2023 journal article
Activity patterns are associated with fractional lifespan, memory, and gait speed in aged dogs.
Abstract Maintaining an active lifestyle is considered a hallmark of successful aging. Physical activity significantly reduces the risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease in humans. However, pain and lack of motivation are important barriers to exercise. Dogs are a remarkable model for translational studies in aging and cognition as they are prone to Canine Cognitive Dysfunction syndrome, which has many similarities with Alzheimer’s disease. According to owner reports, changes in activity levels are characteristic of this syndrome, with decreased daytime activity, but also excessive pacing, especially at sleep time. We used physical activity monitors to record the activity of 27 senior dogs and evaluated the association between activity level and age, fractional lifespan, cognitive status measured by an owner questionnaire and cognitive tests. We also assessed the relationship between activity and joint/spinal pain, and the off/on leash gait speed ratio (a potential marker of gait speed reserve and motivation). We found that activity patterns in dogs are associated with fractional lifespan and working memory. Additionally, dogs with higher on/off leash gait speed are more active in the afternoon of weekdays. These results encourage future studies evaluating how physical activity can improve or delay cognitive impairment in senior dogs.