As our pets age, it’s important to keep them active. Activity stimulates blood flow and metabolism, which helps them manage their weight and cognitive (mental) health — just as it does in humans.
One of the worst things we can do as we age is to abandon exercise or to stop communicating and learning. When we do, we accelerate the decline of our overall health and well-being. The same is true for our pets. If we keep them active, like continually teaching them new tricks, they’ll stay much more mentally alert as they age.
But nutrition also plays a key role in an animal’s cognitive health. A large portion of our pets’ brain is fat — not fat like adipose tissue we’re all familiar with that stores energy and insulates our bodies, but a soft fatty tissue that’s cholesterol dependent. Cholesterol is an essential component of cell membranes used to help cells send communication signals. While high levels of cholesterol have been shown to increase the risks of heart disease, the brain needs cholesterol to function properly.
One reason pet health often declines with aging is due to a failure to maintain body weight as they get into their geriatric years. It’s not uncommon for dogs and cats in their middle years to gain weight, but when they get older, they often begin to lose weight, likely a result of loss of eyesight, smell, oral/dental health, taste or simply the ability to absorb nutrients. This loss in body fat can catabolize key nutrients from the brain. A higher-fat, higher-energy diet, in the geriatric years, may help pets stay more alert, improve their focus and help them better remember things like training commands, a favorite park or where the litter box is located.
One way to ensure your aging dog and cat get enough fat and energy is by providing food that includes omega-3 fatty acids (EPA, DHA, etc.). Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats that animals can only get from their diet, and they help maintain your pet’s cognitive health. These fats are key components in not only responding to health and joint challenges, but also in maintaining neural function and mental health, all important to a graceful aging process.
But for fatty acids and the brain to function properly, zinc is necessary. Zinc plays a key role in mental activity, focus, emotional behavior, learning and memory as it’s a key component in the development of brain tissue and signaling. For these reasons, feeding your pet food that contains Zinpro Performance Minerals can help maintain your pet’s mobility to do their normal activities, improve their ability to digest food and help them absorb nutrients in a more efficient way. Each of these can significantly benefit an animal’s cognitive health as they age.
Buying Food for Aging Cats and Dogs
When you’re researching or purchasing food for an older pet, make sure the label includes “Zinc amino acid complex” or “Zinc methionine complex” as a nutrient. This is the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) designation for how these trace minerals are identified in companion animal products, and it’s a key nutrient they need.
You can visit our website to learn more about the benefits of trace minerals and essential nutrients for companion animals. And to learn more about dog nutritional needs, visit the AAFCO and AKC websites. For cat nutrition, be sure to look for sites that are either sponsored or managed by veterinarians.