Prevalence and risk factors of behavioural changes associated with age-related cognitive impairment in geriatric dogs

J Small Anim Pract. 2009 Feb;50(2):87-91. doi: 10.1111/j.1748-5827.2008.00718.x.


Objectives: The aim of this study was to describe the prevalence and severity of behavioural changes associated with age and their relationship to risk factors such as sex, reproductive status, bodyweight and age.

Methods: A cross-sectional study design was chosen. A total of 325 geriatric dogs were included. Owners of dogs older than nine years were interviewed by a veterinary behaviourist. Structured phone interviews were used to gather information about four behavioural categories related to cognitive impairment: sleep/wake cycles, social interaction, learning and house training and signs of disorientation.

Results: Signs of cognitive impairment showed a prevalence of 22.5 per cent in geriatric dogs. Sex and age emerged as significant predictor variables. Females and neutered dogs were significantly more affected than males and entire dogs, respectively. Prevalence and severity increased with age. Although weight was not a statistically significant predictor variable, smaller animals had greater odds of showing age-related cognitive impairment. The most impaired behavioural categories were social interaction and house training.

Clinical significance: Age-related behavioural changes should be considered by practicing veterinarians because of their relative high prevalence among geriatric dogs, especially in females.

MeSH terms

  • Aging / psychology*
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Castration
  • Cognition Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Cognition Disorders / psychology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dog Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Dog Diseases / psychology*
  • Dogs
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sex Factors