Some studies have shown that eating a diet rich in antioxidants helps to slow down brain aging in humans. Oxidative damage plays an important role in the aging brain and in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Some studies show that diets rich in antioxidants, particularly vitamin E, can help to prevent dementia in humans. But, humans aren’t the only ones affected by the aging process. What about our canine friends? Are antioxidant vitamins good for an older dog?


The Aging Canine: Canine Cognitive Disorder

Believe it or not, dogs can become senile too. When senility occurs in a dog, the condition is known as canine cognitive disorder. This condition occurs in dogs as young as age eight and causes changes similar to those seen in demented humans such as confusion, altered sleep patterns, aggression, and confusion. As in humans, there’s no cure for this condition, but there are drugs that can help to slow down its progress when a dog is severely affected. A study published in Neurobiology of Aging showed that aging canine brains exhibit some of the same changes seen in older human brains including evidence of oxidative damage that may be helped by an antioxidant-rich diet. The researchers concluded based on the brain changes seen in aging dogs, antioxidants may have benefits just as they do in humans.

Antioxidant Benefits for Dogs

Antioxidants may not only be beneficial for a dog with canine cognitive dysfunction, but for other aging canines as well. A study published in the FASEB Journal showed that eight year old Beagle dogs supplemented with the antioxidants, acetyl-l-carnitine and alpha-lipoic acid had an increased ability to discriminate and complete spatial learning tasks. Good news for dogs and dog owners alike.


Antioxidants for an Older Dog: The Bottom Line…

Although it appears that antioxidants have benefits for dogs, particularly aging canines, giving them the antioxidants they need may be tricky since there are so few guidelines available. Some dog food companies such as Iams supplements their dog foods with antioxidants, and you can also purchase antioxidant supplements for an older dog from various online companies. In humans, antioxidant supplements haven’t shown to be as effective as those derived naturally from foods, and one study showed that antioxidant supplements increased the risk of lung cancer in human smokers. It’s not clear whether antioxidant supplements in the form of pills are as good for aging canines as those derived naturally from foods.

You may be tempted to give your aging canine antioxidant rich human foods such as fruits and vegetables, but this should be done with caution since some human foods are toxic to dogs. It may be best to talk to your veterinarian about antioxidants supplements that would be beneficial for an older dog. Antioxidants may not only help brain function in aging canines, but may help to protect your dog against disease by boosting immune function too.