Alexandre Rossi

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Estopinha is ten years old!

About the study

Recently, I shared on social media a questionnaire prepared by researchers from Eötvös Loránd University, located in Budapest, Hungary. They are studying the aging process of dogs, specifically as their behavior changes as the years go by, and at what age the symptoms of aging and the cognitive dysfunction syndrome, better known as "canine Alzheimer's", may begin to appear.

About the results found here in Brazil 

Data was collected from 4,417 dogs, ranging in age from 8 weeks to 26 years. 42.6% of the dogs were mixed breeds and 57.4% were pure breeds. In total, 83 breeds were represented in the sample.

Top 10 dog names

This was a fun fact: knowing which dog names are most common in Brazil! 

Ranking Puppy name Number of dogs
1. Honey 134
2. Nina 133
3. Pretty 58
4. Meg 49
5. Luna 48
6. Thor 44
7. Billy 33
8. Bob 30
9. Drip 27
10.  Lola, Nick. 25-25

Top 10 dog breeds

The most common breeds of dogs among the people who answered the questionnaire were:

Ranking Breed  Number of dogs
1. Miniature Poodle 346
2. Yorkshire Terrier 222
3. Lhasa Apso 212
4. Shih Tzu 194
5. Dachshund 178
6. Miniature Pinscher 154
7. Labrador Retriever 147
8. Standard Poodle 146
9. English Cocker Spaniel  98
10. Maltese 89

Data on how dogs live 

Below are some statistics that show some demographic characteristics and care of dogs in this Brazilian sample:

The percentage of castrated dogs (both male and female) is high. Castration is an effective and extremely important measure to combat overpopulation, abandonment, and the proliferation of serious diseases. However, it is still necessary to be aware of these risks, since there are still many uncastrated dogs.   

When I think about the welfare of dogs, one of the first things that comes to my mind is to allow them to stay close to their family, inside the home. Therefore, this high percentage of dogs that live this way left me very satisfied!

This result showed me that we can teach a lot more tricks and behaviors to dogs! Always remember that this is a way to mentally stimulate them and greatly improves our communication and relationship with them!

Having a well-established routine of activities for dogs (food, games, walks, training), helps to keep them balanced and calm. This is an important element especially when the dog is very anxious, since the predictability of what will happen in his day to day life is an important factor to help him feel more calm. 

And the big question: when do dogs start getting older?

In general, dogs "age" around 8 years of age, according to the pet parents who answered this questionnaire, which matches the literature on the subject. 

However, it seems that aging depends on the size of the dog. For example, of the dogs who are 10 years of age, more than 90% of these dogs of large size were considered elderly according to their pet parents, in comparison with 80% of the dogs of medium size and 70% of those considered "miniature". That is, the larger the size of the dog, the sooner the pet parents seem to notice the signs of aging.

In addition, as expected, the dogs considered elderly differed from those considered "non-elderly" in most behavioral characteristics. However, curiously, no differences were found between "old" and young dogs with respect to sociability.

Symptoms of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome

Among the many diseases that affect elderly dogs, canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome is the most evident and has many similarities to Alzheimer's Disease which affects humans.

This syndrome is characterized by a variety of symptoms, such as spatial disorientation, changes in their sleep-wake cycle, elimination problems, changes in social behavior, memory problems and learning disabilities.

In general, these dogs begin to present some of these symptoms around 8 years of age. However, when the syndrome becomes effective (i.e., with several symptoms that occur at least monthly) it seems to develop around the age of 15. 

The prevalence of Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome also depends on the size of the dog. Miniature sized dogs show a more gradual increase with age than large dogs. Curiously, in the case of medium-sized dogs, there is a sudden drop in the prevalence of the syndrome after the age of 18.

Tips for dealing with a dog with Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome

During the aging process we are perhaps facing the stage of our dogs' lives when they need us most. For this reason, it is worth consulting a veterinarian who can prescribe the necessary medications and precautions to deal with the problems that arise with age, including canine Alzheimer's. 

In addition, maintaining an active routine (always respecting physical and health limitations) helps to keep the brain active as well.

It is also important to try not to change the environment in which the dog is already accustomed, because one of the symptoms that affects the elderly with "Canine Alzheimer" is disorientation. 

Finally, much still needs to be deciphered by science when it comes to the aging process of our pets. But knowing that there are scientists focusing on, collecting data, and studying this phase in which dogs deserve so much affection and care makes me very excited! 

Once again, I thank each of you who have taken the time to answer the questionnaire.