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08/09/2016, 17:00

Mental decline in pets is blamed on lazy owners and poor diets

Growing numbers of cats and dogs are suffering from dementia, vets have warned.

Cheap pet food, pampered lifestyles and lack of exercise are all blamed for a sudden rise in the number of pets developing the condition.

Signs of the condition include clumsiness, forgetting to eat, walking around in circles and getting stuck behind furniture.

Growing numbers of cats and dogs are suffering from dementia, vets have warned. Cheap pet food, pampered lifestyles and lack of exercise are all blamed for a sudden rise in the number of pets developing the condition.

If your pet is eight or older, and you answer yes to one or more of these questions, consult your vet:

Does your pet pace or wander aimlessly, finding it hard to settle?

Does it stare blankly as if unaware of surroundings?

Does it fail to recognise or respond to familiar people such as family and friends?

Does it get lost or confused in the home or garden?

Is it forgetful — for example, forgetting to go to the toilet or repeatedly seeking attention?

Does it vocalise repeatedly or for no reason?

Many owners could find the symptoms distressing because they do not realise what is behind them.

Experts believe a third of dogs suffer some sort of mental decline from the age of eight, rising to two-thirds at 15.

Studies, including one from the University of Edinburgh, suggest that half of all cats over the age of 15 and a third of those aged 11 to 14 suffer from dementia.  

Professor Holger Volk,from the Royal Veterinary College in London, said: ‘I don't think that people really realise how serious this problem is.’

The average dog now lives to the age of 12 and a cat to 14 thanks to the care they receive from their owners. So, to some extent, animal-loving owners are responsible for the rise in dementia, some experts have said. 

‘Years ago we weren’t seeing pets live until 17 or 18 years of age and nowadays we do,’ said Jon Bowen, Honorary Lecturer in Small Animal Behaviour at the Royal Veterinary College, London.

'Their brains aren’t evolved to live so long — they wear out.’ 

The average dog now lives to the age of 12 and a cat to 14 thanks to the care they receive from their owners. So, to some extent, animal-loving owners are responsible for the rise in dementia, some experts have said

But a reluctance to take dogs out on walks, poor quality pet food and pet obesity may all be fuelling the brain disease, Professor Volk said.

The professor told the: ‘We are seeing an increase in pet obesity. Just as we see health problems among people who are less active so we see the same problems with their pets eating more and getting less exercise and this may lead to an increase in dementia.’

He advises that owners ensure their pets keep fit and feed them high quality food, rich in fatty acids, saying: ‘Neurons in the brain go into decline with dementia and the more you exercise the more they remain active.’

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