Pexels | Christian Domingues

Like humans, cognitive decline and memory loss are common for aging dogs.

But in extreme cases, scientists say, dogs can experience something called canine cognitive dysfunction, or CCD for short. Other symptoms can include disrupted sleeping patterns, loss of spatial awareness, and new and unusual social behaviors.

Sarah Yarborough who is the lead author of a study published in Scientific Reports, tells National Geographic, “When two dogs have the same sterilization status, health problems, breed type, and activity level, the risk of CCD is 52 percent higher in the dog who is one year older than the one who is one year younger.”

What’s more, dogs described as inactive by their owners were nearly 6.5 times more likely to suffer from CCD—though the experts stress that this link was a correlation, not causation. In other words, they can’t say for sure that inactivity led to CCD or if developing CCD triggered the inactivity. That will require more research to untangle, Yarborough says.


Dog Aging Project

In this recent study conducted in 2020, published in the journal Scientific Reports, researchers asked over 15,000 dog owners to complete two surveys on their dogs’ health and cognitive status. Then the scientists grouped the dogs by age and analyzed the results

Based on age alone, a dog’s odds of developing CCD increased by 68% for each year after a decade of life. But when other factors were taken into account, such as the breed of dog, existing health problems, sterilization and physical activity, the risk fell to 52% per extra year of life.

Inactive dogs of the same breed, health status, age and sterilization status were nearly seven times more likely to get doggie dementia than comparable active dogs. Whether it’s the inactivity that leads to the dementia or vice versa is unclear, the study authors said.

In addition, dogs with a history of neurological, eye or ear disorders had a higher risk of cognitive decline, according to the study.

On a positive note, the study found almost no cognitive decline in dogs below the age of 10.





SCIENTIFIC REPORTS: “Evaluation of cognitive function in the Dog Aging Project: associations with baseline canine.”