PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractWhile it is widely accepted that elderly dogs experience cognitive decline, the specific cognitive impairments that occur with age are not fully understood. This thesis examines how cognitive abilities such as memory, impulse control, and reversal learning are impacted by age in domestic dogs. The weakening of these abilities is often tied to canine cognitive dysfunction, which is currently underdiagnosed and has limited intervention options. In examining the relationship between these abilities and age, we hope to better understand normal cognitive changes, and in doing so, improve understanding and identification of abnormal changes that may be caused by canine cognitive dysfunction. In this thesis, we found that performance on tasks testing memory, impulse control, and reversal learning declined in older dogs. However, we were unable to discover any statistically significant correlation between task performance and scores on a canine cognitive dysfunction diagnostic test, although this may have been due to limited variation in the scores of our sample. Through evaluating dogs of various ages, breeds, and backgrounds, this study investigates trends of cognitive decline to assist future diagnosis and treatment research.
Degree ProgramAnimal Sciences