As dogs live longer, they are starting to have similar signs of cognitive decline as their human counterparts.
If you’ve noticed your elderly dog has become more irritable, disoriented or has trouble sleeping, they may be suffering from canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD). The symptoms are eerily similar to Alzheimer’s in humans, and typically affect dogs over the age of 14. In fact, 40% of elderly dogs have the disease.
A 2018 study from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) looked at how diet can help elderly dogs. Dogs with CCD were given different nutritional solutions to see if it impacted their symptoms.
The nutritional changes were intended to target certain risk factors that are associated with Alzheimer’s, including DHA deficiency, reduced cerebral glucose metabolism, and chronic inflammation.
After 90 days, the study found that a diet high in medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) improved signs of CCD in canines, supporting the researchers’ theory that the risk factors for CCD and Alzheimer’s are similar.
An earlier Australian study from the University of Sydney was able to successfully treat two dogs of their CCD symptoms altogether.
In 2015, researchers injected stem cells into the brain of a 13-year-old Cocker Spaniel, named Timmy, who was displaying CCD symptoms. About three months later, Timmy started to show significant improvement — a promising outcome not only for the canines but for their owners as well.
“We think if it works in dogs, it stands a very high chance of working in humans just because of the close similarity between the dog and the human brain,” said Tom Duncan, a researcher with the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre.
While there is no cure yet for CCD or Alzheimer’s, Dr. Cameron Fay, a veterinarian, recommends keeping your dogs as engaged as possible — play with them outside and stay interactive with them as they age.