Historically, treatment of age-related cognitive decline (ARCD) in dogs has largely been pharmacologic. However, a recent study that used dietary intervention with a specially formulated food containing antioxidants and mitochondrial cofactors showed significant alleviation of age-dependent cognitive deficits of memory and learning in dogs. This study evaluated patient response as assessed by pet owners when dogs consumed either a fortified diet (similar to Prescription Diet Canine b/d) or an adult maintenance diet. The fortified diet contained antioxidants, a mixture of fruits and vegetables, mitochondrial cofactors (α-lipoic acid and L-carnitine), and omega-3 fatty acids. Twenty-four veterinary hospitals participated in this 60-day study. Neither the veterinarians nor the owners knew which pets received the fortified food. Physical examinations and laboratory screenings were conducted at days 0, 30, and 60. To be eligible for the study, the dogs had to be at least 7 years of age; have body condition scores between 2 and 4 on a 5-point scale; consistently exhibit at least two of the characteristics of ARCD (disorientation or confusion, irregular sleep patterns, decreased activity, decreased interaction with or responsiveness to family members, and loss of housetraining); be free of concurrent medical or other behavioral conditions; exhibit good health; and have a sterile urine culture.

Of 125 dogs that completed the study, 61 received the fortified food and 64 received the control. Pet owners completed a standardized, informant-based questionnaire at enrollment and on days 30 and 60 of the study. Significant improvements were seen in 14 of 16 individual attributes for the fortified food group and 4 of 14 for the control group. This study as well as an earlier study of cognitive learning indicates that a fortified food, such as this one, helps slow manifestations of ARCD. Study sponsored by Science & Technology Center, Hill's Pet Nutrition, Topeka.

Can a fortified food affect the behavioral manifestations of age-related cognitive decline in dogs? Dodd CE, Zicker SC, Jewell DE, et al. VET MED May 2003:396-408.