Active dogs may be less likely to get dementia

A dog’s risk of developing “doggy dementia” increases as they get older, but keeping your pet active could help stave off the condition, a new study suggests.

Researchers at the University of Washington found that after the age of 10, the odds of a dog developing canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD) increased by 52% for each additional year of life.

CCD is a neurodegenerative condition similar to dementia in humans, with symptoms including confusion, memory loss, changes in sleep cycle, and behavioural changes such as toileting in the house.

However, the study showed that active dogs have much lower chances of developing the condition. Compared with dogs that are very active, inactive dogs have a 6.5 times greater risk of CCD.

The condition was also more likely to be seen in dogs with a history of neurological, eye or ear disorders.

These findings could help inform vets about when it is appropriate to start screening dogs for CCD.

“Previous studies with rodent models have demonstrated that exercise can have protective effects against the development of biological markers and subsequent behavioural deficits characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease, and numerous observational human studies have consistently shown inverse associations between exercise and Alzheimer’s disease,” said lead author Sarah Yarborough and colleagues in a paper published in Scientific Reports.

“These observations may reflect a variety of biologic mechanisms, including a reduction of pro-inflammatory cytokines in the brain that otherwise contribute to neural damage and death, and an increase in neural plasticity.”

Although there is no cure for cognitive dysfunction, vets can recommend medications that might help your dog’s symptoms and slow down the progress of the disease.

The earlier they get treatment, the better their outlook — and there are also many ways you can keep your dog comfortable and happy after their diagnosis.

Take care of your older dog with senior dog insurance from Petwise. There’s no upper joining age limit on any of our policies, and no co-payment excess regardless of the age of your dog.