Tried fresh, human-grade food for your dog yet? 50% Off First Order at NomNomNow. Start Trial 50% OFF

10 Best Dog Foods for Brain Health in 2019

When you first bring your puppy home, you have his whole life to enjoy his company. Unfortunately, puppies grow up quickly and some puppies reach their full size in as little as 6 to 8 months. Not only will your puppy stop growing eventually, but he’ll start to exhibit other signs of aging.

After his puppylike goofiness wears off, your dog will ease his way into adulthood. He’ll still have some silly moments and bad habits learned in puppyhood won’t go away overnight, but most dogs become calmer and more even-tempered as they get older. As the years go on, you’ll notice more gray in your dog’s coat and he may start to physical slow down. But perhaps the most heartbreaking change that happens as your dog ages is the changes in his brain.

In the same way that aging can dull a person’s brain, it can affect your dog as well. Cognitive dysfunction syndrome or CDS is fairly common in older dogs and it bears a striking resemblance to Alzheimer’s disease in humans. You may not be able to prevent the disease completely, but there are simple things you can start doing now to protect your dog’s brain health now and into the future.

In this article, we’ll explore some of the most common neurological problems in dogs including CDS. We’ll also talk about some of the nutrients and supplements that can help your dog’s brain stay strong as he ages. Finally, you’ll see our top picks for the best dog food for brain health.

Common Neurological Problems in Dogs

Chewy Online Dog Supplies


30% Off at Chewy.com

+ Free Shipping

Save Now

No dog owner wants to admit that their canine companion won’t be around forever. As tempting as it may be to live in denial of the fact that your dog is getting older each and every day, you won’t be doing yourself or your dog any favors. You are your dog’s caretaker and it is your job to provide him with the best care possible – that means acknowledging the more difficult things and taking steps to protect and care for your dog as much as you can.

Most dog owners understand the importance of daily walks, regular vet visits, and a healthy diet but there is more to caring for a dog than these three things. You also need to develop a deeper understanding of your dog so you can anticipate and react to future problems. One thing you should be aware of as your dog gets older is the potential for neurological problems.

Here are some of the most common neurological problems seen in dogs:

  • Cerebellar degeneration
  • Vestibular disease
  • Wobbler’s syndrome
  • Inherited polyneuropathy
  • Epilepsy
  • Degenerative myelopathy (DM)
  • Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD)
  • Parkinson’s disease

Some of these conditions may be familiar to you as they are similar to neurological disorders seen in human. As you can imagine, some of them are genetically inherited while others are simply the result of aging. Neurological problems in dogs can also be triggered by trauma or infection. You may not always know what causes your dog to display changes in his neurological health, but it is important that you pay attention to the details and report everything to your veterinarian.

Common signs of neurological issues in dogs include changes to your dog’s behavior or gait, indicative of changes to your dog’s brain, spinal cord, or nerves.

Here are some of the top signs of neurological issues in dogs:

  • Sudden loss of coordination or balance
  • Struggling to stand or walk
  • Persistent head shaking
  • Changes in gait such as dragging paws or knuckling
  • Sudden loss of vision
  • Seizures
  • Whimpering or shaking and trembling
  • Other signs of physical pain

You spend every day with your dog, so you know him better than he knows himself. When you notice any of the symptoms above, your first instinct may be to ignore it, hoping that it will go away. Some neurological problems can progress quickly, however, and prompt diagnosis is imperative for proper treatment. When you notice symptoms in your dog, pay attention to the onset, the severity, and the progression so you can give your vet all the info he needs to make a diagnosis.

What Role Does Diet Play in Treatment?

Diagnosing neurological issues in dogs is not always easy. In people, changes in the ability to concentrate or hold a conversation are very obvious signs of a neurological issue. Your dog isn’t exactly a master conversationalist, however, and he may not have much of an attention span anyway.

So, how are neurological disorders in dogs diagnosed?

No matter what the issue is, your veterinarian will almost always start with a physical exam and a review of your dog’s medical history. This is when you should provide information about when you noticed symptoms, how long they’ve been going on, and how they may have changed. Be sure to mention any evidence that your dog has been in pain or if he has sustained any injuries. Following the exam, your vet may then recommend blood work, urinalysis, or additional testing to make a diagnosis.

If your veterinarian isn’t able to determine that a neurological disease is the issue, it could very well be canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS) often referred to as dog dementia. Though many dog owners (and veterinarians) are unfamiliar with the condition, it affects a significant portion of the aging dog population. What’s more, as many as 85% of cases go undiagnosed.

Canine cognitive dysfunction is an age-related neurobehavioral syndrome that leads to a decline in cognitive function over time. Unfortunately, the underlying cause is still poorly understood, and it is thought to be an irreversible disease.

