Alzheimer’s and dementia: Could your pet suffer from cognitive dysfunction?
September is World Alzheimer’s Month — Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia where mental abilities decline and hinder the ability to perform everyday functions. In the spirit of the month National Geographic asked expert whether wild animals and domestic pets suffer from dementia or dementia-like symptoms.
Domestic dogs and cats often live long enough to develop cognitive dysfunction. Although little data has been collected on older animals in the wild, if they were to develop dementia-like symptoms, they wouldn’t survive very long after.
Published earlier this year, Ageing Research Reviews revealed that in 334 studies, 175 animal species displayed evidence of senescence, the process of growing old.
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Dan Nussey, co-author of the study, of the Institute of Evolutionary Biology at the University of Edinburgh, said that some of the best evidence and detailed studies on senescence come from wild ungulates (such as deer, bighorn sheep, and mountain goats) in addition to seabirds, like the long-lived albatross.
According to Nussey, wild animals can display physical deterioration like arthritis or tooth wear, and some cognitive deterioration may take place in the wild, but something as serve as dementia or Alzheimer’s would likely lead to their immediate demise.
“Wild animals live a tough life,” agreed David Mizejewski, a naturalist with the National Wildlife Federation. “Even early [physical] deteriorations—like age-worn teeth or hips—make it harder for them to survive.” Additional cognitive problems would simply make them too vulnerable to survive.
Domestic pets, however, live in safe environments and are treated regularly by veterinarians, allowing them to live long enough to develop cognitive dysfunction.
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Chief clinician at Humane Society of Boulder Valley in Colorado, Jennifer Bolser, said veterinarians are witnessing more instances of cognitive dysfunction syndrome, commonly called canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD).
Some of the recognizable signs for owners to notice in dogs is “acting disoriented, walking in circles, or staring into corners or [at] the wall.”
Other symptoms include aggression, unusual sleeping patterns, disinterest in family members, and the absence of the ability to control urination or defecation. If it appears that they have forgotten how to be house trained, Bolser says it may be a sign of CCD.
Christopher J. Berry is a Michigan Alzheimer’s Planning planning lawyer and Medicaid planning attorney dedicated to helping seniors, veterans and their families navigate the long-term care maze. To learn more visit http://www.theeldercarefirm.com/ or call 248.481.4000