Doggie dementia risk rises each year after age 10, study finds. Here’s what to look for


It’s an unfortunate reality that many dog ​​owners can face, especially if their dog’s breed lives 10 years or more. A new study that is part of the Dog Aging Project found that the risk of developing cognitive problems in many dogs increases by 52% each year after the age of 10.

But there’s no reason to despair if your furry best friend is showing signs of canine cognitive decline, or CCD, said veterinarian Dr. Dana Varble, Chief Veterinary Officer of the North American Veterinary Community.

“Too often, pet owners think their dogs are just ‘slowing down’ and don’t realize there are things they can do to alleviate, slow, or even prevent cognitive decline as dogs get older,” Varble said.

“Studies show that mental activity and exercise are important for a dog’s mental well-being, just like in humans. Stimulating the brain is important and this can be easily done with food puzzles, for example,” she said.

Food puzzles are toys in which owners hide treats, and it is up to the dog to push, shake or jog the treats out. Such activities help keep the brains of both dogs and cats engaged, experts say.

In addition, “dietary supplements have been shown to improve signs and slow the decline of CCD. There are also specialty foods for senior dogs,” Varble said.

Age and activity levels are key

In the new study, published Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports, researchers asked more than 15,000 dog owners to complete two surveys between December 2019 and 2020 about the health and cognitive status of their dogs. The scientists then grouped the dogs by age and analyzed the results

Based on age alone, a dog’s chance of developing CCD increased by 68% for each year after a decade of life. But when other factors were taken into account, such as dog breed, existing health conditions, spaying and physical activity, the risk dropped to 52% per additional year of life.

Inactive dogs of the same breed, health status, age and spay status were nearly seven times more likely to develop canine dementia than similarly active dogs. Whether it’s the inactivity that leads to dementia or vice versa is unclear, the study authors said.

In addition, dogs with a history of neurological, eye, or ear disorders had a higher risk of cognitive decline, according to the study.

There was also some good news: The study found almost no cognitive decline in dogs under 10 years of age.

What to look for

Older dogs with dementia can lose their vest to play and suffer from sleep problems, experts say.

Veterinarians have been studying the signs and symptoms of canine dementia for years in an effort to better understand and help the pets in their care. Here’s what to look for, according to experts:

disorientation: Dogs with cognitive problems may have difficulty getting around the house or wandering as if they are lost. They can get stuck behind furniture and not know how to get out or stare at the floor, walls or space without purpose. They can’t even recognize relatives.

Changes in Sleep Cycles: Dementia can cause dogs confuse day and night, and your pet may wake at night and pace, bark, or howl around the house. The insomnia at night can lead to excessive sleeping during the day.

Home training: Some dogs forget years of potty training and begin to relieve themselves inside, which can make them anxious. They may forget to warn you when to go out, or even forget to do their business while out and soil the house when they come back.

Changes in social behavior: Interactions with you and other people in their lives can change. A dog can become extra clingy, anxious or needy. Or the dog may become antisocial, withdrawing from interactions and spending time alone.

Changes in physical activity: A dog with cognitive decline may lose interest in favorite toys, other dogs and people or start pacing aimlessly without coming to rest.

People bred dogs to have puppy dog ​​eyes

Take your dog to the vet if you see any of these symptoms, and the sooner the better, Varble suggested. “Early intervention can extend and improve the quality of life for our pets,” she said.

First, the vet will check the dog for other causes of the symptoms, such as diabetes, loss of vision and hearing, kidney or urinary problems, arthritis, hypertension and Cushing’s disease, caused by an excess of the stress hormone cortisol.
If you and your vet notice the signs of dementia early, the doctor may suggest a behavior-altering drug approved for dogs by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that acts on the neurotransmitter dopamine to help slow the decline.

The vet can also put your dog on a brain-healthy diet and encourage more physical activity, socialization and brain stimulation through food puzzles, teach new tricks, and encourage sniffing and sniffing during walks.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voice
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.


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