Dementia is a condition most commonly associated with elderly humans, but did you know that cats and dogs are just as prone to this degenerative disease? Experts have estimated that up to a third of dogs over the age of eight and two-thirds of those aged over fifteen years are affected by dementia, while a third of cats aged eleven to fourteen and half of those aged over fifteen years will one day be diagnosed with dementia. The numbers are startling, and they're on the rise.
The symptoms of dementia in cats and dogs include clumsiness, forgetfulness, becoming disorientated while in familiar surroundings, a loss of appetite, and wandering in circles. Dementia can strike at any time, and under any set of circumstances. However, there are some factors that many believe can cause and exacerbate this condition.
Increasing Life Expectancy
We are happy when our furry friends stay around for longer, but living beyond a certain age can increase our pets' risks of developing conditions such as dementia.
"Years ago we weren't seeing pets live until 17 or 18 years of age and nowadays we do. Their brains aren't evolved to live so long – they wear out," explains Jon Bowen, an Honorary Lecturer at the Royal Veterinary College, London. As your pet grows older, learn to be more aware of their behavior, and seek medical advice if you're ever concerned that your cat or dog is in pain or unhappy.
Lack of Exercise and Poor Diet
According to Professor Holger Volk of the Royal Veterinary College, pet obesity and the failure of pet parents to let their animals exercise properly could contribute towards dementia: "We are seeing an increase in pet obesity. Just as we see health problems among people who are less active so we see the same problems with their pets eating more and getting less exercise and this may lead to an increase in dementia… Neurons in the brain go into decline with dementia and the more you exercise the more they remain active."
If you'd like to keep your pet fit and well into their twilight years, provide a balanced diet that uses quality ingredients, and always ensure that your pet is receiving the right amount of exercise for their breed and age.
As in many humans, the onset of dementia in cats and dogs cannot always be predicted or prevented. However, by providing your pet with an adequate diet and plenty of exercise, you will know that you're doing your part. Your pet's health is your responsibility, after all.