A new study from the Royal Veterinary College has shown that changing the fat profile of the diet of dogs with hard-to-treat epilepsy can improve their cognitive abilities and help combat memory problems1.

According to the College, other research suggests that comorbidities - such as anxiety and cognitive impairments - are common in dogs with epilepsy, meaning there is a need for new epilepsy management options which help to control seizures and improve behavioural and cognitive comorbidities.

Led by canine behaviour and welfare scientist Dr. Rowena Packer from the RVC and veterinary neurologist Professor Holger Volk from the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover (TiHo), alongside RVC PhD student Dr. Benjamin Andreas Berk, the team of researchers tested the effects of an oil supplement on seizure frequency in dogs with drug-resistant epilepsy.

Multiple studies from the RVC have shown that medium chain triglyceride (MCT) oils-enriched diets can improve seizure control in difficult to treat, drug-resistant dogs with epilepsy. This controlled clinical study used non-invasive cognitive tests and a validated psychometric tool to show that dogs had improved spatial and working memory when treated with MCTs.

Dr Rowena Packer, Lecturer in Companion Animal Behaviour and Welfare at RVC, said: "Our ground-breaking research into the behavioural and cognitive comorbidities of canine epilepsy was the first to identify cognitive impairments in this population. We have now gone one step further and found a promising way to boost the impaired memories of these patients and reduce their seizure frequency, by a simple dietary change."

Professor Holger Volk,  Department Chair for Small Animal Diseases at the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, said: "Our guts influence how well we think – this study highlights the importance of diets and the power of the gut-brain axis. We are just at the beginning of understanding how diets can influence complex diseases such as epilepsy and dementia. MCT oil could offer a promising addition to our management tool-kit."

Reference

  1. Medium-chain triglycerides dietary supplement improves cognitive abilities in canine epilepsy. Berk, B A and Packer, R M A and Hong Law, T and Wessmann, A and Bathen-Nöthen, A and Jokinen, T S and Knebel, A and Tipold, A and Pelligand, L and Volk, H A (2020) Medium-chain triglycerides dietary supplement improves cognitive abilities in canine epilepsy. Epilepsy & Behavior, 107608 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.yebeh.2020.107608. The full paper is available in Epilepsy & Behavior: https://authors.elsevier.com/c/1c9kL5Qt1Grgcj 

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