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A recent study by The Dog Aging Project, a group exploring age-related illnesses in dogs and ways to improve quality of life in old age, discovered that dementia is common in dogs aged 10 years or older.
Dog dementia, also known as canine cognitive dysfunction, is a progressive brain disease that causes behavioral, cognitive, and other changes, similar to Alzheimer’s disease in humans. It can be challenging for veterinarians to make a diagnosis. No reliable, non-invasive test exists for it. Additionally, senior dogs may have additional health issues that make diagnosis more difficult, just like in humans.
According to Sarah Yarborough, an epidemiologist and family medicine professor at the University of Washington, “Dogs experience many of the same age-related diseases that we do.”
“Gaining a better understanding of how these diseases manifest in our dog population may give us clues that will better explain the disease progression of [human] diseases like dementia,” she added.
Researchers discovered that after age 10, a dog’s risk of developing dementia increases annually. However, age is not the only factor. Participants in the study with lethargic or inactive dogs were nearly seven times more likely to have dementia than active dogs, despite sharing the same breed, health status, age, and sterilization status.
The leading factors connected to a dog’s risk of developing dementia have been identified by a large new study involving 15,000 dogs involved in the Dog Aging Project.
Two surveys were distributed to pet dog owners by the researchers. One inquired about the dogs’ health and physical activities. The second examined the dogs’ cognitive abilities. Canine cognitive impairment was considered to affect 1.4% of the dogs. For dogs over ten years old, every extra year of life increased the risk of developing dementia by more than 50 percent. The researchers’ key finding was that exercise may have a significant preventive impact. Comparing dogs who were reported as being inactive to those who were reported as being active, the likelihood of receiving a diagnosis of cognitive dysfunction increased by 6.47 times.
The Dog Aging Project, founded in 2014 by Kate Creevy, Daniel Promislow, and Matt Kaeberlein and partly funded by National Institute on Aging grants, collects information about tens of thousands of dogs across the United States as they grow. In some cases, owners may also provide veterinary records and biological samples, such as genetic material.