There is a drug trial being conducted that is aiming to add up to five years to your dog’s life. It is being performed at the University of Washington’s Dog Aging Project, and involves 32 dog’s between six and nine years old.
“We believe that improving healthy lifespan in pet dogs is a worthy goal in and of itself. To be clear, our goal is to extend the period of life in which dogs are healthy, not prolong the already difficult older years,” said the researchers on their website. “Imagine what you could do with an additional two to five years with your beloved pet in the prime of his or her life. This is within our reach today.”
A drug known as rapamycin (generic name sirolimus) is commonly given to recipients of donor organs. It’s to combat the body rejecting the new organ, and can also be used in fighting cancer. Administering the drug seems to also have an effect on the aging process, according to the researchers. Other recent studies being conducted on the drug have shown to increase the lifespan of mice and other organisms.
“If rapamycin has a similar effect in dogs – and it’s important to keep in mind we don’t know this yet – then a typical large dog could live two to three years longer, and a smaller dog might live four years longer,” said geneticist Daniel Promislow. “More important than the extra years, however, is the improvement in overall health during aging that we expect rapamycin to provide.”
There are a lot of points of interest as far as what is being tested. Researchers are tracking things like heart function, body weight, cognitive function and immune function. At the end of the three to six month trial, the researchers will be checking in on the health of the dogs periodically, and recording their findings.
There is also a longer trial running alongside this one. It involves a different group of dogs, but they are in a similar age group. The testing will be very similar to this trial, however it will go for longer, and if results are very positive, they may test the life-extending capabilities of the drug on cats or other animals.
There’s even a third study underway that is monitoring the health of ageing dogs. It seeks to answer questions like why one particular breed is more likely to come down with things like cancer of kidney issues. The researchers said that the information they are gathering doesn’t only benefit our dogs, but could also extend a better and longer quality of life for us as well.
“If we can understand how to improve the quality and length of life, it’s good for our pets and good for us,“ said Promislow. ”It’s win-win.”