The good news is that there are things you can do to prevent or at least put off the development of canine cognitive dysfunction. Here are some things to know:

  • Start watching for signs of cognitive decline at age 5 for giant breeds, 10 for small breeds, and in between for medium and large breeds.
  • Don’t neglect any symptom – if you notice a change in your dog’s personality or behavior, it could very well be an early sign and should not be ignored.
  • Take steps to manage your dog’s environment if his cognition or mobility changes – make sure he gets natural light during the day to help keep him on a regular sleep schedule as well.
  • Engage your dog in daytime activities that provide mental stimulation, even if he is not capable of exercising physically.
  • Try to stick to a regular routine as much as possible – familiarity will help your dog feel safe.

Most importantly, however, you should make healthy changes to your dog’s diet. Every dog deserves a diet made from healthy, high-quality ingredients. Key nutrients are required to keep your dog healthy and acting young, and he still needs these nutrients as he ages to protect his brain health. Focus on antioxidants and omega fatty acids like DHA. Your dog also needs plenty of protein to maintain a healthy body weight with moderate healthy fats for energy. Read on to learn more.

What to Look for in a Good Dog Food for Brain Health

A healthy diet is the best way to protect your dog’s physical and mental health. Unfortunately, your dog’s brain undergoes certain changes as he ages that can reduce the efficacy of even the highest quality diet made from premium natural ingredients.

As your dog gets older, the blood-brain barrier becomes more permeable which means that, in addition to essential nutrients, other molecules are allowed to pass through into the brain tissue. Free radicals, for example, can lead to oxidative damage and nerve cell dysfunction – this is why antioxidants are so important! Antioxidants are the foundation of a healthy neurological diet for dogs, but the other aspects of balanced canine nutrition still apply as well.

Here are some things to look for in a neurological diet for dogs:

  • High-quality, natural ingredients. Regardless your dog’s mental status, he still needs a balanced diet made from high-quality, natural ingredients. Look for a premium source of animal protein first with digestible carbohydrates (whole-grain if your dog isn’t sensitive) with healthy fats.
  • Rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants are the key to protecting your dog’s brain health as he ages, so look for a dog food rich in vitamins E and C as well as selenium, L-carnitine, alpha-lipoic acid, flavonoids, and carotenoids. The more antioxidants in your dog’s diet, the better.
  • Natural sources of omega-3s like DHA. Omega-3 fatty acids are particularly important for brain development in puppies but also play a key role in balanced health for adult dogs. The top three omega-3 fatty acids to include in your dog’s diet are DHA, EPA, and ALA.
  • Fruits and vegetables. In addition to being natural sources for key nutrients, fruits and vegetables are also some of the richest natural sources of antioxidants. Balanced nutrition is important for your dog’s cognitive health, but synthetic supplements offer limited bioavailability – natural sources like fruits and vegetables are more valuable.

It is never too early to start feeding your dog’s brain. Scientific studies show that feeding puppies high antioxidant diets improves trainability and the sooner you start, the stronger and healthier your puppy’s brain will develop. Read on to see our top picks for the best dog food for brain health, including our favorite pick for the best puppy food for brain health.

The 11 Best Dog Foods for Brain Health

From the moment you bring your puppy home, you should be focused on keeping him happy and healthy – that involves choosing a high-quality, nutritious diet. If you are particularly concerned about your dog’s cognitive health, be vigilant for canine cognitive dysfunction signs once your puppy reaches adulthood and consider feeding him a brain-supporting diet like the best dog food for neurological problems we’ve reviewed in this section. If you want to go the easy route, start shopping by looking for senior dog foods. These are often formulated with increased levels of antioxidants and other brain-supporting nutrients.

Here’s our top pick for the best dog food for brain health:

Ollie Fresh Dog Food Delivery Service

Overall Best Dog Food for Brain Health: Every dog deserves a healthy and high-quality diet, but many experts agree that fresh food is the best of the best. Traditional kibble is cooked using a high-heat process that destroys some of the nutritional integrity of the raw ingredients. Plus, kibbles made with by-products and artificial additives are hard to digest which further limits the nutritional value. If you want the best of the best for your dog, consider a fresh dog food company like Ollie. This service delivers fresh, small-batch dog food right to your door that is perfectly catered to your dog’s calorie needs. Choose from four different protein options and provide some basic information about your dog’s breed, size, and weight to determine his caloric requirements. You can also provide information about your dog’s age and specific dietary requirements. Ollie’s fresh food is made using premium natural ingredients including antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, so you can be sure your dog’s nutritional needs are being met in the healthiest way possible.

