Morris Animal Foundation, Purina Institute Learn More About Canine Cognitive Dysfunction


Morris Animal Foundation partners with the Purina Institute to advance knowledge of canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome

Morris Animal Foundation, a leader in advancing animal health, is partnering with the Purina Institute to advance the knowledge of canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS), through the Foundation’s Golden Retriever Lifetime Study. By collecting data from the Study’s dog owners and veterinarians on signs of CDS, the two organizations are working to improve understanding of CDS incidence, prevalence and types of risk factors.

The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study is one of the largest, most comprehensive prospective canine health studies in the United States. Though primarily intended to identify the nutritional, environmental, lifestyle and genetic risk factors for cancer and other diseases in dogs, extensive data collection is informing other areas of canine health as well.

“We collect valuable information about the dogs in this study and can use this data to learn much more about canine health beyond cancer, including dog aging and associated cognitive decline,” said Tiffany Grunert, President/CEO of Morris Animal Foundation. “Right now, much is unknown about canine cognitive dysfunction, but with the observations from our dedicated owners and veterinarians, and the Purina Institute’s help, we know we can help dogs everywhere enjoy a better quality of life as they age.”

Canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome is a behavioral syndrome that affects about 14% of dogs 8 years and older, and is somewhat akin to Alzheimer’s Disease in dogs.

Dogs with CDS may become disoriented, show a loss of housetraining and exhibit decreased interaction with their owners, among other signs.

“We are excited to partner with Morris Animal Foundation on this project and want to provide the Study’s participants the tools they need to identify dogs at risk for CDS or with mild to severe cases,” said Dr. Natalia Wagemans, Group Director at the Purina Institute. “We look forward to being able to publish impactful research results to make real, positive change in canine health.”

With a gift of $225,000, the Purina Institute is sponsoring the addition of CDS-focused questions to the current data collection process. The new questions address behaviors around learning and memory, disorientation, social interactions, sleep/wake cycles, house soiling, activity and anxiety.

Each year, with the help of veterinarians and dog owners, the Foundation collects questionnaire data and biological samples from all enrolled golden retrievers. At the start of the Study, 3,044 dogs were enrolled. Now, approximately 2,700 dogs remain due to deaths and owner attrition.