Prediction: if 2017 was the year of progressively more dismal bad news, 2018 will be the year of misplaced optimism. Exhibit A: a new nootropic product, for dogs.
Nootrodog is a canine supplement made with all-natural ingredients like shiitake mushrooms and beets, that’s designed to “increase a dog’s memory, promote mental clarity and strengthen overall cognitive health,” according to the company, Birdnip’s, press release. It was just launched this year and is being marketed as a nootropic, or “smart drug,” which have been popular among the human market for years. Nootropics are any number of vitamins, nutrients, and drugs that people use with the goal of improving their cognitive function, daily well-being, and long-term health. And now your dog can join in on the trend.
“Cognitive clarity, focus, all the things I take certain nutritional supplements for—does that really apply for my two border terrier rescues?” Ernie Ward, a veterinarian and expert on pet obesity, said over the phone. “Do they really need to stay creative and focus for hours on end?”
Ultimately, Ward and I both agreed: probably not. But Michael Galvez, one of the founders of Birdnip, assured me it is a real product (and the company's online store works: Motherboard made a test purchase, though we will have to wait for the package). He told me owners can expect to see "a smarter, more alert and emotionally connected furry friend," if they give Nootrodogs to their canine companion.
"Look, I totally get the skepticism about a popular Silicon Valley smart drug being reworked for dogs. This is 100 percent a real business," Galvez wrote in an email to Motherboard. "Do we need self driving cars? Do we need A.I. assistants? Do we need to explore the farthest depths of space and colonize Mars? Perhaps not, and the same can be said here. As a society, we’ve perhaps taken the companionship of dogs for granted for far too long. It’s not that dogs need to take nootropics, but, rather, why wouldn’t they?"
Ward did note there was a sector that could potential benefit from more research into whether or not these kinds of supplements are useful: working dogs, like bomb-sniffing dogs and police K9 units. He also said there could be some potential for preventing or slowing cognitive decline in older dogs.
“Cognitive decline is why [many] older dogs are euthanized, because they forget to go outside to go to the bathroom or they walk into the door and injure themselves,” Ward said. “But it’s hard to measure. How would you measure clarity of thought for a dog?”
As for Nootrodog itself, Ward said the ingredients listed are harmless, though it’s always important to consider where things are sourced and processed before giving anything to your pet. As for whether it works? Though there are studies showing some benefits for humans of these ingredients (which Birdnip highlights on its site), there’s not really much evidence that shows giving a boost of beets to your dog will make him the next grand chess master.
But if you try these out and suddenly have an Air Bud on your hands, please drop Motherboard a line.
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