Pros: High-quality natural ingredients, prepared fresh in small batches, catered to your dog’s nutrient and calorie needs, fresh fruits and vegetables, highly digestible, rich in antioxidants

Cons: Very expensive compared to typical kibble, only four recipes to choose from

Taste of the Wild Pacific Stream Grain-Free Dry Food 

Most Popular Dog Food for Brain Health: If you’re not sure what to go with for your dog’s diet, you can always choose a popular brand like Taste of the Wild. This brand uses premium-quality, natural ingredients including many that are locally sourced. Their recipes are packed with protein and natural flavor, in addition to being nutrient-rich and highly digestible. This Taste of the Wild Pacific Stream Grain-Free Dry Food is a good option for your dog’s brain health because it features fresh salmon as the main ingredient which is a natural source of brain-supporting omega-3s. This recipe also contains a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables to provide natural sources for antioxidants as well as other key nutrients. Plus, with prebiotics and probiotic supplements, this recipe is highly digestible, so your dog gains the maximum nutritional advantage. It contains 25% protein and 15% fat with 360 calories per cup.

Pros: Real salmon main ingredient, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, natural sources for antioxidants and key nutrients, highly digestible, fresh fruits and vegetables, prebiotics and probiotics

Cons: Not all dogs require a grain-free diet, somewhat pricy compared to other recipes

American Journey Salmon & Brown Rice Protein First Recipe Dry Food

Most Affordable Dog Food for Brain Health: A high-quality dog food isn’t going to be cheap, but it doesn’t have to empty your wallet every month either. American Journey is Chewy’s in-house brand and it is designed for affordability as well as dependable quality. This American Journey Salmon & Brown Rice Protein First Recipe Dry Food is a great example of quality nutrition that won’t break the bank. It features real deboned salmon as the first ingredient which is an ample source of premium animal protein as well as brain-supporting omega-3 fatty acids. This formula also features digestible whole grains like brown rice and barley for energy as well as dietary fiber. You’ll find fresh fruits and vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, blueberries, and cranberries to deliver a powerful punch of antioxidants in addition to natural sources for key nutrients. This recipe also contains vitamin supplements as needed and chelated minerals to ensure complete and balanced nutrition. It contains 25% protein and 15% fat with 365 calories per cup.

Pros: Real deboned salmon first ingredient, digestible whole-grain carbohydrates, fresh fruits and vegetables for antioxidants, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, chelated mineral supplements

Cons: May be too high in fiber for some dogs, not a single-source protein recipe

Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Puppy Lamb & Oatmeal Recipe

Best Puppy Food for Brain Health: If you want your puppy to develop into a healthy adult dog, you need to start with a high-quality puppy food. This Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Puppy Lamb & Oatmeal Recipe is a great option because it contains absolutely everything your puppy needs for balanced health. This recipe features deboned lamb as the primary ingredient with menhaden fish meal, lamb meal, and egg for supplemental protein. It contains digestible whole-grain carbohydrates like oatmeal and brown rice with fresh fruits and vegetables to provide antioxidant support. These ingredients also act as natural sources for key nutrients to support the blend of vitamin and mineral supplements used to ensure nutritional balance. Overall, this recipe is rich in brain-supporting nutrients and nutritionally balanced for puppies.

Pros: Deboned lamb first ingredient, digestible whole-grain carbohydrates, fresh fruits and vegetables, rich in antioxidants, DHA and ARA for brain health, chelated mineral supplements

Cons: Somewhat expensive compared to average puppy food

Zignature Trout & Salmon Meal Limited Ingredient Formula Grain-Free Dry Food

Best Dog Food for Brain Health and Sensitive Stomach: If your dog has a sensitive stomach or food allergies, you’ll want to provide him with a limited ingredient diet to reduce the risk of triggering a sensitivity. This Zignature Trout & Salmon Meal LID Formula Grain-Free Dry Food is a great choice because it contains a relatively short ingredient list and features two premium sources of protein that are naturally rich in omega-3s. In addition to being grain-free to reduce the risk of grain allergies, this recipe is also free from common allergens like corn, wheat, and soy as well as artificial additives and GMO ingredients. It is highly digestible thanks to the use of natural ingredients as well as plenty of dietary fiber. It is supplemented as needed for nutritional balance using vitamins and chelated minerals to ensure optimal nutrient absorption. It contains 30% protein and 14% fat.

