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Brain Food

Can diet affect canine brain development? By Claudia Bensimoun.

A Dog's Diet Influences His Behavior and Intelligence

Did you know that your dog's diet could have an influence on his behavior and intelligence? Researchers now believe that one can change the neurological and physical aspects of a dog's brain, directly affecting behavior and intelligence through healthy nutrition.

Good Nutrition is Vital To Puppies

Recent studies at the University of Toronto by a team of researchers and behavioral neurologist Dr. Norton Milgram demonstrate that complete development of a dog's brain is extremely rapid during the first four weeks after a pup's birth. It then slows down considerably until the puppy reaches adulthood. "Inclusion of fish oil rich in Omega 3 fatty acids in maternal foods has been shown to increase learning ability and ERG -assessed retinal function in growing puppies," says Dr. Milgram. Feeding fish oils that are rich in DHA improves how quickly a puppy responds to training and also enhances his cognitive development.

Major nutrients in a healthy and balanced diet for our canine companions include protein, fats, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, minerals and fresh water. A well-nourished dog needs to eat a variety of foods to get a good range and balance of vitamins and minerals. By choosing premium brands of dog foods made with high quality, easily digestible ingredients, you are giving your dog an excellent starting point for ensuring that he is getting adequate nourishment for his brain, as well as his body. Switching to healthier treats and supplementing foods with steamed sweet potatoes, pumpkin, carrots, kale and other vegetables helps provide your dogs with extra nutrients.

There are plenty of other human foods that can be safely shared with your furry best friend. These include lean meats, cooked vegetables and fresh fruits (with the exception of grapes). As long as they do not make up the bulk of your dog's diet, and you're not feeding table scraps that contain too much fat, these are healthy and nutritious additions, and add variety to the diet.

Seafood is loaded with protein, minerals, and enzymes when served fresh. They also contain lots of collagen. Adding spirulina and chlorella, which provide a more concentrated source of chlorophyll, will also help to reduce inflammation. Both spirulina and chlorella are algae that are also rich in essential fatty acids.

Linolenic (Omega 3) and linoleic (Omega 6) fatty acids play an important part in your dog's diet. Dogs require both, but fat sources differ greatly in their concentrated amounts of Omegas 3 and 6. Both continue to be a major focus of study when it comes down to behavior and nutrition. Omega 3 is found in high levels in fish oils. It is also found in flaxseed, wheat germ, canola and soybean oils.

"For the first year of a dog's life, balanced nutrition is vital," says Dr. Stanley Coren, Professor of Psychology at the University of British Columbia. "Without balanced nutrition, the nerve cells of a dog's brain will not mature properly; and the brain will be smaller in volume and weight and not function as well. Poorly nourished dogs act less intelligently throughout the rest of their lives. A dog's brain and behavior is shaped to some degree by events in the womb. When the puppy is ten days of age, we can easily count the number of neural connections (synapses) that a single cell has with other cells in the brain since there will be only a few hundred. By the time a puppy reaches 35 days of age, the number of connections for each neuron in the brain will have multiplied to around 12,000."

Most dog lovers have no control over the nutrition of their dog's parents. Nonetheless, the diet during the first year of a dog's life is most im


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