How Dogs Could Live Up To Four Years Longer
People and dogs have always shared a close bond. Which is why losing a treasured pet can feel as devastating as losing a friend or family member. But now there's good news for dog-lovers: scientists in the US are conducting trials to extend the lifespan of our canine companions.
Researchers at the University of Washington's Dog Ageing Project have been experimenting with the drug rapamycin, with a view to increasing the life expectancy of our beloved pooches by up to a whopping four years.
The medicine, which is currently used on humans to prevent our bodies rejecting transplanted kidneys, has been shown to prolong the lives of mice by more than 25 per cent. And now researchers hope the drug's anti-inflammatory qualities and ability to cleanse our cells can do the same for dogs as well.
One of the project's geneticists, Dr Daniel Promislow, told the journal Science: “If we can understand how to improve the quality and length of life, it’s good for our pets and good for us. It’s win-win.”
“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.
“More important than the extra years, however, is the improvement in overall health during aging that we expect rapamycin to provide.”
To that end, Dr Promislow and his team have begun trials to understand how the drug affects the animal's' heart function, immune system, body weight and mental ability. The tests involve adding small doses of rapamycin to the food bowls of 32 dogs including Labradors, golden retrievers and German shepherds, to see if it improves their health or slows down the ageing process.
For animals that generally don’t make it past 15 or 16, an extra three or four years would represent a huge increase in lifespan. But even if the trials don’t produce the results the scientists are hoping for, it’s comforting to know that occasionally dogs do get there naturally – and beyond.
The world’s oldest recorded dog was an Australian Cattle Dog named Bluey, who lived to an impressive 29 years and 5 months. According to Guinness World Records, Bluey was taken in as a puppy by his owner Les Hall and worked around sheep and cattle in Victoria, Australia from 1910 until his demise in 1939.
Bluey’s story, and that of another Australian Cattle Dog, Chilla, who reputedly lived to over 32 years of age, even prompted a study in the longevity of the species. While the research didn’t highlight anything too exceptional, it is now hoped that positive results from the Dog Aging Project’s trials with rapamycin may eventually lead to similar effects on humans.