The aged dog is particularly well-suited to investigate the initial stages of plaque formation in the aging brain. Beta-amyloid deposition in the form of diffuse plaques is a prominent feature of the aged dog brain. The morphology of beta-amyloid exhibited in the dog is almost identical to the early plaque pathology reported in nondemented and demented human subjects and Down's syndrome individuals. Oxidative damage and neuron loss are also features of the canine brain even though NFTs are absent.
MRI procedures commonly used in humans offer a viable, noninvasive, and reproducible method for evaluating brain changes in vivo in the aging dog. Structural and vascular changes as well as spontaneous pathology can easily be monitored and show many similarities to observations in humans. Aged dogs show reduced brain volume, increased ventricles, spontaneous lesions, and reduced blood flow.
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