Sad dog

Dogs' mental decline may be worsened by other conditions

Older dogs who have age-related cognitive decline are more likely to have other physical conditions, and vice-versa, new research shows.

The study, led by the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies in Edinburgh, was based on an online survey with the owners of more than 800 senior dogs of various breeds. The researchers wanted to find out whether there was a connection between signs of mental decline and of other health conditions.

Results published in the journal Animals show a strong association between signs of canine cognitive dysfunction (the dog equivalent of human dementia) and health problems such as arthritis.

There was also a moderate link between mental decline and digestive issues, as well as metabolic conditions such as hypothyroidism.

Vets dealing with older dogs should be aware of this correlation, the researchers said, and be vigilant for signs of concurrent conditions in older dogs with either cognitive decline or physical ill-health, particularly where physical signs are painful.

Rosalind Wrightson, one of the authors of the study, said: “As dogs age, they can develop ill health in the mind and body, but little is known of whether there is any relationship between the two in older dogs.

“Our dog owners’ survey indicates that there is a strong connection between mental and physical conditions in these animals and highlights the need for vets who are treating for one to be aware of the other.”

There’s lots you can do to help your elderly dog if they are diagnosed with doggy dementia. This Petwise blog explains the signs of dementia in dogs and how you can help them lead a good quality of life.