Alzheimer disease (AD) is the leading cause of dementia among older adults. Current AD treatment options are limited, and the absence of appropriate research animals has significantly hindered the development of new AD therapies. Canine cognitive decline (CCD) is a major determinant of morbidity in older animals, with alterations in blood biomarkers, neuropathology, physiology, and behavior comparable to those seen in humans diagnosed with dementia and AD.
The one-health goal of achieving optimal health is supported by academics, researchers, and governments. Veterinarians’ ability to identify patients in the early stages of CCD is crucial to the successful implementation of interventions that can improve the quality of life of affected dogs. Timely identification of CCD also opens opportunities for innovative interdisciplinary research that will contribute to a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms, early detection, and effective treatments for AD, ultimately benefiting human health as well.
Until now, veterinary practitioners have played limited roles as interdisciplinary leaders in the One Health initiative to combat disease. The authors discuss how client-owned animals with spontaneous, naturally occurring CCD can play a significant role as disease-relevant surrogates for translational AD research. The proposed Dogs Overcoming Geriatric Memory and Aging (DOGMA) Study to be conducted in veterinary practices will analyze the relationship between blood biomarkers and biometric behavior in mature and older dogs, with the aim of establishing benchmark CCD data. The DOGMA Study is addressed in the companion Currents in One Health by Hunter et al, AJVR, November 2023.
Treatment options for human dementia remain limited, and additional research is needed to develop and validate translational models. Canine cognitive decline (CCD) is common in older dogs and a major source of morbidity. The decline includes physiological and behavioral changes comparable to those in humans diagnosed with dementia. There are also corresponding changes in plasma neurodegenerative biomarkers and neuropathology. Biomarkers for both human and canine cognitive decline can be used to identify and quantify the onset of behavioral data suggestive of CCD. Successful correlations would provide reference values for the early identification of neurodegeneration in canine patients. This could allow for the subsequent testing of interventions directed at ameliorating CCD and offer translational value leading to safe and effective treatment of dementia in people. Research can help exploit, track, and provide benefits from the rapid progression of spontaneous naturally occurring CCD in a large heterogenous community of companion dogs. Research efforts should work to deliver information using blood biomarkers, comorbidities, and wearable technologies to track and evaluate biometric data associated with neurodegeneration and cognitive decline that can be used by both human and companion animal researchers. The synergistic approach between human and veterinary medicine epitomized in one health underscores the interconnectedness of the well-being of both species. Leveraging the insights gained from studying CCD can not only lead to innovative interventions for pets but will also shed light on the complex mechanisms of human dementia.