Many of the important breakthroughs in modern science have been discovered with the help of dogs. Diseases like cancer and diabetes can be researched in dogs and that research is then used to learn more about the disease in humans. Now, our furry friends may be able to help unlock clues about human intelligence and assist us in understanding more about dementia.
Experts at the University of Edinburgh and London School of Economics believe that they have developed an IQ test for dogs that is similar to the tests created for humans. The researchers say the canine IQ test can measure a dog’s ability to complete certain tasks and solve problems. The study was performed on 68 working border collies.
The collies were all farm dogs, meaning they weren’t used to things like dog treats and performing commands like traditional household pets. Rosalind Arden, lead researcher on the study says that dogs vary in their problem solving abilities, even within the same breed. The same can be said about humans.
Like traditional human intelligence tests, the dogs were all given numerous tests that took about one hour to administer. The tests measured skills like decision making and navigation. One of the tests consisted of timing how quickly the dog could retrieve food from behind a barrier and another tested the dog’s ability to select the larger amount out of two bowls of food.
The study showed that the faster the dogs completed the tests, the more accurate they were. The dogs that performed well on the food barrier test also scored higher on the test requiring them to choose the larger portion of food. The researchers believe that this information could offer clues to some helpful information regarding human intelligence.
They claim that the research is significant because there is a small measurable inclination for smarter humans to be healthier and live longer. Arden says that the research suggests that canine intelligence is similarly structured to ours, so performing studies on a species that doesn’t use recreational drugs, drink alcohol or smoke could be very beneficial.
There is also no difference in education or income in the canine species. The decreased amount of variables may make it easier for researchers to study the direct link between intelligence and health. Because the performance on intelligence tests appears to have many similar patterns to humans, dogs may also be able to help experts understand age-related diseases like dementia.
Arden explains that dogs are one of the few other animals that replicate many of the important features of dementia. Understanding the cognitive abilities of canines could be very valuable in learning about what causes dementia in humans, and treatments for the disease could possibly be tested on dogs in the future.
Canine dementia is actually quite common, and dogs develop many of the same tangles and brain plaques as humans suffering with the disease. The behavioral changes exhibited by dogs with dementia are similar to humans as well. They can forget pieces of their normal routine, become agitated or become less social. Other symptoms may include:
- Generalized anxiety
- Decreased activity level
- Sleep disturbances
- Inappropriate barking and other vocalizations
- Repetitive behaviors (such as pacing)
- Staring at walls
Recognizing the symptoms early is extremely helpful with intervention and treatment. You’ll need to make an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible to create a health plan for your dog. It’s likely that they will suggest adhering to a strict schedule to help your confused pet. Dementia-specific drugs may be an option, as well as medications to help manage your dog’s anxiety.
Your veterinarian will be able to evaluate your dog and create a management plan that will meet his specific needs. You may also want to seek the help of a veterinary behaviorist, as they will be able to provide the most comprehensive approach to intervention. They will be able to offer you insights and treatment plans that your veterinarian may not be aware of.