It starts subtly. A few gray hairs around their muzzle. Their naps start lasting longer. And eventually, they start walking slower. It’s hard to watch our loyal pups get older. It’s even harder to think about them having Dementia. But a new study says it’s more common than you might want to accept.
A recent study by researchers at North Carolina State University found a link between physical and cognitive decline in older dogs. The findings suggest that the slower your dog walks the more likely they may have dementia.
The Study: Slow Walking as a Potential Indicator of Dementia in Older Dogs
The study found older dogs with slower gait speeds also showed signs of cognitive decline. Researchers say monitoring gait speed could serve as an early indicator of dementia in senior dogs.
Statistics on Older Dogs and Dementia
Dementia can affect older dogs. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, about 68% of dogs over the age of 15 show signs of cognitive decline. However, that doesn’t mean all older dogs have dementia. The changes you notice could also just be a natural part of their aging process.
The CADES Questionnaire: Assessing Cognitive Dysfunction in Dogs
There is a way for you to assess your dog for dementia at home. The CADES (Canine Cognitive Dysfunction – Examination) questionnaire evaluate various aspects of a dog’s behavior and cognitive function. It can serve as a useful tool in identifying potential signs of cognitive decline.
Advice for Pet Owners of Older Dogs:
- Making sure you dog continues with regular check-ups at their Vet can help identify any potential issues early on and make sure they get the care they need.
- Pay attention to your dog’s gait speed during walks and daily activities. A noticeable slowdown in their walking pace may be signal a need for further evaluation by your Vet.
- Engage your older dog in mentally stimulating activities, such as puzzle toys, obedience training, and interactive play sessions. These activities can help maintain cognitive function and provide mental enrichment.
- Adapt to your home environment to accommodate your dog’s aging needs. Provide comfortable bedding, minimize stairs if possible, and ensure easy access to food, water, and elimination areas.
Dementia and Life Expectancy in Older Dogs
While dementia can significantly impact an older dog’s quality of life, it’s important to remember every dog’s aging process is unique. The progression and life expectancy of dogs with dementia can vary. Some studies suggest that dogs diagnosed with cognitive dysfunction may have a shorter life expectancy. But you can still enjoy the last years of your dog by continuing to give them a loving home that adapts to their needs during this stage of their lives.
Dementia in Cats
Cats can also show similar signs of cognitive decline, such as disorientation, changes in litter box habits, and altered sleep-wake cycles. If you have an older cat exhibiting these signs you should consult with a veterinarian to discuss appropriate management strategies.
In the end, while there is no definitive way to determine if you dog has dementia, paying attention if they’re slowing down on your daily walk can help you can take proactive steps to make the best of your dog’s later years.