Pros: Limited number of main ingredients, premium animal proteins rich in omega-3s, digestible grain-free carbohydrates, blend of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, highly digestible, chelated minerals

Cons: Very expensive compared to average kibble, may be too high in fiber for some dogs

6 More Top-Rated Dog Foods for Brain Health

If the dog foods reviewed above don’t seem like the right fit, don’t worry – there are many other options out there. Here are several more high-quality dog foods that can help optimize your dog’s brain health, whether he’s a growing puppy or an aging senior dog. Check them out below!

Earthborn Holistic Puppy Vantage Grain-Free Dry Food

From the moment you bring your puppy home, you should take every step to preserve his health and happiness. Though it may be easy to just pick a puppy food off the pet store shelf, your puppy deserves the best. We recommend this Earthborn Holistic Puppy Vantage Grain-Free Dry Food because it is specially formulated to help your puppy grow and develop properly. It features chicken meal as the primary ingredient, a concentrated source of premium animal protein. It contains plenty of DHA for healthy brain development with other omega-3 fatty acids to support healthy skin and coat. This recipe is rich in fresh fruits and vegetables which provide natural sources of antioxidants as well as key vitamins and minerals to add to the supplements included to ensure nutritional balance. Overall, this formula contains 28% protein and 18% fat with 400 calories per cup.

Pros: Chicken meal as first ingredient, digestible grain-free carbohydrates, fresh fruits and vegetables for antioxidants and nutrients, highly digestible recipe, rich in protein and healthy fats, DHA for brain health

Cons: Not all puppies require a grain-free diet, somewhat pricy compared to other options

Rachael Ray Nutrish Bright Puppy Natural Real Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe

If you’re looking for a puppy food designed to support your puppy’s brain development, but you don’t want to spend a lot of money, this Rachael Ray Nutrish Bright Puppy Natural Real Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe is a decent option. It features real U.S.-raised chicken as the main ingredient, slow-roasted to lock in flavor. It also contains fresh fruits and vegetables as well as highly digestible whole grains for key nutrients and dietary fiber, not to mention antioxidants. This recipe contains plenty of DHA from fish meal to support brain development and clear vision as well as healthy skin and coat. Overall, this recipe contains 28% protein and 16% fat with 390 calories per cup.

Pros: Affordably priced, real chicken main ingredient, digestible whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, rich in antioxidants, DHA from fish meal for brain development

Cons: Contains some corn and soy ingredients

Dr. Tim’s All Life Stages Kinesis Formula Dry Food

Once your puppy develops, he’ll need a high-quality adult diet rich in premium animal protein and healthy fats. This Dr. Tim’s All Life Stages Kinesis Formula Dry Food is a great option because it is formulated for all life stages which means you can technically start your puppy on this food and continue to feed it throughout his life. This formula features chicken meal as the primary ingredient, a concentrated source of premium animal protein. It also contains digestible whole grains like brown rice, barley, and oats which provide essential vitamins and minerals as well as dietary fiber. You’ll find this formula is also rich in dried fruits and veggies which provide supplemental sources of these key nutrients and plenty of brain-supporting antioxidants. This recipe contains a blend of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for healthy brain activity as well as skin and coat support, and it is supplemented with chelated minerals to ensure complete and balanced nutrition with optimal nutrient absorption.

Pros: Chicken meal main ingredient, digestible whole-grain carbohydrates, dried fruits and veggies, rich in antioxidants and omega-3s, probiotics for healthy digestion, chelated minerals for optimal absorption

Cons: Not a single source protein recipe, fairly expensive compared to average kibble

Nutro Ultra Adult Dry Dog Food

If you want to provide your dog with an antioxidant-rich dog food, look no further than this Nutro Ultra Adult Dry Dog Food. Featuring a trio of premium animal proteins and a blend of superfoods, this recipe is positively packed with antioxidants and natural sources for key vitamins and minerals. It contains three lean sources of premium animal protein – chicken, lamb, and salmon – with digestible whole grains for carbohydrate support. This recipe is supplemented with dried fruits and vegetables as well as synthetic vitamins and chelated minerals to ensure complete and balanced nutrition with optimal digestibility. It provides a total of 25% protein and 14% fat with 341 calories per cup.

Pros: Three lean sources of animal protein, digestible whole-grain carbohydrates, dried fruits and vegetables, rich in antioxidants, chelated mineral supplements, plenty of fiber for digestion

Cons: Somewhat more expensive than average, not a single-source protein recipe

Nutro Wholesome Essentials Senior Farm-Raised Chicken, Brown Rice & Sweet Potato Recipe

Another recipe from Nutro, this one belongs to the Wholesome Essentials line for complete daily nutrition. This Nutro Wholesome Essentials Senior Farm-Raised Chicken, Brown Rice & Sweet Potato Recipe features farm-raised chicken as the main ingredient to help your senior dog maintain lean muscle mass for a healthy body weight. This recipe also contains Nutro’s Senior Support System which contains plenty of antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and other essential nutrients to support healthy brain, skin, and coat as well as glucosamine and chondroitin for healthy bones and joints. This formula is made with no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives and is free from corn, wheat, and soy ingredients.

