Dogs Might Be The Key To Treating Alzheimer's In Humans

Here's what researchers discovered 👩‍🔬

dog question marks and brains

If you’re a dog lover, you already know that dogs are pretty amazing. But did you know they can help us understand (and even treat) some diseases in humans?

A new study on canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CCDS) by researchers at North Carolina State University found a way to figure out how far the disease has progressed in dogs. Not only is this good for treating CCDS in dogs, but this can possibly help with testing treatments for Alzheimer’s disease in humans, too.

"Being able to diagnose and quantify CCDS in a way that is clinically safe and relevant is a good first step toward being able to work with dogs as a model for Alzheimer's disease in humans," Natasha Olby, one of the study researchers, said in a statement.

Here’s what you need to know about the study.

old dog with white fur around mouth

Studying dogs may be able to help researchers find a treatment for Alzheimer’s

Canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome and Alzheimer’s are actually pretty similar.

Like Alzheimer’s, CCDS is a progressive disease with no cure, so treatments focus on slowing the progression of cognitive decline. Both diseases cause similar symptoms in dogs and people, like disorientation, memory loss and irritability, and there are similar brain changes in dogs with CCDS as there are in humans with Alzheimer’s.

Both diseases are also very difficult to diagnose. CCDS could previously only be diagnosed by ruling out other potential conditions and through questionnaires from pet parents (which doesn't really provide great info). When it comes to Alzheimer’s, those symptoms can look like many other diseases, and there’s no single test or exam that can confirm the diagnosis.

The results found that multiple tools (including blood tests, cognitive tests and questionnaires) are accurate in detecting CCDS and tracking its progression. And since CCDS and Alzheimer’s are so similar, researchers are hoping to use this method for quantifying cognitive decline as a model for studying Alzheimer’s.

Why this is important for people

Because of the similarities in symptoms and brain changes in the two diseases, studying the progression of CCDS in dogs can help researchers better understand the development of Alzheimer’s — and hopefully lead to a cure.

And with the ability to diagnose canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome accurately, vets will also be able to help dog parents take better care of their senior pups and slow the progression of cognitive decline.

So the bottom line is dogs really are the best (which, of course, you already knew).