Saturday, December 24, 2005

Anti-Oxidants, Exercise & Mental Stimulation Is Good For Your Dog

According to conventional wisdom, old dogs and new tricks aren't a good match. But a new study of beagles finds that regular physical activity, mental stimulation, and a diet rich in antioxidants can help keep aging canine—and perhaps human—brains in tip-top shape. The research, supported by the National Institute on Aging (NIA ), a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is among the first to examine the combined effects of these interventions and suggests that diet and mental exercise may work more effectively in combination than by themselves.

It is worth studying the beneficial effects of anti-oxidants. My dog has Cardiomyopathy, a fatal heart disease characterized by an enlarged, flabby heart, and oftentimes includes an irregular heart beat. My dog was diagnosed 7 months ago, and I was told he had only 3 to 6 weeks to live (his brother died of it last year, he has 3 other siblings that were diagnosed this year, and now his grandfather has been diagnosed with the same disease... so it has a genetic component). I put him on the normal medications (Lasix, Spironolactone, Digitek, and Enalapril), and after a month, he wouldn't eat, had become a bag of bones, had no energy, and I thought he had only a few days left to live.

Once I found out he had the disease, I started reading everything I could find. When he got to this low point, I started messing with giving him supplements, since I figured we had nothing to lose, and the doctors told me there wasn't much they could do. They told me he probably had an upset stomach from the medications, and I could try giving him some Pepcid AC... well, that didn't work, because he didn't have an upset stomach.

When I saw him lying on the floor, just looking emaciated and weak, I started to try to change things. I began by giving him Omega 3 Fatty Acids, in the form of fish oil capsules... which stimulated him to start eating again. My research indicated that this would work, and it did. I also started investigating anti-oxidants and other supplements. I now give him daily amounts of Alpha Lipoic Acid, L-Carnitine, Taurine, Acetyl L-Carnitine, Omega 3 Fatty Acids, CoEnzyme Q10, and Magnesium. Instead of living only 3 to 6 weeks, he is now eating normally and back up to his normal body weight, he's as active as he ever was, and he's now gone 7 1/2 months since the first symptoms appeared.

"Free radicals" (putting it in laymans' terms) are highly reactive molecules that damage the cells in the body.
Anti-oxidants neutralize the "free radicals" and help prevent this damage. That is why you see all that stuff about eating green leafy vegetables, drinking green tea or cranberry juice, or eating red tomatoes, or drinking red wine. Anti-oxidants have anti-aging properties, cancer prevention, etc. properties... and they can help a weakened heart muscle perform more efficiently and slow it's deterioration when afflicted with Cardiomyopathy.

One thing you have to be careful of regarding anti-oxidants... too much and they reverse their effect and act as oxidants, and do just the opposite of what you want. So, I stagger the dosages I give my dog. What I am doing is totally unscientific... no doctor has prescribed this for him... but the proof, to me, is that my contacts with the owners who have dogs related to him are also using some or all of these same supplements, and in fact, one has a cardiologist prescribing the same supplements I am using.

My dog is in no way cured. He is going to die sooner, rather than later. His arrythmias are worse than ever. But, he's happy and alive and that's all that matters to me. At some point... and who knows, that could happen today... his heart will give out. But, I believe I have enabled him to live a bit longer and happier than he would have if I had just gone with the doctor's recommendations.

In fact, after all that research, I'm now taking these same supplements... but that is another story...

In the meantime, you should read the article (above) and see what is going on regarding canine nutrition. Then, you have to ask yourself... should you be supplementing your dog even now, before something bad happens?

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