Of the primasry fasctors that help control aging and memory, balanced nutrition and modest amounts of exercise are the most important for ourselves and the pets with whom we share our lives.
Functional foods are those that provide optimal nutrition and body function and improve the memory and cogniftive activity of aging. These include vitamins E and C, and resveratrol (acting as antioxidants) along with a mixture of fruits and vegetables to reduce free radical damage. Also important are alpha-lipoic acid and L-carnitine as they are cofactors of the mitochondria of all cells. Mitochondria are responsible within cells for providing for their respiration and energy production.
Exercise in modest amounts should be given along with tasks for the pet to learn and perform.
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for dogs especially as they age because they help improve brain health and function and slow the loss of cognitive function associated with aging.
The requirement for essential nutrients increases not only during periods of rapid growth or reproduction but also in geriatrics, because immune function and bio-availability of nutrients generally wanes with aging.
Top 10 Great Foods for Brain Health and Memory
- Leafy greens (folate, vitamin B 9) - kale, spinach, collard and mustard greens
- Cruciferous vegetables (folate, carotenoids) - broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, Brussel sprouts
- Beans/ legumes (choline)
- Whole grains (gluten-free = quinoa, millet, rice, soy, corn, flax, sorghum, TEFF, tapioca)
- Berries/cherries (anthocyanins, antioxidants, vitamins C and E)
- Omega 3 fatty acids (anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory)
- Yellow Squash, asparagus, tomatoes, carrots, beets (folate, vitamin A, iron)
- Nuts (omega fatty acids, vitamins E and B 6, folate, magnesium) CAUTION macadamia, and walnuts are unsafe for pets
- Seeds (zinc, choline, vitamin E)
- Spices (anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory)
Other Functional Superfoods
- Eggs - high in quality protein and choline for brain and memory
- Kiwis - antioxidant-rich, vitamins A, C and E, potassium, high in fiber
- Quinoa - high in protein and fiber, iron, zinc, vitamin. E, selenium
- Salmon - high omega-3 and iron, low calorie and low saturated fat
- Sweet Potatoes - high in vitamins A and C, calcium, potassium
- Mediterranean type diet - fish, nuts (for dogs: not macadamia, walnut or hickory nuts; brazil nuts and cashews are high in fat; pistachios, pecans, almonds can be moldy (aflatoxins); some dogs = peanut reactive); whole gluten-free grains; olive oil, fresh produce
- Avoid Trans Fats & Saturated Fats - less dairy, red meat, fried foods
- Heart-Healthy diet - also good for the brain
- Plenty of Omega-3 Fatty Acids – causes 26% less brain lesions
- Smaller meals throughout the day – helps digestion
- Eat Fruits, Vegetables, and Berries - of various colors
- Green Tea - enhances memory and alertness; anti-inflammatory; put on body sores, in foods
Canine Cognitive Dysfunction
Clinical Signs of Cognitive Dysfunction
- Confusion/disorientation in familiar surroundings
- Increased sleeping/insomnia
- Loss of interest in people and events
- Forgetfulness of housetraining habits
- Failure to recognize familiar people and animals
- Wandering aimlessly/pacing
- Loss of appetite/forgetting to eat
- Staring into space
- Decreased activity level
- Lack of response to name/commands
- Failure to pay attention
Nutrients of Genera Benefit for Cognitive Dysfunction
- Milk thistle and SAMe (S-adenosylmethionine)
- Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs)
- DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids
- Avoid glutens
- Avoid carbohydrates with high glycemic index
Silibinin (milk thistle extract) prevents impairment of both short-term and recognition memory
- prevention for cancer as well
- works as antioxidant, protects brain from oxidative damage
SAMe (S-adenosyl methionine) improves neuron membrane fluidity
- increases serotonin and dopamine metabolites
- reduces effects of depression in people
- may help human Alzheimer’s patients
Phospholipid choline is critical for cell membrane structure and function
- increases production of acetylcholine
- helps reverse signs of cognitive and other neurological disorders of aging pets
Medium -Chain Triglycerides, like coconut oil, break down and absorb rapidly, unlike fats; quick source of non-carbohydrate energy
- readily cross blood-brain barrier, supplying 20% of brain energy requirement
- important for ketone production
- help body use omega-3 fatty acids more efficiently
- helps age-related cognitive decline by providing alternative source of brain energy
- give berries their rich pigment; antioxidants; also benefit cognitive health of senior dogs
- most potent is aronia, the chokeberry. Greater antioxidant than all other berries; anti-cancer; anti-bacterial, anti-viral and even anti-diabetic; and anti-inflammatory
- protect brain function in geriatrics and those with gluten intolerance by avoiding wheat, barley, rye, oats unless labeled gluten-free, kamut, spelt, farro, and couscous
