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Publication type: Journal Article
Document type: Full Paper

Year: 2018

Author(s): Chapagain, D; Range, F; Huber, L; Virányi, Z

Title: Cognitive Aging in Dogs.

Source: Gerontology. 2018; 64(2):165-171

Authors Vetmeduni Vienna:

Chapagain Durga
Huber Ludwig
Range Friederike
Viranyi Zsofia

Vetmed Research Units
Messerli Research Institute, Comparative Cognition
Konrad Lorenz Institute of Ethology

A decline in the physical or mental health of older dogs can be a challenge for the owners, whose relationship with their dog is compromised by the cognitive and behavioral changes in their dogs. Although dog owners tend to consider many physiological and behavioral changes in old dogs as part of the normal aging process, it is important to differentiate between normal aging and pathologic aging, since behavioral changes may be the first indication of declining health and welfare in old dogs. Most reviews on cognitive aging in dogs have focused on translational approaches to human Alzheimer"s disease; from a practical perspective, however, understanding normal cognitive aging in pet dogs and screening cognitively affected dogs are important in their own right. Here we review the literature on different cognitive functions that decline during aging, signs of cognitive dysfunction, screening methods, and preventive measures for age-related cognitive decline. Moreover, we discuss the drawbacks of using questionnaires as subjective measures of aging and propose the development of objective methods to distinguish normal cognitive aging from severe cognitive dysfunction. We suggest that multi-targeted approaches that combine owner-evaluated questionnaires with neuropsychological tests can be most effective in screening cognitively affected dogs from normally aging dogs. Regarding preventive measures, we conclude that combinations of dietary intervention and behavioral enrichment may be more beneficial than single-pathway manipulations in delaying cognitive aging or retaining various cognitive functions during aging.

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