Pros: Farm-raised chicken main ingredient, digestible whole-grain brown rice, plenty of antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine and chondroitin for joint health, highly digestible, no additives

Cons: Could be higher in protein

Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Boost Senior Grain-Free Recipe with Real Chicken

If you want what’s best for your senior dog’s nutrition, you might consider a raw food diet. Unfortunately, these diets are very expensive, and some dogs don’t even like the texture of raw food. If you want your dog to reap the nutritional benefits of raw food without changing his routine, try this Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Boost Senior Grain-Free Recipe with Real Chicken. This formula features high-protein kibble mixed with freeze-dried pieces of raw meat, giving your dog the nutritional benefits of raw (as well as the flavor) without sacrificing the convenience of kibble. This recipe features real chicken as the first ingredient and a premium source of animal protein with digestible grain-free carbohydrates like chickpeas and tapioca. You’ll find this recipe is rich in natural sources for key nutrients like fresh fruits and vegetables but also rich in joint-supporting nutrients like glucosamine and chondroitin. It is also rich in antioxidants and supplemented with probiotics for digestion.

Pros: High-protein kibble mixed with freeze-dried raw, digestible grain-free carbohydrates, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and chelated mineral supplements, probiotics for digestion

Cons: Very expensive compared to average kibble, may be too high in calories for some dogs

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are signs of neurological disorders in dogs? The most common signs of neurological disorders in dogs are changes in behavior and gait. If your dog suddenly starts shaking his head more often or has trouble walking in a straight line, you would be right to be concerned. Unfortunately, some of the most common canine cognitive dysfunction signs are subtle and many dog owners fail to recognize them right away. These may include waking up at night, excessive vocalization, changes in interactions with people or other pets, and disorientation. As these symptoms progress, your dog may also develop problems with soiling the house, having separation anxiety when left alone, or phobias of certain places or things.
  • How do you strengthen a dog’s brain? Feeding your dog an antioxidant-rich diet from a young age is one of the best ways to strengthen his brain. On top of feeding your dog a healthy brain diet, however, you should make sure to exercise his brain as well. Studies show that, just like humans, dogs can lose some of their higher brain functions if they aren’t used frequently. Try engaging your dog in mentally stimulating games and be sure to take him for regular walks, varying the route as much as possible. Even playing with your dog or refreshing some of his training can be beneficial for his brain.
  • What can trigger seizures in dogs? Aside from canine cognitive dysfunction, seizures are one of the most common neurological problems in dogs. A seizure is a temporary involuntary disturbance of normal brain function, typically accompanied by uncontrollable muscle activity. Epilepsy is a disorder characterized by repeated episodes of seizures. There are many things that can contribute to seizures, but the most common cause is an inherited condition called idiopathic epilepsy which means that the underlying cause is unknown. In other cases, seizures can be related to liver disease, kidney failure, brain trauma, brain tumors, or toxic ingestion.
  • What is the best dog food for dogs with seizures? If your dog suffers from frequent seizures, you should definitely talk to your veterinarian to identify the underlying cause, if possible. Your veterinarian will be able to determine whether your dog needs to go on anti-seizure medications or if some other form of therapy might help. Making changes to your dog’s diet could also help reduce the frequency of seizures, though there are no guarantees. Some dog owners have success with a ketogenic diet which is high in fat and low in carbs. The same diet has proven beneficial for humans with epilepsy but still requires more research in dogs.

Watching your dog get older is never easy, but you can’t let yourself become caught up in the sadness of it – it’s still your job to provide for your dog in all aspects. The sooner you start caring about your dog’s cognitive health, the better. You can engage him in mentally stimulating activities and choose a high-antioxidant diet to support his brain health now and into the future.

Choosing the best dog food for brain health shouldn’t be difficult now that you’ve learned the basics about your dog’s cognitive function. Take what you’ve learned here to start shopping around or simply choose one of our top picks above. Best of luck to you and your dog!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

GET RECALL ALERTS & MORE!

Join over 30,000 subscribers who stay informed on the latest recalls, industry advances & new quality dog food options.

You're in! Take 30% Off your next purchase at Chewy.com.

{"popup_ID":4888,"when_popup_appear":"exit","delay":"","x_second":"","x_scroll":"","disappear":"","exptime":"","hideclsbtn":"","clsonesc":"1"}
Scroll to Top