Cats can get Alzheimer’s. While it’s been known that cats get dementia, researchers at the Universities of Edinburgh, St. Andrews and Bristol in the United Kingdom and in California have identified a key protein which can build up in the nerve cells of a cat’s brain and cause mental deterioration.
In humans, plaques form when protein pieces called beta-amyloid clump together. Now beta-amyloid has been founding cats.
Alzheimers’ is the most common cause of dementia, a new term used to describe what was once referred to a senility, defined by dictionary.com as a decline or deterioration of physical strength or mental functioning, especially short-term memory and alertness, as a result of old age or disease. It was always connected with old age.
Dr. Danielle Gunn-Moore, of the University of Edinburgh’s Royal School of Veterinary Studies, is found at the center of the research on cats and Alzheimer’s.
But this may not be all bad news because researchers will be able to study the effects of diet, high blood pressure, prescribed drugs, and other factors faster because cats live much shorter lives. It is hoped this will lead to better treatments for both humans and pets.
According to veterinarypracticenews.com, http://www.veterinarypracticenews.com Dr. Gunn-Moore has found the neuron system in the cat’s brain is being compromised similarly to humans.
The article quoting findings published in the Journal of Feline Medicine goes on to say that in 2006 researchers found that good diet, mental stimulation and companionship can reduce the risk of dementia in both humans and cats. A good diet, mental stimulation (learning new tasks) and social companionship reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.
If an owner plays with the cat, it’s good for both of them. A diet full of antioxidants is also good for both.
A diagnosis of dementia can be less scary than Alzheimer’s. But Paws asks should it be. According to the US National Library of Medicine’s website, dementia is a loss of brain function that occurs with certain diseases. It affects memory, thinking, language, judgment, and behavior. Most types of dementia are non-reversible (degenerative). Non-reversible means the changes in the brain that are causing the dementia cannot be stopped or turned back. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, but not the only one.
Another cause is many small strokes (vascular dementia) Note, cats also have strokes. Other medical conditions that can lead to dementia include:
- Huntington’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Infections that can affect the brain, such as HIV /AIDS and Lyme disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Pick’s disease
- Progressive supranuclear palsy
Some causes of dementia may be stopped or reversed if they are found soon enough, including:
- Brain injury
- Brain tumors
- Chronic alcohol abuse
- Changes in blood sugar, sodium, and calcium levels Low vitamin B12 levels
- Normal pressure hydrocephalus (water on the brain)
- Use of certain medications, including cimetadine and some cholesterol-lowering medications
Dementia usually occurs in older age. It is rare in people under age 60. The risk for dementia increases as a person gets older. It usually first appears as forgetfulness.
Symptoms of dementia symptoms include difficulty with:
- Emotional behavior or personality
- Cognitive skills (such as calculation, abstract thinking, or judgment)
According to petmd.com, cognitive dysfunction syndrome is directly related to the aging of a cat’s brain; which changes their awareness, makes it difficult for them to learn and remember, and decreases their responses to various stimuli. As with Alzheimer’s, the initial systems are mild and gradually worsen overtime, often called cognitive decline.
That posting cites symptoms of CDS or possibly Alzheimer’s include:
- Extreme irritability
- Decreased desire to play
- Excessive licking
- Seeming disregard for previously learned training or house rules
- Slow to learn new tasks
- Inability to follow familiar routes
- Lack of self-grooming
- Fecal and urinary incontinence
- Loss of appetite
- Changes in sleep cycle (i.e, night waking, sleeping during the day
According to petside.com, “The University of Edinburgh research scientists believe that a quarter of cats between the age of 11-14, and half of the cats over 15 years-of-age display “geriatric onset behavioral problems.” Dr. Daniel Gunn-Moore, professor of Feline medicine at the university said, “When we look at cats of all ages, we believe about 10 percent will be affected, which represents about one million cats in Britain. Since cats are living longer lives, she postulates that cats are at greater risk, today. With the excellent veterinary care available for cats, in addition to improved diet and keeping cats indoors rather than being allowed to roam outside, cats are being treated for conditions, which, at one time may have been euthanized.”
Treatment options include:
- Food fortified with antioxidants and vitamins
- A stimulating environment with toys and playtime with their pet person
- For advanced CDS, synthetic feline appeasement pheromone on the carpet or flooring might help. It also might help to confine them to one room, creating a less confusing environment.
There are treatments available for CDS. However, it’s best to consult your veterinarian before entertaining any treatments other than generic holistic measures that will keep you and your cat healthier. Of course, the good news, for cats and people, is that the research continues, and there is hope of a better understanding and better treatments for this dreaded disease.
Paws and others wonder why is Alzheimer’s so common and growing. The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that 5.2 million Americans are living with the disease, a number that is expected to explode. There is some belief that it could have a genetic connection. Is it our diet? What’s so different? One thing that Paws give pause to is social isolation. People used to live closer to family. There was a strong sense of neighborhood and community. Even if we are mentally stimulated, is our independence, depression, anxiety, social disconnectedness eventually catching up with us? Please comment with your thoughts.