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Is dog dementia real?
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Is dog dementia real?

Are puppies who get omega-3 smarter and better behaved?

Similar to other chronic health conditions that people share with dogs, our canine friends can also be affected by a condition called canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD) or dog dementia, which is similar Alzheimers disease in humans.

Here are some of the most recent research and science behind CCD in dogs.

Exercise can help to prevent dog dementia!

A 2022 study in Scientific Reports involving 15,019 dogs from the Dog Aging Project, found that regular exercise could potentially ward off cognitive dysfunction in dogs. Dogs reported as inactive had a 6.47 times higher risk of being diagnosed with CCD compared to highly active dogs.

-Yarborough, S., Fitzpatrick, A., Schwartz, S.M. et al. Evaluation of cognitive function in the Dog Aging Project: associations with baseline canine characteristics. Sci Rep 12, 13316 (2022).

Dogs may be able to help us understand human cognitive health

A 2023 article in the American Journal of Veterinary Research the authors highlighted the potential of using client-owned dogs with naturally occurring CCD could help in understand Alzheimers in peoples translational research on Alzheimer's.

-Hunter, R. P., Ehrenzweig, J., Hainsworth, A., Crawford, A., Dagan, A., Sage, J., & Araujo, J. (2023). One-health approach to canine cognitive decline: Dogs Overcoming Geriatric Memory and Aging Initiative for early detection of cognitive decline. American Journal of Veterinary Research, 84(11), ajvr.23.02.0032. 

Can omega-3 - DHA and EPA help senior dogs with dementia?

There are multiple studies that suggest that omega-3 fatty acids, particularly DHA and EPA, have beneficial effects in treating or slowing cognitive decline and canine dementia.

One study found that aged dogs fed a diet enriched with DHA and EPA for 6 months showed significant improvement in cognitive measures like learning ability, memory, and psychomotor control compared to a control group.

Research from the British Journal of Nutrition in 2005 showed that aged Beagle dogs supplemented with DHA for 8 months performed significantly improved cognitive abilities.

Also, the 2018 study in the Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology found that senior dogs given DHA-rich oil for 2 months exhibited improvements in attention, memory, trainability and other cognitive measures.

There are many more studies available on the positive effect of DHA in dogs but one things is clear. DHA can help dogs with Canine Cognitive Disease - dementia.

Squid oil, that has double the amount of DHA than fish and krill oil, is sustainable as fish stock depletion has lead to an increase in squid population - a common food source for fish. 

-Hunter, R. P., Ehrenzweig, J., Hainsworth, A., Crawford, A., Dagan, A., Sage, J., & Araujo, J. (2023). One-health approach to canine cognitive decline: Dogs Overcoming Geriatric Memory and Aging Initiative for early detection of cognitive decline. American Journal of Veterinary Research, 84(11), ajvr.23.02.0032.

-Chapagain, D., Wallis, L. J., Range, F., Affenzeller, N., Serra, J., & Virányi, Z. (2020). Behavioural and cognitive changes in aged pet dogs: No effects of an enriched diet and lifelong training. PLOS ONE, 15(9), e0238517.

-Araujo, J. A., Segarra, S., Mendes, J., Paradis, A., Brooks, M., Thevarkunnel, S., & Milgram, N. W. (2022). Sphingolipids and DHA Improve Cognitive Deficits in Aged Beagle Dogs. Frontiers in Veterinary Science, 9, 646451.

Is DHA necessary for healthy development of puppy brain, learning and behaviour?

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) plays a crucial role in normal brain development and cognitive function in dogs. Studies have shown that DHA supplementation during these stages can significantly support brain and vision development even before puppies are born!

For instance, a study mentioned in the Veterinary Practice article discusses how DHA dietary supplementation during the pre- and post-natal period demonstrated greater learning capacity, memory, and problem-solving skills.

DHA protects the brain!

DHA has neuroprotective properties that are beneficial for maintaining cognitive function as dogs age and the survival of the nerve cells.

In summary these findings show how important DHA and omega-3 fatty acids are in dogs and people of all ages, but particularly during the early development  and as part of a strategy to maintain cognitive function in seniors

-Rodrigues, R. B. A., Zafalon, R. V. A., Rentas, M. F., Risolia, L. W., Macedo, H. T., Perini, M. P., da Silva, A. M. G., Marchi, P. H., Balieiro, J. C. de C., Mendes, W. S., Vendramini, T. H. A., Brunetto, M. A., & Lyn, H. (Academic Editor). (2023). The Supplementation of Docosahexaenoic Acid-Concentrated Fish Oil Enhances Cognitive Function in Puppies. Animals (Basel), 13(18), 2938.

-Veterinary Practice. (2024, March 29). How can DHA dietary supplementation support brain development in pets? 

What source of EPA and DHA is good, is fish or krill oil safe?

When considering omega-3 sources like fish and krill oil, it's crucial to address both mercury content and sustainability.

Fish, especially larger species, can accumulate significant amounts of mercury, posing health risks when consumed in large quantities. Smaller fish and those lower on the food chain generally have lower mercury levels but are generally at risk of overfishing.

On the sustainability front, the extraction of krill oil raises concerns. Krill are fundamental to marine ecosystems, and their over-harvesting could disrupt these critical environments.

Why I choose calamari oil as my preferred source of omega-3s

Firstly, calamari is a sustainable option. The squid population has been increasing, which may be a result of climate change and the decrease in the number of squid-eating fish.

This makes calamari a more environmentally responsible choice compared to other marine sources which are often overfished.

Secondly, calamari oil is exceptionally rich in DHA and EPA, the most valuable types of omega-3s and contains double the DHA in other sources like krill or fish.

DHA is crucial for brain health, cognition and memory and it also plays a vital role in maintaining the integrity of the blood-brain barrier, which protects the brain from toxins and harmful substances.

Being low on the food chain, calamari accumulates fewer toxins compared to larger fish. This makes it a cleaner source of omega-3s, free from heavy metals and other contaminants often found in fish oils.


As you can see from the research mentioned in this and my previous blog on dementia prevention in people, DHA is important in protecting the brain, preventing memory loss and ensuring healthy development and aging. EPA is mainly important for cell repair and its anti-inflammatory effects.

I hope that you’ll find the journey of uncovering the wisdom of natures healing as exciting as I do and that it will make a difference in creating a healthy and longer life for you and your canine friend. 


About the author

Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM is an Integrative veterinarian, nutritionist and creator of natural supplements for dogs and people. Helping you and your dog prevent disease, treat nutritional deficiencies, and enjoy happier, healthier, and longer lives together.

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