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Predicting behavioral changes associated with age-related cognitive impairment in dogs

Melissa J. BainBehavior Service, Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, CA 95616.

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Benjamin L. HartBehavior Service, Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, CA 95616.

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 DVM, PhD, DACVB
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Kelly D. CliffDepartment of Anatomy, Physiology, and Cell Biology, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, CA 95616.

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William W. Ruehl13868 Skyline Blvd, Woodside, CA 94062.

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 DVM, PhD, DACVP

Abstract

Objective—To monitor the progression of age-related behavioral changes in dogs during a period of 6 to 18 months and to determine whether signs of dysfunction in any of 4 behavioral categories can be used to predict further impairment.

Design—Age-stratified cohort study.

Animals—63 spayed female and 47 castrated male dogs 11 to 14 years of age.

Procedure—Data were collected from randomly selected dog owners who were interviewed by telephone twice at a 12- to 18-month interval; data were included if the dog had lived ≥ 6 months between interviews. The interview focused on signs of impairment in the following behavioral categories: orientation in the home and yard, social interactions with human family members, house training, and the sleep-wake cycle. Dogs were determined to have impairment in 0 behavioral categories (on the basis of ≤ 1 sign for each category), impairment in 1 category (≥ 2 signs of dysfunction in that category), or impairment in ≥ 2 categories.

Results—Between interviews, 22% (16/73) of dogs that did not have impairment in a category at the time of the first interview developed impairment in that category by the time of the second interview. Forty-eight percent (13/27) of dogs that had impairment in 1 category at the time of the first interview developed impairment in ≥ 2categories by the time of the second interview and were significantly more likely to develop impairment in ≥ 2 categories, compared with dogs that initially had impairment in 0 categories. Dogs with 1 sign of dysfunction in orientation were significantly more likely to develop impairment in that category, compared with dogs that had 0 signs of dysfunction in orientation.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Age-related behavioral changes in dogs are progressive. Clinicians should consider trying to predict which dogs are most likely to become progressively impaired during the subsequent 6 to 18 months. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2001;218:1792–1795)

Abstract

Objective—To monitor the progression of age-related behavioral changes in dogs during a period of 6 to 18 months and to determine whether signs of dysfunction in any of 4 behavioral categories can be used to predict further impairment.

Design—Age-stratified cohort study.

Animals—63 spayed female and 47 castrated male dogs 11 to 14 years of age.

Procedure—Data were collected from randomly selected dog owners who were interviewed by telephone twice at a 12- to 18-month interval; data were included if the dog had lived ≥ 6 months between interviews. The interview focused on signs of impairment in the following behavioral categories: orientation in the home and yard, social interactions with human family members, house training, and the sleep-wake cycle. Dogs were determined to have impairment in 0 behavioral categories (on the basis of ≤ 1 sign for each category), impairment in 1 category (≥ 2 signs of dysfunction in that category), or impairment in ≥ 2 categories.

Results—Between interviews, 22% (16/73) of dogs that did not have impairment in a category at the time of the first interview developed impairment in that category by the time of the second interview. Forty-eight percent (13/27) of dogs that had impairment in 1 category at the time of the first interview developed impairment in ≥ 2categories by the time of the second interview and were significantly more likely to develop impairment in ≥ 2 categories, compared with dogs that initially had impairment in 0 categories. Dogs with 1 sign of dysfunction in orientation were significantly more likely to develop impairment in that category, compared with dogs that had 0 signs of dysfunction in orientation.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Age-related behavioral changes in dogs are progressive. Clinicians should consider trying to predict which dogs are most likely to become progressively impaired during the subsequent 6 to 18 months. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2001;218:1792–1795)