Does Diet Affect My Pet’s Brain?
If you feed your pet a Raw diet then you are probably reaping the rewards of a reduction of allergy symptoms, cleaner stools, improved digestion, healthier skin, coat, teeth and fresher breath to name a few. But what about your pets’ overall behaviour? Can diet actually have an effect on our pet’s brain, learning and behaviour?
Research into the effects of diet on brain health and behaviour is still ongoing, but as a starting point let’s look at some of the key components of a Raw pet food diet and some of their benefits in keeping our pups brain’s in good condition.
The Good Fats
Fat is a very broad term and can be a very confusing aspect when it comes to our pet’s nutrition that’s because some fats are:
- Essential for health
- Very detrimental to health
Let’s look at some of the good fats, like omega-3s, which are believed to help your pet’s brain and have a positive affect on their behaviour.
A number of studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids have wide-ranging positive effects on the health of dogs. Amongst others, omega-3 fatty acids can contribute to the brain development of puppies, strengthen the immune system of dogs, reduce inflammation, increase the ability to fight cancer and benefit heart health.
In one American study, puppies fed food containing high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids rich in DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) performed better in various tasks than puppies with a low omega-3 diet. The tests the young dogs performed in this study included the visual differentiation of objects, memory, balance and coordination tasks.
Natural Sources of Omega-3
To help your dog maintain peak brain health, a diet rich in omega-3s with enough cholesterol is key. Consider adding eggs, grass-fed red meats that are high in Omega 3 and occasionally, if required some omega oil to your pet’s diet.
Many of our Raw pet food products are also a good source of Omega-3 some of which include:
- CTF – Chicken Turkey Fish Mix
- RMD – Chucky Kangaroo Mullet Duck Mix
- Pilchards/ Sardines
- Salmon Fingerlings
Visit our online shop to discover more
Good Quality Proteins
Proteins are chains of little building blocks called amino acids and your pet needs to get 10 of these essential amino acids in their food or their health will suffer. Many foods are high in protein, but don’t have the minimum amount of these critical amino acids your pet needs to thrive.
Amino Acids For The Brain
Proteins and amino acids are essential for all cells in every part of the body. An amino acid or protein deficiency can affect all the organs in the body, cause hormone imbalances and behavioural changes. Getting the proteins right in your pet’s diet is a pretty important part when it comes to your pet’s overall health and brain function. Amino acids have a number of important functions in our pets, including:
- Hormone control
- Enzyme activity
- Immune function
- Tissue repair
- Brain chemicals and mood
- Produce some vitamins (B3)
- Brain, eye and heart function
Some amino acids are thought to be important ingredients in chemical messengers called neurotransmitters. Some of these neurotransmitters are important in cognition, reward, memory, and in moderating anxiety. Serotonin and noradrenaline are two of these important neurotransmitters which are created in the body using the amino acid’s tryptophan and tyrosine.
Taurine For Cats – Taurine is an amino acid that is essential for cats. While taurine isn’t an essential amino acid for dogs, taurine deficiency can be quite common. Technically, taurine isn’t really an amino acid but like amino acids, it plays a key role in most organs and helps with brain health amongst other things. Taurine deficiency is important to avoid because it can cause a heart condition called dilated cardiomyopathy and eye issues in cats.
Evidence on specific amino acid supplementation and pet behaviour is still fairly inconclusive. But certain proteins are very important in ensuring adequate levels of important neurotransmitters and therefore a pet food diet rich in high-quality proteins especially during times of stress will help support your dog’s brain health and behaviour.
What Proteins Should I Include In My Pet’s Diet?
Proteins from animal sources are much more complete than those from plant sources. If you’re feeding your dog grains, these incomplete sources of protein can start to cause amino acid deficiency in your dog because they’re quite low in the essential amino acids. This is why most kibbles and commercial diets (which are at least 30% starch or grain), have to add amino acids to their foods to make up for the incomplete (cheap) source of protein. The biologic value of animal-based proteins is generally quite high, your dog will do well on a raw diet in most cases.
What Other Factors Do I Need To Consider?
Vitamins and Antioxidants – A nutrient-rich diet for dogs enables peak body and brain performance. Certain vitamins such as thiamine (B1) found in Kangaroo proteins are essential for maintaining healthy brain cells. Antioxidants found in many foods can help prevent brain cell damage that may be caused by normal metabolism. For a product high in antioxidants try our Hemp Seed and Flax Oil.
Fiber – Providing your fur friend with adequate fiber can lower hunger-related stress resulting in a calmer, less anxious dog. Consider trying Herb Chia Seeds in your dog’s raw food to promote brain health and add some fiber into their diet.
Probiotics – It is believed that healthy gut bacteria can help normal neural development. A good gut can also help with brain biochemistry and behaviour. There has been some studies that suggests that a diverse microbiome and probiotic supplementation can be beneficial for your pets brain including:
- Reducing stress
- Improving memory
- Decreasing aggression
- Slowing age-related cognitive decline in dogs
But, if your pet is generally healthy and is being fed a raw diet rich in natural food nutrients, they are probably getting everything they need already. Over-supplementation may cause their body to slow down or even halt production of some naturally occurring enzymes. Speak to your holistic vet if you have any concerns.
Carbohydrates – Studies have found that eating refined sugars and carbohydrates is harmful to the brain. It impairs memory and worsens mood disorders. This is just one reason to avoid commercial pet diets high in refined carbohydrates.
Brain Toys and Exercise – Don’t forget about the importance of play. Exercise stimulates the mind, especially new physical activities, surroundings or games Functional toys, such as treat dispensing balls or puzzle toys, are a great way to stimulate your dog’s brain and body. As dog’s age, the need for stimulation increases and these toys are particularly important for adult and senior dogs
You can view our large range of fresh preservative-free raw pet food products via our online shop.
- Zicker SC, Jewell DE, Yamka RM, et al: Evaluation of cognitive learning, memory, psychomotor, immunologic, and retinal functions in healthy puppies fed foods fortified with docosahexaenoic acid-rich fish oil from 8 to 52 weeks of age. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association; 2012, 241(5): 583-94.