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Krill Nutrients Support Healthy Cognitive Functions in Cats and Dogs

Blog overview

In recent years, there has been growing interest in understanding how nutrition can support cognitive development and maintenance in cats and dogs. Science has shown how serving the brain with the right dietary building blocks can play a vital role in learning and memory abilities in young and adult cats and dogs.

Furthermore, anti-inflammatory nutrients may help prevent the inflammation-driven condition Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS) in elderly pets. It has become clear how inflammation contributes to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's disease in humans and similar cognitive decline has been documented in pets. 

This article explores the importance of key krill nutrients such as EPA/DHA, phosphatidylcholine, and antioxidants for supporting brain health throughout all life stages in cats and dogs.


What is cognition?

So what is really cognition? It is the ability to acquire knowledge and understanding through the senses. Nerve transmitters in the brain facilitate communication between nerves to control cognition in the same way as basic life function and muscle work. 

Both cats and dogs are hunting animals that rely on well-developed cognitive functions to outsmart their prey. They must possess skills like recognizing hunting opportunities and making quick decisions based on past experiences or mistakes made during hunts to catch food effectively. 

When living with human families, pets must also learn how to interact with other species, finding their role in our multi-society. And they do so by learning from experience and association. Pavlov’s work showed how ringing a bell before serving food taught his dogs to associate the sound of the bell with anticipation of food. And so do our house pets learn new things every day, as long as they have good cognitive function.

Read more: Krill is Nature’s Superfood for Combating Chronic Inflammation in Pets


Protecting cognitive function throughout pets’ life stages

Puppies' and kittens’ brain grow rapidly within 3-4 months after birth; therefore proper nutrition containing essential fatty acids (marine omega-3s EPA and DHA from krill), proteins, vitamins and minerals is crucial during this period for optimal development. 

Similarly important is DHA intake during pregnancy since it significantly increases fetal need levels towards term. Studies have shown that puppies and kittens fed DHA-deficient diets exhibit reduced eyesight and cognitive function due to insufficient DHA content within their brains and retinas. 

A study conducted by Hill’s Pet Nutrition demonstrated how this could be avoided, as puppies fed a diet enriched with DHA improved their cognitive function, memory and eyesight.

A similar nutritional impact on cognitive has been seen in adults and elderly animals. The brain is a vulnerable organ as it consumes 20% of the body's oxygen and therefore is naturally exposed to oxidative stress (cell damage). It also has a declining antioxidant defense by age and a limited capacity for repair once damaged. 

Aging pets experience neurodegenerative diseases similar to Alzheimer’s disease. These include loss of neurons, senile plaque accumulation (protein clustering) and reduced blood supply in the brain leading to symptoms like disorientation, decreased reaction time, inappropriate behaviors and more. 

CDS is a condition well documented in dogs, increasingly from the age of 7-9 years of age and progressing. Research indicates that cognitive dysfunction seems related to sex hormones, meaning female dogs are more prone than males, and neutered dogs are more prone than intact dogs. 

While less documented, the feline population believed signs become apparent around 15 years old. For both species accelerated cognitive decline and mild cognitive impairment (MCI) correlate with lowered tissue levels of marine omega-3s EPA and DHA, and supplementation has improved cognitive function.

Read more: How Can Marine Omega-3 Nutrients from Krill Improve Mobility in Cats and Dogs

Krill omega-3 nutrients

Which nutrients can support and protect?

Several key nutrients play vital roles in supporting healthy brain development in young individuals and healthy aging processes in older ones. As mentioned earlier, these include the marine omega-3s EPA and DHA, phosphatidylcholine, and antioxidants, amongst others. 

Looking closer at the marine EPA and DHA, these omega-3 fatty acids are carried by different molecules, depending on the nutrient source (e.g. fish, algae, krill, etc). And not all carrier molecules are equally effective. 

Triglyceride omega-3s cannot be used “as is” by the brain but needs to be converted into a molecule that is capable of passing the blood-brain barrier. 

Phospholipid omega-3s, on the other hand, can easily cross the blood-brain barrier providing marine omega-3 fatty acids (EPA/DHA) to the brain. By this, they ensure effective integration into brain cell membranes where they can positively influence health. Once here, EPA and DHA work anti-inflammatory, help slow down the negative spiral effect of cell damage and improve cognitive function.

Read more: What are phospholipids and why are them important for pets

Choline in the bioavailable form of phosphatidylcholine (that can be found in krill too) is a building block for making the neurotransmitter acetylcholine which plays a critical role in the brain. The cholinergic system affects pet behavior, mood and their ability to maintain mental focus. Furthermore, phosphatidylcholine plays a role in synthesizing cell membranes as well as lowering homocysteine and thereby slowing cognitive decline caused by brain lesions and cell death.

Antioxidants also help prevent cognitive decline as they protect against oxidative stress-induced damage. As mentioned, the brain is rich in vulnerable lipids that are easily destroyed by free radicals. And the brain’s own protection system, like the antioxidant Superoxide Dismutase, is reduced by age. 

Since oxidative stress has been proposed as the main cause of brain aging and cognitive dysfunction, supporting the body with dietary antioxidants may be crucial to staying healthy and agile. Having anti-inflammatory properties, they also help omega-3s in limiting inflammatory mediators. Astaxanthin stands out as one of the most powerful compounds exhibiting superior antioxidative properties.



Proper nutrition for our pets plays a significant role not only in promoting healthy cognitive development in early life but also in maintaining health in adulthood and preventing age-related cognitive decline and neurodegenerative diseases in cats and dogs.

By using krill (found in QRILL Pet PL Nutri Plus) in pets’ diets, all these three nutrients - phospholipid-bound omega-3s (EPA and DHA), phosphatidylcholine and astaxanthin - will be provided daily. 

They will help protect cats’ and dogs’ brain and enhance their ability to learn new tasks, understand the environment and interact in an intelligent way with their surroundings.


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Blog overview