Older dogs who sleep badly may have dementia, study says

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As our furry friends go through the aging process, they may start to experience sleep disturbances. This is not uncommon, with studies showing that up to 50% of older dogs struggle with getting adequate sleep. New research shows that these sleep disturbances could be a sign of dementia and other cognitive disorders.

The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Helsinki and published in the Journal of Sleep Research. The researchers tracked sleep patterns of 16 dogs with cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS) and 9 dogs with no cognitive impairment for a total of 145 nights. They found that dogs with CDS slept more poorly and experienced more frequent awakenings than the control group. These findings suggest that the link between sleep disturbances and cognitive dysfunction in humans may also be present in our furry companions.

Cognitive dysfunction syndrome is similar to Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia in humans. It is estimated that up to 70% of dogs over the age of 10 will experience some form of cognitive decline. Some signs of CDS include disorientation, changes in sleeping patterns, alterations in social interactions, and loss of house training.

The exact cause of CDS is not fully understood, but it is believed to be related to the aging of the brain and changes in the levels of certain chemicals. For example, one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease is the build-up of beta-amyloid proteins in the brain, which interfere with the ability of brain cells to communicate with each other. Similar changes have been observed in the brains of dogs with CDS.

While there is no known cure for CDS, there are ways to manage the symptoms and slow down the progression of the disease. One approach is to provide extra mental stimulation to keep the brain active. This can include activities such as puzzle toys, treat dispensers, and obedience training. Exercise is also important to keep the body and mind healthy.

Another key treatment approach is to focus on improving sleep quality. This can involve creating a comfortable sleeping environment for the dog, such as providing a supportive bed in a quiet location. Reducing noise and light pollution in the sleeping area can also help.

Veterinarians may also recommend medications or supplements to help improve sleep or manage the symptoms of CDS. These can include melatonin, which is a natural sleep aid, and drugs used to treat cognitive disorders in humans, such as selegiline. It is important to work with a veterinarian to determine the best treatment approach for each individual dog.

It is also recommended to regularly monitor a dog’s health as they age, including checking for signs of cognitive dysfunction. Early detection can help manage the disease and improve quality of life for both the dog and owner.

In conclusion, sleep disturbances in older dogs may be a sign of cognitive dysfunction syndrome. This research highlights the importance of monitoring a dog’s sleeping patterns and seeking veterinary attention if there are any concerns. While there is no cure for CDS, there are ways to manage the symptoms and improve quality of life for our furry companions. By providing extra mental stimulation, exercise, and a comfortable sleeping environment, we can help keep our dogs healthy and happy well into their twilight years.