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Prevention is Key: 5 Essential Habits to Support Your Senior Dog's Brain Health

Updated: May 12, 2023

As dogs age, they can experience a decline in cognitive function, just like humans. Listed below are but a few key habits to support your dog's cognitive health as they age:

Encourage exercise:

Regular exercise is essential not only for physical health but also for your dog's cognitive function. Exercise can help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, all of which can impact cognitive function.

Indeed, a study published in Nature from dogs enrolled in The Dog Aging Project found that exercise may play a significant role in preventing cognitive decline.

Researchers at the University of Washington discovered that dogs reported as not active had 6.47 times higher odds of receiving a diagnosis of cognitive dysfunction compared to dogs reported as very active. Importantly, the researchers noted that the disease itself could lead to a lack of exercise. However, they emphasized that the study results, which were based on owners' observations, suggest a correlation, not causation.

Provide mental stimulation:

Mental stimulation can help keep your dog's brain active and engaged. As an idea, consider providing them with toys that dispense treats when they're played with. Training sessions can also be an excellent way to keep your dog's mind active.

Speaking of the need for mental stimulation, Dr. Annette Fitzpatrick - a co-author of the above study from the University of Washington said, "When you don’t get stimulation from the outside world, it seems to increase the risk of our not even being able to use our brains as well.”

Feed a nutritious diet:

A balanced, nutritious diet is essential not only for overall health but also cognitive function. Ensure that your dog's food provides all the essential nutrients, which could include medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). In a 2018 study involving 87 dogs that were fed an MCT-enriched diet over 90 days, dogs were found to show a significant improvement across all 6 categories of a senior canine health questionaire. This included reduced disorientation, anxiety and sleep-wake cycle disturbance (Pan et al., 2018).

Provide socialization opportunities:

Socialization can help keep your dog's mind active and engaged. Encourage interactions with other dogs and people, and consider enrolling in obedience classes or other training programs.

Schedule regular check-ups with your vet:

Regular check-ups can help detect any potential health problems that may impact your dog's cognitive function. Your veterinarian can also recommend supplements or medications supporting your dog's cognitive health, including non-invasive dietary interventions such as medium-chain triglycerides.


By providing mental stimulation, a nutritious diet, regular exercise, socialization opportunities, and regular check-ups with your veterinarian, you can help keep your dog's brain healthy as they age.

Remember, prevention is key, and taking steps now can help ensure your dog lives a happy and healthy life well into their senior years.


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