Behavioral enrichment protects elderly dogs against dementia. Infographic.

I have converted a text article reporting on this study by researchers from the universities of Kentucky and California (published in The Journal of Neuroscience) into an infographic so that it can be read very quickly without the need to wade through technical terminology.

The basic finding probably confirms what many dog owners and non-dog owners have already realised as it applies to humans as well, namely that exercising the brain in old age helps to keep it sharper for longer. In this instance ensuring that the dogs’ environment was enriched helped to stave off dementia.

The same can be said about domestic cats which is why I am so against simply closing the doors and cat flaps on cats to keep then inside the home 24/7 without enriching the indoor environment. It leads to health avoidable health issues.

Our results suggest that behavioral enrichment can prevent atrophy and increase the volume of the hippocampus but does not prevent aging-associated prefrontal cortex atrophy

The study

All people and their pets should be challenging their brain in old age alongside exercising and stretching their bodies physically. Why? Ultimately it keeps you happier for longer and that is the fundamental goal of everyone born onto this precious, blue planet.

Teach an old dog new tricks to protect against dementia. Infographic
Teach an old dog new tricks to protect against dementia. Infographic. This infographic can be downloaded and used by anyone under a Creative Commons license. Click on it to see the original and download it. The study referred to in the infographic is titled: Age-Related Brain Atrophy and the Positive Effects of Behavioral Enrichment in Middle-Aged Beagles. Link: https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2366-23.2024
Until September 7th I will give 10 cents to an animal charity for every comment. It is a way to help animal welfare without much effort at no cost. Comments help this website too, which is about animal welfare.

P.S. Another study also concerning old beagles concluded that the tested dogs’ enjoyed an improvement in short-term memory performance by a nutraceutical supplement containing phosphatidylserine, Ginkgo biloba, vitamin E, and pyridoxine. Study: Araujo JA, Landsberg GM, Milgram NW, Miolo A. Improvement of short-term memory performance in aged beagles by a nutraceutical supplement containing phosphatidylserine, Ginkgo biloba, vitamin E, and pyridoxine. Can Vet J. 2008 Apr;49(4):379-85. PMID: 18481547; PMCID: PMC2275342.

RELATED: Environmental Enrichment For Domestic Cats

Below is some more on ‘environmental enrichment’ from Google’s Gemini

Environmental enrichment is just as important for senior dogs and cats as it is for younger ones. It helps to keep their minds and bodies active, which can have a number of benefits, including:

  • Preventing cognitive decline: Mental stimulation can help to stave off cognitive decline, which is a common problem in older pets. [3]
  • Improving mood and well-being: Enrichment activities can help to keep elderly pets happy and engaged, which can improve their overall well-being.
  • Maintaining physical health: Even low-impact exercise can help to maintain muscle mass and joint health in older pets.
  • Reducing boredom and anxiety: Boredom can lead to destructive behaviors in some pets, and anxiety is a common problem in older animals. Enrichment activities can help to address both of these issues.

Enrichment doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. There are a number of things you can do to enrich your pet’s environment, such as:

  • Provide new toys and puzzles: Rotate your pet’s toys so that they always have something new to explore. Food puzzles can be a great way to challenge your pet mentally and physically.
  • Go for short walks or sniff walks: Even if your dog can’t walk for long distances anymore, they can still benefit from getting outside and sniffing around.
  • Play hide-and-seek with treats: This is a great way to engage your pet’s senses of smell and sight.
  • Create a catio: If you have the space, consider creating a catio, which is a secure outdoor enclosure for your cat.
  • Teach your pet new tricks: Even old dogs (and cats!) can learn new tricks. Positive reinforcement training is a great way to bond with your pet and keep their minds sharp.

By providing your elderly pet with environmental enrichment, you can help them to live a happier, healthier, and more fulfilling life.

It is important that both cat and dog caregivers are fully up to scratch on this topic.

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