Companion Dog Models of Cognitive Aging
Abstract: Dogs are a valuable model for aging research, including studies of cognitive decline and dementia. With advanced age, some dogs spontaneously develop cognitive impairments and neuropathology resembling features of Alzheimer’s disease. However, most research on these processes has been conducted with beagles in laboratory environments. More recently, companion dogs (dogs living in private households) have been proposed as powerful models of aging due to a wealth of features shared with humans including high levels of genetic and phenotypic diversity, exposure to human living environments, comparable disease risk and burdens, and access to a sophisticated healthcare system. In this talk I will present recent studies from my lab characterizing cognitive aging and dementia in companion dog populations. I will highlight the role of spontaneous problem-solving measures in supporting rapid large-scale data collection and provide an overview of our cognitive research in the Dog Aging Project, a nationwide study of the genetic and environmental determinants of aging in ~50,000 dogs.