Published: 02 Dec 2020 | Last Updated: 02 Dec 2020 12:13:58

New research from the Royal Veterinary College (RVC), funded by The American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation (AKC CHF), has shown for the first time that changing the fat profile of the diet of dogs with hard-to-treat epilepsy can not only improve their seizure control, but also their cognitive abilities, such as combatting memory problems.

MCT oil being added to a dry kibble diet

Epilepsy is the most common brain disease in dogs, which is very distressing for both dogs and their owners. Current treatments focus on managing the condition by primarily reducing how often seizures occur however, recent research suggests that comorbidities such as anxiety and cognitive impairments are common in dogs with epilepsy. Subsequently, there is an urgent need for new epilepsy management options which help to not only better control seizures, but also 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, a 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 rigorous, 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.”

Find out more about The AKC Canine Health Foundation’s at  Epilepsy Research Initiative

Research reference

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

Notes to Editors

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About the AKC Canine Health Foundation

About the RVC

  • The Royal Veterinary College (RVC) is the UK's largest and longest established independent veterinary school and is a Member Institution of the University of London. It was the first in the world to hold full accreditation from AVMA, EAEVE, RCVS and AVBC.
  • The RVC is the top veterinary school in the UK and Europe, and ranked as the world’s second highest veterinary school in the QS World University Rankings by subject, 2020.
  • The RVC offers undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in veterinary medicine, veterinary nursing and biological sciences.
  • In 2017, the RVC received a Gold award from the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) – the highest rating a university can receive.
  • A research led institution with 79% of its research rated as internationally excellent or world class in the Research Excellence Framework 2014.
  • The RVC provides animal owners and the veterinary profession with access to expert veterinary care and advice through its teaching hospitals and first opinion practices in London and Hertfordshire.

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