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Can a Pet’s Diet Affect Their Behavior?    

By Dr. Al Townshend

One of the most common reasons Guardians give up their pets is due to bad behavior.
While diet is not the only cause of behavior issues, what we feed our pets and how we feed them can have a significant impact on their behavior.

Common pet behavior issues include:

  • Aggression
  • Mood swings
  • Restless sleep
  • Hyperactivity
  • Barking
  • Loose stools
  • Depression
  • Confusion
  • Cognitive dysfunction

Below are a few points to consider when thinking about your pet’s behavior.

A Complete and Balanced Diet

Diet can play a significant role in both preventing and treating behavior issues.

A diet must be complete and balanced in order to provide all that is necessary for the body to function. An unbalanced diet can wreak havoc on the immune system, creating disease related symptoms which can affect the quality of life of a pet.

Recipes that provide the bulk of the protein in the diet from non-animal protein (like corn) sources can often be low in the essential amino acid, tryptophan. When tryptophan gets to a low level it can decrease seratonin. Low serotonin levels can affect mood, encouraging aggression. Humans and rats with low serotonin levels have difficulty sleeping.

There is much controversy regarding the protein levels in general and how protein may play a role with aggression. Studies have conflicting results. Both low and high levels of protein have been incriminated in causing aggression.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

It has been well documented that the essential Omega 3 fatty acid, Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is necessary for proper brain and eye development. Poor levels in a puppy or kitten recipe can impact brain development, affect mood, and reduce mental and visual acuity.

Look For Natural Ingredients

Diets with chemical preservatives, artificial colors or dyes, and man-made substances have all been incriminated in causing behavioral issues in humans.

Optimize Their Nutrition

Recipes that go beyond the basic needs of a pet to provide optimum total daily nutrition is the best way to assure that your pet is getting all it needs to support a long, happy and healthy life. Additionally, no matter the formula you feed, optimum nutrition requires supplementation. A balanced vitamin and mineral supplement, Omega 3 fats and probiotics are the basic total body health supplements that can benefit every pet.

Supplements That May Help Behavior 

Studies have shown that a antioxidant fortified diet may help pets deal with dementia or cognitive issues. S-Adenosyl-l-methionine (SAMe) has been shown to improve antioxidant levels and increase the level of serotonin.

Omega 3 fats are an ideal supplement for any age pet. Brain function and general whole-body health can benefit from the Omega 3 fats found in fish oils.

Environmental Enrichment

  • Regular exercise is essential for both physical and mental health.
  • Cats and dogs have evolved with active lifestyles in order to survive.
  • Pets are happiest when there is ample opportunity to be active.
  • Mental challenges can provide brain stimulation.
  • Many believe pets show satisfaction and pride in challenges like finding and retrieving a ball, figuring out how to get a treat from a puzzle toy.
  • Training is an essential factor in environmental enrichment.
  • Dogs, in particular, are eager to please their human family member.
  • Proper training gives pets a guide to what pleases and makes us happy.
  • Without knowing how to please us, frustration and even depression can result.

For more information on how you can help your pet with a behavior issue, visit your Pet Planet Store.


Additional Resources

Dog’s Diet and Behavior
How Your Dog’s Food Affects His Mood

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