- linked with impairment of brain function, including learning disabilities, attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder, and memory problems
- gluten sensitivity may manifest exclusively as a neurological disease
Avoid Carbohydrates with a high glycemic index (GI)
- impaired glucose metabolism caused by sugary foods can promote brain starvation, leading to memory problems, like canine cognitive dysfunction
- foods with high GI can also lead to hunger-related behavioral problems
- simple carbohydrates digest and absorb quickly (hence rapid rise and fall in blood sugar concentrations), so pets feel hungry again quickly
Balanced nutrition is now recognized as the key factor in providing for health and longevity of human and animal populations. Achieving this balance depends upon each individual’s genetic and geographical needs and lifestyle. However, nutritional imbalance and food intolerances are seen more than ever today, with the rising number of environmental challenges,
The following three case examples illustrate how diagnosing food intolerances with Nutriscan and then removing any reactive foods from a pet’s diet has a successful outcome:
Brandy 5 years old, entire female, 40 pounds, Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever
- Very itchy puppy scratching, skin rashes and loss of patches of hair
- Hypoallergenic shampoos and wearing a T-shirt didn’t help much
- Reactive foods identified with Nutriscan and removed
- 2 weeks later scratching abated
- More reactive foods arose, especially soy
- Strict dietary control has kept her healthy as an adult
Healthy and happy after reactive foods were removed from her diet
Rosie 6 years old, spayed female, 35 pounds, Border Collie mix
- Intense itching on limbs and feet, dry cracked foot pads, constant rubbing of face, muzzle and around eyes
- 10 Nutriscan reactive foods removed from diet
- 3-5 weeks later, itching and rubbing subsiding; face and limb redness fading and healing; foot pads softened
- 2 months later, almost healed and happy
- Inhalant and contact allergens addressed as well
Red and itchy face before Nutriscan testing
Face almost completely healed after removing foods identified by Nutriscan as reactive
Jojan 19 years old, spayed female, Silver Domestic Shorthaired Cat
- Experienced intermittent weight loss and poor appetite
- Thyroid profile was normal
- Food reactivities on Nutriscan were Cow’s Milk, Corn, and White-Colored Fish
- All sources of these foods in diet and supplements (including cornstarch) were removed
- Gave only homemade diet of grass-fed meats plus some vegetables and blueberries
- Mood and appetite improved and has remained good
Sleek haircoat, calm, and good weight after Nutriscan adjustment of diet
The debate about the most accurate and predictive clinical and laboratory diagnosis of food adverse reactions in companion animals has been ongoing for two decades. Should we rely upon the patient’s clinical response and outcome, patch testing, extended food elimination trials, the presence of allergen-specific serum antibodies, direct bowel surface food-sensitivity testing and fecal immunoglobulin levels, or the novel validated saliva-based Nutriscan test described here?
Food patch testing was recently reported to be reliable as a tool to identify suitable ingredients for an elimination diet due to its high negative predictability. However, patch testing also is time-consuming, expensive and because of its low positive predictive value cannot identify offending allergens. Most pet owners would prefer faster and easier performed diagnostic tools.
Intradermal tests with food components or tests for food-specific serum immunity have so far failed to reliably identify dogs with adverse food reactions and thus cannot be recommended for this diagnosis in clinical practice. Measuring serum antibody levels to specific food ingredients does not correlate well with clinical patient outcomes or dietary re-challenge studies.
Many commercial pet foods contain meat and flavorings not listed or specified on the label. Current studies have examined the presence of these undeclared ingredients which:
- critically assessed published discrepancies between ingredients and labeling in commercial pet foods, including those with “novel” or “limited” ingredients and containing micronized hydrolysates
- found that the median mislabeling was 45 % of tested diets with a range of 33-83% for the “novel/limited” ingredients ones that are used for food elimination trials, and one hydrolyzed diet
The authors concluded that before ruling out a food component as an allergen, a novel protein home-made diet trial should be performed, if the dog is unresponsive to a commercial regimen.
The data summarized above are further confounded by the fact that many pets also receive a variety of supplements, preventive pharmaceuticals such as those for heartworm, flea and tick exposures, as well as puppy and periodic booster vaccines. These products usually contain meat, especially beef, pork and chicken, as well as other flavorings and several types of fish oils, and nearly all vaccines contain fetal calf serum.
