Cats Can Get Alzheimer's: Study

Wednesday, December 6, 2006; 12:00 AM

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 6 (HealthDay News) -- Cats can develop a feline form of Alzheimer's disease, say U.K. and U.S. researchers who identified a protein that can build up in brain nerve cells and cause mental deterioration.

"This newly-discovered protein is crucial to our understanding of the aging process in cats," researcher Danielle Gunn-Moore, of the University of Edinburgh's Royal School of Veterinary Studies, said in a prepared statement.

"We've known for a long time that cats develop dementia, but this study tells us that the cat's neural system is being compromised in a similar fashion to that we see in human Alzheimer's sufferers. The gritty plaques (previously detected on the outside of old cats' brain cells) had only hinted that might be the case -- now, we know," Gunn-Moore said.

The findings were published in a recent issue of theJournal of Feline Medicine.

By carrying out examinations of cats that have died of the feline Alzheimer's, scientists may be able to learn more about how the condition develops and possibly devise treatments.

"The shorter life span of a cat, compared to humans, allows researchers to more rapidly assess the effects of diet, high blood pressure, and prescribed drugs on the course of the disease. However, we also need to understand more about our geriatric cats for their own benefit, so we can slow down the degeneration the disease brings and keep them as happy cats for as long as possible," Gunn-Moore said.

Like humans, pet cats have a longer life expectancy than they used to, which means they have a greater likelihood of developing dementia.

"Recent studies suggest that 28 percent of pet cats aged 11-14 years develop at least one old-age related behavior problem, and this increases to more than 50 percent for cats over the age of 15," Gunn-Moore said.

Good diet, mental stimulation and companionship can reduce the risk of dementia in cats, the researchers said.

More information

The Winn Feline Foundation has more about geriatric cats.

SOURCE: University of Edinburgh, news release, Dec. 5, 2006



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