Because of advances in care and diet, more animals are living to an older age. We focus a lot on ensuring that our patients'
bodies age successfully by emphasizing the same things human physicians tell us — maintain a healthy weight, treat arthritides
and monitor for systemic illness associated with specific organ-system compromise that becomes more common with age. We humans
also worry about the health of our brains, fearing the debilitating effects of tauopathies such as Alzheimer's disease. Should
we be concerned for the health of the brains of our canine companions?
Continuing research suggests that the answer to this question is an unambiguous "Yes!" Over the past generation, we have changed
the way we view animals in general. It's now the exceptional person who has grown up on a farm, and we have come to acknowledge
the basic and deep role of the human-animal bond in the daily lives of our clients. Clients who have invested in the veterinary
care necessary to see their cats or dogs into middle age are prepared to do everything possible not just to extend the lives
of their pets, but also to ensure that their pets' brains are as healthy as possible. The relationship these clients value
is both behavioral and emotional, and it is this very relationship that pathological brain aging steals. It is incumbent on
modern veterinary medicine to do everything possible to thwart that theft of relationship.
Consoling clients that older pets had a good life and advising euthanasia is out of date. The fear that this is the advice
that veterinarians will give may keep many clients from seeking help when their older pets begin to fail behaviorally. Instead,
if we encourage clients to anticipate change and intervene as early as possible, these pets and the humans who love them can
have many years of additional quality life together.