FRIDAY, Sept. 18, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Despite the deep desire to help your dog age gracefully and stay mentally sharp, new research suggests that even the best diet and training won't slow the ravages of time for your furry friend.
Just like their human owners, dogs can experience thinking declines and behavioral changes as they age. They might display less curiosity about novel objects and show decline in social responsiveness, memory and attention, the researchers explained.
Studies have suggested that lifelong training and an enriched diet could slow dogs' mental aging, but few have explored aging in pet dogs in real-life settings.
In this latest study, an international team of researchers led by Durga Chapagain, from the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, Austria, found that middle-aged to elderly dogs who were trained throughout their life and fed a nutrient-enriched diet for a year performed no better on thinking tests than dogs who received less training and ate a regular diet.
The study included more than 100 pet dogs over the age of 6 years and of varying breeds. The participating dogs were split randomly into two groups: half were fed a nutrient-enriched diet, including antioxidants and omega fatty acids, while the other half consumed a regular diet. The researchers also collected information from the pets' owners about their dogs' previous training.
After a year on the diet, the researchers evaluated the dogs' mental capacities using a cognitive test that is designed for older canines.
Sadly, diet and training were found to have no significant impact on mental decline, the study authors said.
The aging dogs experienced declines in four particular areas: problem-solving, sociability, boldness and dependency. However, the findings showed that their trainability and activity independence appeared to remain sharp.
The study was published online Sept. 16 in the journal PLOS ONE.
Visit the American Veterinary Medical Association for more on senior pet health.
SOURCE: PLOS ONE, news release, Sept. 16, 2020