Nutrition and your senior dog

Nutrition and Your Senior Dog


Nutrition and your senior dog

It’s easy to assume that the changes older dogs experience are inevitable. While hard to believe, most dogs are considered “senior” around age seven, and around this time, may slow down, sleep more, play less and otherwise show signs of age. But older dogs that get exercise, mental stimulation and specially-formulated nutrition can avoid some of the physical and cognitive changes that can come along with age such as decreased lean muscle mass, reduced mobility, reduced metabolism and changes in mental sharpness. Along with these changes, a senior dog’s nutritional needs change. This is why it’s important to feed your senior dog a food formulated specifically to meet his nutritional needs.

I’ve worked at Nestle Purina for close to 28 years, and as Director of Nutrition Research, I am part of a team of 500 researchers in R&D developing pet food innovations. We’ve been studying aging in pets for more than a Nutrition and your senior dogdecade, and the PetCare Research team that I work with has been dedicated to uncovering the latest advancements in canine cognitive health to keep pets’ brains sharper, longer. As researchers, we asked, “what if nutrition could positively impact a dog’s cognitive health?” And we made a remarkable discovery: it can.

Maybe you’ve noticed that your dog is interacting with you less. Or has lower engagement in daily activities. These are just some of the signs your dog may be aging. And like you, we wondered why. There is a reason your dog may be experiencing these age-related changes. A senior dog study found that around age 7, the glucose metabolism in a dog’s brain begins to change – affecting things like memory, attention, learning or decision making.

Our team of Purina scientists discovered that nutrition can positively impact a dog’s cognitive health and developed a breakthrough nutrition innovation – BRIGHT MIND Adult 7+ – to support cognitive health in dogs ages seven and older.

BRIGHT MIND Adult 7+ formulas contain enhanced botanical oils called MCTs, which have been shown to promote alertness and mental sharpness in dogs seven and older. MCTs provide an additional source of energy for the brain cells to naturally nourish their minds and help them think more like they did when they were younger. When added to the daily diet of dogs seven and older, formulas that contain enhanced botanical oils promoted memory, attention and trainability.

Feeding your senior dog Purina Pro Plan BRIGHT MIND Adult 7+ as a daily diet, you may notice differences in the way your dog interacts with you, their interest in play and their ability to adapt and cope with change.

I’ve been doing this for a long time, and one of the most rewarding parts of my job is seeing the difference that this food is making for owners and their senior dogs – it’s really changing their lives. We’ve heard such positive feedback and stories from owners about the impact of BRIGHT MIND Adult 7+ formulas on their dog and how it has changed their relationship.

Success story

Ray and Jan, owners of Lady, told us that Lady used to be the queen of playing soccer – any time, any place, she was always ready for a game, eager to run up and down the stairs and catch the ball as fast as she could. But, as Lady got older, things started to change. She started to slow down. She just wasn’t as interested in playing – and she didn’t seem excited about the things she used to love.

Ray and Jan agreed to give BRIGHT MIND Adult 7+ a try, and when we checked back in 30 days later, they couldn’t stop talking about the incredible difference they saw.  Lady was once again interested in learning new things, had a bright look in her eyes, and, maybe most importantly, was excited to play soccer again.

If Lady’s story sounds familiar, consult your veterinarian to discuss if a change to your senior dog’s diet could be in order and see how BRIGHT MIND Adult 7+ can help. With the right care, attention and nutrition, you and your dog can make the most of all of your years together.



Janet Jackson Director of Nutrition Research Purina

Janet is the Vice President & Director of the Nestle Research Center (NRC) at Nestle Purina PetCare.  She joined Purina in 1990 after receiving her PhD in Animal Nutrition from the University of Illinois. Her team is responsible for developing nutritional innovations for Purina products by continuing to build knowledge to enhance the overall health of our pets so they can live long, healthy, happy lives. Janet grew up on a farm in North Central Illinois and has had cats and dogs as long as she can remember.  Janet and her husband currently enjoy the company of three cats: Callie, Lucy, and most recently, King Tut.


dementia in dogs by Dr Judy Morgan

Dementia in Dogs

dementia in dogs by Dr Judy Morgan


I can’t think of anything more rewarding than making the last years of a pet’s life the absolute best they can be. There are many issues that may need to be addressed as our pets age, including mobility, pain, changes in vision and hearing, cognition or senility, dental care, incontinence, cancer, and changes in appetite and nutritional needs.

Many seniors have changes in mental status us they age, but owners may or may not recognize the changes as being Dr Judy Morgan on Dementia in Dogssigns of cognitive dysfunction. The most common clinical signs of “senility” include increased total amount of sleep during a 24-hour period, decreased attention to surroundings, disinterest, apathy, decreased purposeful activity, loss of formerly acquired knowledge (including elimination behaviors), and intermittent anxiety shown as apprehension, panting, moaning, or shivering.

There are some easy ways to help our pets maintain good mental health and slow their decline into dementia. These can include the use of puzzles or games that require the animals to find a hidden treat. Nina Ottosson and Kong toys are great examples. They come in different levels of complexity and the level of difficulty can be increased as the pet learns how to work the puzzles.

There are many supplements that can increase brain activity and slow the signs of senility. One of my favorites is coconut oil. Coconut oil improves brain energy metabolism and decreases amyloid protein buildup that causes brain lesions in older dogs. I usually feed 1 teaspoon per 20 pounds of body weight twice daily. Work up to this dose gradually, as stools may soften at higher doses. Be sure to feed cold pressed, organic coconut oil.

Phophatidylserine, a natural phospholipid, improves memory and cognition. This can be found in many supplements available on the market. Dosing is generally 25 to 100 mg per day, depending on size of the pet.

Sam-e, or adenosyl, is an antioxidant that supports brain health and improves sleep quality and memory. Dosing ranges from 90 mg daily for small dogs and cats, up to 425 mg for large dogs. This should be given on an empty stomach.

Omega 3 fatty acids decrease inflammation, improve cognition, and lower blood pressure and triglycerides, all of which improve brain health by improving heart health and circulation. There are many omega 3 fatty acid products on the market. I prefer products sourced from the Scandinavian waters or New Zealand, as these tend to be the cleanest.

A product call Neutricks, contains Apoaequorin, which replaces calcium-binding proteins and helps protect brain cells during the natural process of aging. 

For dogs with anxiety, melatonin can be used to improve sleep and decrease anxiety. This can be given at bedtime or twice daily, if needed. A dose of 3 mg is sufficient for most pets.

Feeding a species-appropriate diet is critically important for senior pets. Grass-fed and free-range meats are higher in omega 3’s and lower in bacterial contamination. Organic, dark leafy greens will support liver function and circulation, while providing B vitamins that are necessary for brain function. Vegetables should be finely ground or lightly cooked in coconut oil to release the nutrients needed.

Caring for senior pets may require a little more work, but they can remain happy and healthy for many years, continuing to bring joy to our lives. Go give your senior a hug!


This post was kindly written by Dr. Judy Morgan. Dr. Morgan is a nationally renowned author and veterinarian certified in acupuncture, food therapy, and chiropractic care for dogs, cats, and horses. As a sought after speaker, Dr. Morgan shares her insight with weekly blogs, podcasts, and videos! Visit her website at



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