5 Brain-Protecting Nutrients

Karina Carbo-Johnson, MS
By Karina Carbo-Johnson, MS
Updated: 5/8/20242-4 minutes
collie dog

At Purina, we work day in and day out to find the most cutting edge solutions to problems that affect the quality of life of the pets we love. That’s why we’ve become a leader in using nutrition to promote cognitive health for pets. Our years of research have led us to a unique blend of 5 nutrients that can actually help maintain a healthy brain for dogs.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

You’ve probably heard a lot about the health benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids, often found in fish oil. These are crucial for proper functioning of the brain, in dogs, cats and humans alike. Two types of Omega-3 fatty acids are EPA and DHA. The first kind, EPA, is an anti-inflammatory nutrient that can be found in foods like salmon, sardines, seaweed and liver. The second kind, DHA, is a type of fat that makes up about 40% of the polyunsaturated fatty acids in the brain. DHA is found in foods like fish, seaweed and liver.

Adequate levels of these nutrients contribute to healthy brain function by helping maintain structural integrity.


Arginine is necessary for the production of nitric oxide (NO). NO relaxes the blood vessels and helps maintain healthy blood pressure and circulation. Beyond that, NO is crucial for the formation of memory in the brain. Arginine is found in meat, nuts, liver and other protein-rich foods.


The polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) that make up the brain are sensitive to oxidation, which is when free radicals cause cellular damage. Antioxidants are nature’s protection against these free radicals and they also help maintain healthy membrane integrity. For optimal brain protection, the antioxidants Vitamin E, Vitamin C and selenium are crucial.

Vitamin E is found in vegetable oil, nuts, green leafy veggies, eggs and meat. Selenium can be found in fish, red meat, eggs, chicken, liver, yeast and grains. Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits like oranges.

B Vitamins

B Vitamins are crucial to energy production and metabolism of carbohydrates. They also aid in cellular maintenance and the production of neurotransmitters in the brain. B vitamins are found in a variety of foods including meats, liver, nuts, legumes, leafy vegetables, whole grains and more. Vitamin B12 is exclusively present in animal products, such as fish and shellfish, meat, liver, milk and milk products.

Working Together 

These four nutrient types, when working in concert, help sustain a healthy brain throughout a pet’s life. At Purina, we know that positive effects don’t often come down to just one nutrient or ingredient, but to a smart blend that addresses the many components that make up healthy functioning. Learn more about our nutrition philosophy.

Medium Chain Triglycerides

This type of energy source is important for senior dogs (that is, dogs over seven years of age) in particular. That’s because as dogs age, their capacity to use glucose as an energy source decreases due to wear and tear in the brain cells. This means that their brain cells start to malfunction or suffer from premature death. The results of this are the hard-to-watch symptoms of age-related cognitive decline.

The good news is that Purina’s researchers have found an alternative form of energy that can enter brain cells through an alternative pathway that normally serves as a backup system for supplying brain cells with energy. This energy source is called Medium-Chain Triglycerides, or MCTs, which are a common nutrient sourced from vegetable oils such as coconut oil.

Adding MCTs to a dog’s diet can actually start to enhance the dog’s existing brain performance, making him more like he was when he was younger. After their dogs ate food containing MCTs, some dog owners noticed an improvement typically within three days to three weeks in attention span, trainability, decision making and overall cognitive function in their pets.

Your Dog’s Health, and Yours Too

Wondering if the nutrients we talked about here would be beneficial for you and your family as well? Good thinking. It’s never a bad idea to try to work these nutrients into your diet for your own brain protection! One way to add more MCTs to your diet is cook and bake more often with coconut oil.

Related articles

blonde doodle dog playing tug with person in grass
Can dogs get hay fever? Just like humans, dogs can get hay fever. Find out the symptoms & causes of hay fever in dogs and what treatment options are available.
White dog with dark stains underneath eyes
Dark-colored Shih Tzu dog taking a bath
Pet Food Finder App on smart phone with ingredients surrounding it

Find Your Pet’s Perfect Food

Get your personalized recommendation with our Pet Food Finder tool.