Brain Aging, Behavioral Changes & Alertness in Dogs

Brain Aging, Behavioral Changes and Alertness in Dogs

Just like us, our pets can suffer as they age, leaving them with declining quality of life and day to day function. These kinds of age-related changes aren’t just physical. They affect your pet’s ability to learn, alertness, awareness, memory, and senses of hearing and sight. Perhaps most sobering, aging can alter your pet’s social relationships, both with you and your other pets.

Remember, it’s not always the case that your animal is simply getting old. Sometimes your pet may be suffering from age-related issues that can be helped with better treatment, medication, and other types of treatment such as behavioral therapy. There is often more we can do to help our pets age more easily, so don’t be afraid to seek out help.

What are signs of old age in dogs and common older cat behavior changes?

Aging is a natural part of life for your dog or cat; about half of all dogs and cats who reach 8 years old will exhibit some signs of brain aging:

  • disturbances in their sleeping and waking cycle
  • neediness
  • getting lost in familiar surroundings
  • poor vision
  • poor hearing
  • licks people and objects repetitively
  • goes to the hinge side/wrong side of the door
  • decreased appetite
  • forgetting certain training
  • vocalizes more, including in inappropriate settings
  • inability to circumnavigate obstacles
  • listlessness, lack of interest in socializing
  • eats less
  • paces aimlessly
  • anxiety
  • poor grooming
  • has accidents inside and where he or she sleeps
  • incontinence
  • aggression

IMPORTANT: If you recognize any of these signs in your pet, tell your veterinarian.

What causes my pet’s brain to age?

Aging is tough on both the body and the brain for both dogs and cats. takes a toll on a dog’s entire body, including his brain. In recent years, many experts have pointed to free radicals, oxygen molecules that lack stability, as the primary source of aging. Free radicals damage the cells of the brain as the animal gets older. And while some free radicals arise naturally, resulting from surrounding environmental conditions, it is the body’s metabolism that produces the majority of these molecules. The impact of free radicals in the brain causes age-related behavioral changes.

Why is the brain vulnerable to free radicals?

  • Free radicals target lipids, and the brain has high lipid content
  • The brain needs more oxygen, so unstable oxygen molecules are more likely to be encountered by the brain
  • Limited capabilities for antioxidant repair and defense


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Mitochondria are specialized structures found in the cells of animals as well as fungi and plants. They serve as the power source for the cell and its various functions, much like batteries. Older mitochondria are more likely to be compromised and produce more free radicals which are highly toxic, not to mention less energy.

Although free radicals are an unfortunate part of any animal’s aging process, antioxidants, minerals and vitamins have been shown to protect against some free radical damage, thereby helping your pet maintain normal behavior as he or she ages.




The Importance of Nutrition in the Fight Against Brain Diseases in Dogs and Cats

Proper nutrition is critical to maintaining your dog or cat’s health, especially as he or she ages. Don’t just write your pet off as the aging process begins; instead, continue to provide foods that are rich sources of essential nutrients and antioxidants to extend your pet’s happy, alert and active years. For diagnosis of brain diseases and treatment options for cat and dog behavior changes, always consult with your veterinarian. Ask for their advice about the best foods for maintaining brain health.

The nutritional profile of dog food and snacks should ideally contain beneficial phytochemicals and antioxidants, which serve as neuroprotectants, reduce inflammation, ward off disease, and optimize nutrient absorption.

See our Breed Guide for more specifics on your pet.

Source: Hill’s.


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