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Like humans, dogs are living longer and therefore spend a longer period of life as a senior. With this growth in the ageing dog population, more pet parents are experiencing the strain of having an older dog presenting with a decline in cognitive function. This condition is called Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS) and is compared to Alzheimer’s disease in humans.
Dogs with CDS may show signs of confusion and/or various other behavioral changes that are not a normal part of ageing. Experts have developed a checklist of symptoms in the general categories: disorientation and confusion, reduced interaction with family members, atypical changes in sleep and activity and a loss of house-training.
In one study at the University of California Davis, 62% of 11- to 16-year-old dogs showed signs in at least one category of CDS. With an increased humanization of dogs, many pet owners will be seeking to prevent the onset of CDS using nutritional intervention because this condition is not reversible.
There is a growing amount of evidence that consumption of fish oils rich in omega 3’s, particularly the omega 3 fatty acid known as DHA, can help support cognitive health. Fish however do not produce these omega 3 fatty acids themselves. Omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA found in some fish are produced by certain species of marine micro-algae naturally. These micro-algae are at the very start of the marine food chain. Algal omega 3’s therefore bioaccumulate through the food chain into ocean fish as shown below. Using micro-algae as an omega 3 source rather than fish therefore makes good sense.
Carefully grown, natural micro-algae like DHAgold™ is not only a nutritious ingredient it is more consistent, sustainable, and a safer source of omega 3’s than fish ingredients. It is however relatively new to animal nutrition. Consequently, few studies have been carried out to demonstrate its effect on the health of companion animals.
The benefit of DHAgold™ from DSM Nutritional Products was recently investigated by CanCog technologies, world leaders in companion animal cognition and behavioral sciences. CanCog has developed a series of behavior-based tests that evaluate the animals’ ability to visually identify and remember various objects and images. These tests are performed over time to determine changes in the animals’ performance based only on their daily diet.
The study used a standard commercially available dry dog food made with added DHAgold (Test) and without (Control). The test and control diets were fed for 6 months to two cognitively equivalent groups of 8.5 to 11-year-old dogs. Over the course of this study, five different behavioral based tests were performed to measure components of visual performance, learning and memory which together describe an individual’s cognitive function. This was a blinded study meaning both the investigators and the technicians did not know which diet contained DHAgold until the end of the study.
Although there were several significant findings, two of the tests showed outstanding results: the concurrent discrimination and contrast sensitivity tests.
The concurrent discrimination test measured each dog’s ability to perform the task correctly during a daily session over a forty (40) day period. Both groups of dogs had improved learning over time; however, the group of dogs on the Test diet containing DHAgold had significantly more correct responses over the forty sessions/days (p=0.0187). The experts at CanCog interpreted these findings and other related test results as an indication of improved learning and long-term memory due to supplementation with DHAgold.
For the contrast sensitivity test each dog had to visually identify printed geometric images on a white background, with decreasing contrast with the measure being success rate.
Naturally more correct answers are seen with 100% contrast (black on white) but greater differences between each group were noted as the contrast was reduced step-wise down to 5% (light grey on white). Over 60% of the group of dogs on the test diet containing DHAgold successfully completed all levels of training, while less than 30% of the group of dogs on the control diet successfully completed all levels of training. The experts at Cancog interpreted these findings as an indication of improved visual processing ability due to supplementation with DHAgold involving the retina, cerebral cortex and possibly both.
Addressing health benefits that matter to pet parents, the high quality micro-algae DHAgold promises a brighter and smarter future for pets.
DHAgold is a trademark of DSM.
22 September 2019
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