Why do dogs get dementia? Study finds risk factors similar to those in humans

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Dogs seem to have a lot in common with humans when it comes to dementia, according to new research. The study found that dogs face an increasingly higher risk of dementia for each year after the age of 10, and tthe likelihood of dementia seems to be lower for dogs that are more physically active and higher for those with a history of eye or hearing problems.

The conclusions are the latest to emerge from the Dog Aging Project, an initiative billed as the most ambitious canine health study in the world. The basic premise involves tracking tens of thousands of pet dogs over a 10-year period to hopefully find the factors that can lead to a long and healthy lifespan.

In this new research, published Thursday in Scientific Reports, the authors analyzed survey data collected from end of 2019 to 2020 with owners of more than 15,000 dogs. Owners were asked about their dog’s general health and lifestyle, as well as their cognition. Investigation asked people if their dogs had possible symptoms of canine cognitive dysfunction or canine dementia, such as whether the dogs had trouble remembering familiar faces or had trouble sleeping.

The ages of the dogs were divided into quarters, based on their expected lifespan, with 19.5% being in their last period of life. Ultimately, 1.4% of the dogs were considered to have dementia. Based on age alone, the risk of diagnosed dementia increased by 68% for each additional year in dogs after 10 years. And even controlling for other important factors, such as health conditions and race, dementia risks still increased by 52% each. year for dogs after 10 years.

The results line with other research showing that older dogs have the most dementia concerns. And while there are certain types of dementia that can affect young people or strike at any age, longevity remains also the greatest risk factor for dementia in humans.

That said, many studies have indicated that there are some aspects of our lives and health that can be changed or prevented to reduce the risk of dementia, and the same appears to be true for our best friends. Among dogs of the same breed, age, and general health, for instance, the odds of CCD were more than six times lower for dogs that were said to be regularly physically active, compared to those that weren’t active. And just as some research has shown in humans, dogs with a history of neurological, hearing or eye disorders also had a higher risk of dementia.

The scientists caution that these results are observational and are currently based on a single point in time, meaning they cannot show a clear causal relationship between these related factors. It is possible, for example, that the results are explained by the fact that dogs with early dementia begin to move less rather than being sedentary. dogs being more prone to dementia as they age.

“Additional studies that further explore factors that will provide a better understanding of canine cognitive function are needed,” they said. wrote.

Studies in humans continue to show importance of exercise in maintaining a healthy body and brain as we ageso it really wouldn’t be a surprise if the same applied to dogs, too. AAs the project continues, scientists will be able to begin collecting the type oflong-term data that can better establish a clear causal link between dementia and these risk factors.

The findings of the current study, its say the authors, suggest that screening for canine dementia can be improved. Vets might consider a dog’s expected lifespan based on weight and breed, for example, when deciding whether to test them for dementia. And given the parallels we see between dog and human brain health, they add, perhaps dogs could one day serve as important animal model to better understand aging and dementia in humans, which unfortunately remains incurable in both species.

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