Unlocking the Key to a Longer Life for Dogs

Portrait of senior dog
Researchers at the Dog Aging Project hope to discover the secret to helping dogs live a long and healthy life.

Is there a secret to living not just a long life but a long and healthy life? It’s a question that sent National Geographic magazine across the globe in search of answers. Now scientists are searching for similar answers in dogs.

With the Dog Aging Project, researchers at the University of Washington hope to determine how to extend not just the canine life span but also health span, or the number of years free from chronic disease and disability.

Determining Why Some Dogs Age Better

As part of the university’s Healthy Aging and Longevity Research Institute, the Dog Aging Project will include the first national study that will follow pet dogs for their entire lives.

“Our goal is to measure a large number of biological and environmental factors, including the genomes for each of a large number of dogs,” Dr. Daniel Promislow, who is spearheading the study, says. With this information, the scientists hope to determine why some dogs live to a ripe old age relatively free of disease while others fall victim to organ failure, cancers and other life-shortening diseases.

The researchers plan to examine an exhaustive list of factors, including diet, exercise levels, genetics, molecular biology and aspects of behavior. They even intend to follow urban, suburban and rural dogs; measure air, water and soil quality; and determine the socioeconomic status of each dog’s household.

“With these many biological and environmental measures in hand, we will be able to determine how genes, environment and the interaction between the two shape aging and age-related disease, and to do so with a level of precision that has never been possible until now,” Dr. Promislow says. “Ultimately, this will allow us to develop a powerful ability to detect, diagnose, predict and prevent disease in our canine companions.”

But that’s just part of the goal; in the second phase of the aging study, these scientists think they can potentially add two to five or even more years of ball fetching and squirrel chasing to our dogs’ lives.


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