Successful brain aging in dogs

Successful brain aging in dogs

Contributions, causes of age-related cognitive changes in dogs.
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Jul 01, 2010



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Consoling clients that older pets had a good life and advising euthanasia is out of date.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.