Can a class reduce the development and progression of canine cognitive dysfunction? That is the question that four researchers from Ohio State University set out to discover. Their paper was published this fall.
O'Brian ML, Herron ME, Smith AM, Aarnes TK. Effects of a four-week group class created for dogs at least eight years of age on the development and progression of signs of cognitive dysfunction syndrome. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2021 Sep 15;259(6):637-643.
The study utilized 86 senior dogs, all over the age of 8 years, with and without signs of cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS).
Dog owners completed a survey at baseline and then 3, 6, and 12 months later. Twenty of the owners and dogs attended 4 weekly 50-minute classes specifically developed for senior dogs.
1. Education: Owners were educated on aging changes in senior dogs, CDS, veterinary care for senior dogs, fundamentals of positive reinforcement-based training, environmental enrichment, keeping a routine, and how to address nighttime waking and house soiling.
a. Recommendations to mitigate awakening at night included, use of a white noise machine, or heating or cooling bed, or an increase in daytime activity.
b. Recommendations to mitigate house soiling included using positive reinforcement (rewards) for immediate urine and feces elimination outdoors and an increase in supervision indoors.
2. Interaction Training: Owners were led through and practiced positive reinforcement-based training of new cues, such as hand targeting, eye contact, and chin rest, as well as interactions with various enrichment items, including interactive food toys.
3. A handout was provided at each class, and owners were encouraged to interact with their dogs outside the class.
1. Older dogs had more signs of CDS.
2. Those who participated in the intervention group showed less decline or rather remained statistically ‘status quo’ compared to the non-intervention group.
A limitation of the study is that owners self-selected for participation.
I think this is a wonderful intervention. I also think it would go well with the senior dog classes that many of us have created wherein Exercise, ROM, and Massage are incorporated. The two topics go hand in hand quite naturally.
I hope this provides some inspiration for things you can be doing within your practice and some live interactive sessions that our world is so desperately needing right now. So, until next time… Cheers!