Quirks & Quarks

Do animals suffer from dementia?

Pets such as cats and dogs may suffer from cognitive disfunction syndrome, which is similar to dementia or memory loss that is known in humans

Pets certainly suffer from alzheimers-like disease, and wild animals may as well

Dog waiting to see the vet (Mark Buckawicki, CC0 1.0)
Listen3:04

This week's question comes from Paul Goldberg in Medford, Massachusetts. He asks: 

Do other vertebrates suffer from dementia or loss of memory as we do?

Paul Bernard, a neurophysiologist and assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at The Atlantic Veterinary College in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island says it is more common in household pets such as dogs and cats. They may suffer from cognitive dysfunction syndrome, which is similar to dementia or Alzheimer's in humans.

It is more common in older pets and symptoms include disorientation, changes in social behaviour and failure to perform known tasks and commands. In dogs in particular, amyloid plaques, which are abnormal protein fragments in the brain, can occur as they do in humans. They are an indicator of memory loss.

Dementia in animals in the wild is not well known, simply because they do not live long enough to reach old age. However, according to recent research, amyloid plaques have now been detected in the brains of non-human primates and dolphins.   

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