Has Fido become barking mad with age?
Dogs with Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD), sometimes referred to unkindly as “doggy dementia,” often show signs of neurological decline such as memory deficit, loss of spatial awareness, sleep disruption and altered social interactions.
Now, using information gleaned from the Dog Aging Project (a longitudinal study of ageing in pet dogs in the US), researchers have a better idea of the prevalence of CCD over a dog’s lifespan and how health, aging and physical activity might play a part in the likelihood of its development.
Researchers found that with each year of life after age ten, the risk of developing CCD increases by 68%. This decreases slightly to 52% with each year over age ten once factors such as health, sterilisation, breed and activity levels were taken into account.
Secondly, and again controlling for characteristics between the dogs, researchers found pooches reported as “not active” by their owners, were 6.47 times more likely to develop CCD. This is a correlation, not causation, as CCD can actually lead to a reduced activity level in dogs.
More than 15,000 dogs were examined in the sample, which involved owners completing two surveys. One, the “Health and Life Experience Survey,” probed owners on health status and level of physical activity, while the other, “the Canine Social and Learned Behaviour Survey,” included questions designed to indicate CCD in the dog, such as whether the dog was able to recognise people with whom they were familiar.
Although more research is needed to better understand CCD, this research expands the knowledge around doggy dementia and canine lifespan and may help veterinarians know when to screen our pooches for CCD.
Clare Kenyon is a science journalist for Cosmos. An ex-high school teacher, she is currently wrangling the death throes of her PhD in astrophysics, has a Masters in astronomy and another in education. Clare also has diplomas in music and criminology and a graduate certificate of leadership and learning.
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