy trying to dig it out. As an added bonus, this toy’s unpredictable bounce means it’s also really fun to use to play fetch.
You can also find hide-and-seek toys where your dog has to work to find and release stuffed toys or balls. This Puzzle Cube by Outward Hound contains two squeaky tennis balls, but before he can play with them, your dog has to work to open up the cube.
Keep your senior dog mentally sharp by providing him with nutrition and supplements to support his brainpower and by giving him lots of fun and mentally-challenging activities. You may not ward off all age-related decline, but you’ll keep your dog as youthful as he can be as he reaches those precious golden years.