Old Dogs and New Tricks – Can the study of naturally occurring aging changes in the brains of old dogs lead to improved understanding and treatments for humans suffering from Alzheimer’s disease?

People often ask us if their old dog could be senile and the short answer is yes – it is possible.  It is widely recognized that older dogs can show significant changes in their behavior such as house soiling, disrupted sleep wake cycles and apparent non-recognition of people and other pets.  Some of these behaviours can be attributed to other age related conditions such as arthritis and decreased hearing or vision but some dogs do appear to suffer from canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome or what is more commonly referred to as dementia.

In her article “What can beagles teach us about Alzheimer’s disease”, University of Kentucky Assistant Professor Elizabeth Head discusses the similarities between dogs and people when it comes to studying aging changes in the brain.   Just like people, not all dogs are affected by aging changes in the brain to the same degree.  Dogs and people can both naturally develop “senile plaques” of a protein called beta amyloid that can be toxic to brain cells.  They can also both develop changes in the blood vessels to the brain, accumulate damaged proteins and lose cells and chemicals that support brain cells.  This is significant because much research done on Alzheimer’s disease is performed on mice which are genetically modified but dogs may provide a model for naturally occurring disease and therefore be more relevant.  Interestingly, in one study, dogs that showed the most significant changes in memory and learning ability also showed the most accumulation of “senile plaques” in the brain.

Research into lifestyle factors in dogs such as such as exercise, optimal nutrition, dietary supplements and mental activity/stimulation could lead to significant improvements in senior dogs lives and translate to people as well.   Learning new tricks learning new tricks may well prove to be beneficial to both Fido and owner!

Please click here to see original article by Elizabeth Head published in The Conversation:

People often ask us if their old dog could be senile and the short answer is yes – it is possible.  It is widely recognized that older dogs can show significant changes in their behavior such as house soiling, disrupted sleep wake cycles and apparent non-recognition of people and other pets.  Some of these behaviours can be attributed to other age related changes such as arthritis and decreased hearing and vision but some dogs do appear to suffer from canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome or what is more commonly referred to as dementia.

In her article “What can beagles teach us about Alzheimer’s disease”*, University of Kentucky Assistant Professor Elizabeth Head discusses the similarities between dogs and people when it comes to studying aging changes in the brain.   Just like people, not all dogs are affected by aging changes in the brain to the same degree.  Dogs and people can both naturally develop “senile plaques” of a protein called beta amyloid that can be toxic to brain cells.  They can also both develop changes in the blood vessels to the brain, accumulate damaged proteins and lose cells and chemicals that support brain cells.  This is significant because much research done on Alzheimer’s disease is performed on mice which are genetically modified but dogs may provide a model for naturally occurring disease and therefore be more relevant.  Interestingly, in one study, dogs that showed the most significant changes in memory and learning ability also showed the most accumulation of “senile plaques” in the brain.

Research into lifestyle factors in dogs such as such as exercise, optimal nutrition, dietary supplements and mental activity/stimulation could lead to significant improvements in senior dogs lives and translate to people as well.   Learning new tricks could be beneficial to both Fido and owner!

*Please click here to see original article by Elizabeth Head published in The Conversation:

 

Leave a Reply

Font Resize
Contrast