As we age, our brains often don’t function as well as they did when we were younger. The same is true of dogs. While aging is normal, none of us likes to see the effects it has on our canine companions.
One of the more common and troubling aspects of aging involves the central nervous system, specifically the brain. Senility, dementia and Alzheimer’s are all terms used to describe the clinical signs seen in senior dogs and people. While drug therapy may temporarily halt the progression of aging signs, they don’t address the underlying problem or try to restore normal function.
Supplementation with various natural remedies, however, focuses on restoring health whenever possible, in addition to improving clinical signs. Fortunately, one great nutritional supplement not only provides food for the aging canine, but also helps restore normal brain function and health.
Phosphatidylcholine, also called choline, lecithin or tetramethylglycine, is a supplement I have used for many years as part of my anti-aging regimen for patients. It’s a component of several major cell membrane lipids that are critical for normal cell membrane structure and function. While foods such as milk, eggs, liver and peanuts are rich in choline, clinical benefits can only be achieved with a supplement.
A multi-functional supplement
The body uses choline for a variety of functions that benefit not only the brain, but other systems as well.
• Most importantly for aging dogs, choline produces the major nerve transmitter, acetylcholine.
• It helps the body maintain water balance.
• It is a source of methyl-groups for the formation of the amino acid methionine, and the conversion of the toxic compound homocysteine to methionine, possibly reducing cardiac disease.
• Choline helps control cell growth and gene expression.
• It is a component of liquid surfactant to keep the lungs healthy.
In both people and dogs, general uses for phosphatidylcholine include improving memory, treating high cholesterol, and protecting the liver from toxicity (without adequate phosphatidylcholine, fat and cholesterol accumulate in the liver due to reduced low density lipoprotein levels).
For dogs, choline may prevent fatty liver syndrome and support normal liver function, reduce insulin requirements in diabetics, and reduce seizure frequency, making it useful in the treatment of epilepsy.
Treats canine cognitive disorder
Regular choline supplementation may help prevent or treat canine cognitive disorder (doggie Alzheimer’s disease). In clinical practice, choline is mostly prescribed for older dogs to reduce the incidence of cognitive disorder, or to treat dogs with existing cognitive disorder.
Choline has shown effectiveness in treating canine cognitive disorder at 20 to 40 mg given one to two times daily. It can also be dosed at 0.5 to 1 mg per pound of the dog’s body weight one to two times daily.
Are there any side effects?
Choline supplementation is very safe and usually devoid of side effects. In dogs, rare instances of excitability/nervousness have been reported due to increased acetylcholine formation. Lowering the dosage has resolved this side effect.
In people taking large doses of choline, rare side effects include low blood pressure, gastrointestinal discomfort, increased salivation, decreased appetite, sweating, and a “fi shy” body odor (from excessive production and excretion of trimethylamine, a metabolite of choline). I have not seen any of these side effects in my animal patients.
While there are no reported negative interactions when choline is used with other natural remedies or prescription medications, it is prudent to use natural remedies under the supervision of your veterinarian.
To sum up, I have found phosphatidylcholine to be quite beneficial in my practice. I find it helpful as part of my therapy for dogs with cognitive disorder as well as seizures, diabetes, liver disease and adrenal disease. All middle-aged and older dogs can benefit from supplementation; those supplemented before clinical signs of cognitive disorder are seen almost never develop it. Side effects are rare, the benefits are numerous, and supplementation is very inexpensive.