The problem is more complicated when veterinary therapeutic and supplement items and over-the-counter products may not accurately list the ingredients or their antigen sources on the label or product insert. When recommending food elimination trials, only non-flavored oral or topical therapies, pill pockets, and supplements should be used. Additionally, gelatin capsules may contain either beef or pork proteins and should not be administered during a trial.
In summary, Hemopet’s patented test for food-specific antibodies in saliva is available worldwide for dogs, cats and horses. The test is easy to perform and noninvasive, and thus is very acceptable to pet owners. The cases described above attest to its reliability and efficacy.
For more information on Nutriscan, please visit the official website at http://bit.ly/2SPZHsl
Dodds WJ. Diagnosis of canine food sensitivity and intolerance using saliva: report of outcomes. J Am Hol Vet Med Assoc 2017/2018; 49:32-43.
Dodds WJ. Challenges in food quality, safety and intolerances. Timely Top Clin Immunol 2018; 2 (2):16-20.
Olivry T, Mueller RS. Critically appraised topic on adverse food reactions of companion animals (5): discrepancies between ingredients and labeling in commercial pet foods. BMC Vet Res 2018: 14:24-28.
I’ve always believed in the adage ‘you are what you eat’.
This is not a new concept. Way back around 600 BC Hippocrates famously said: “Let medicine be thy food, and food be thy medicine”.
Prudence, my Miniature Bull terrier, Mr Binks my English Toy Terrier, and Gremlin my cat, all eat a raw diet.
They’re benefitting from my study with the College of Integrated Veterinary Therapies where I learnt about the new science of Nutrigenomics.
I learnt that key nutrients have an influence at a cellular level to boost the immune system, prevent disease, prevent obesity, and even delay aging.
Nutrigenomics reveals how functional foods nourish deep at a cellular level to influence our genetic make up through gene expression.
Nutrients interrelate with our epigenome, which is a clever structural layer that surrounds our DNA.
Luckily ready prepared convenience foods have never appealed to me. I’m conscious of not consuming too many processed foods, and don’t own a microwave.
I want to balance the inevitable negative health effects triggered by modern environmental stressors like air pollution, over medication, intensive farming, pesticides, insecticides and the like that are all ubiquitous to modern living.
It’s been easy for me to transfer my eating values to my pets. It all began 16 years ago when Molly my first Miniature Bull terrier arrived.
Her breeder advised me not to feed the standard dry ‘cremated’ pellets so often recommended by vets. Instead to feed her raw green tripe mixed with some vegetables, and some fruits.
Raw green tripe (not to be confused with the white, bleached tripe prepared for human consumption) is a rich source of nutrients for dogs – it’s an elixir!
The stomach of a ruminating (grazing) animal including cows, and sheep, green tripe is packed with key nutrients, proteins, fats, pre and probiotics and is low in fat.
This is because the unique stomachs of these ruminants have four chambers to naturally process grasses with a slew of digestive enzymes, gastric juices and amino acids.
Over the years Molly championed an awareness of raw green tripe as a superfood for dogs.
It may not smell like a bed of roses, but I’ve got used to the aroma! It’s a small inconvenience to bare, in return for one meat ingredient that boasts so many health benefits as a functional food.
I like to combine some muscle meat like lamb, or venison. Another staple functional food that’s always in our fridge are lamb’s hearts.
Rich in amino acids, especially Taurine, Gremlin eats one or two hearts a day. Without Taurine a cat’s immune system shuts down. A cat cannot survive without Taurine.
Cats are known as obligate carnivores, which means they are biologically and physiologically designed to eat meat.
The interrelationship between diet and health is inextricable. By feeding as nature intended, we can impact so positively on the health and well-being of our pets.
I feed strategically and add a variety of fresh very finely chopped leafy greens like kale, spinach or watercress for a mineral and vitamin boost.
I’m fascinated by recent research that highlights the brain boosting capacity of Coconut oil, which we all take in moderation, and I use probiotics.
Whilst dogs do produce Vitamin C, I never underestimate the potential of berries like a blackberry or a blueberry as anti-oxidants that absorb unwanted C02 and free radicals from our system, boosting our immune system.
I’ll add some small fish like sardines or sprats for an Omega boost as well as a raw egg beaten up and served as a low calorie, Omega rich snack.
Even if everyone made tiny steps towards a raw diet, beginning with home cooked foods, it’s a way of helping to manage your dogs’ health, naturally.
“Let food be thy medicine” Hippocrates.