What an exciting week at the Dog Aging Project! After several years of hard work, the team is ready to welcome our first participants. If you’re thinking about enrolling with your dog, then this is the place to learn about the science behind the Dog Aging Project. We’re pleased to have Dr. Kate Creevy, our Chief Veterinarian, here to answer your questions.
So, Dr. Creevy, what is the Dog Aging Project anyway?
The Dog Aging Project is a research endeavor involving scientists at a number of colleges and universities, as well as companion dogs and their owners from across the US. We want to understand the genetic and environmental factors that affect healthy aging in dogs. We hope to discover the underlying processes through which genes and lifetime experiences influence aging. Ultimately, we hope to determine why some dogs develop disease or die at younger ages, while others live disease-free into later life.
How does it work?
We plan to enroll 10,000 companion dogs throughout the US into a longitudinal study, which will be the largest ever of its kind. A longitudinal study is a type of research study in which individuals are closely monitored for a long period of time. This type of study is observational, meaning that our canine participants are not assigned to receive any type of drug or other treatment. Instead, they go about their lives as usual, while our team of researchers periodically collects information about them from questionnaires, physical examinations, or diagnostic tests.
What do you hope to learn from this kind of study?
Longitudinal studies allow us to connect experiences early in life with health outcomes in old age. Using this information, we can investigate how those early events may have directly or indirectly caused late-in-life health issues. The key to success in these endeavors is knowing the full life story of many individual dogs.
Is there anything else that you want our readers to know about the work you have planned?
Actually, yes! The Dog Aging Project will also perform an interventional study with a smaller group of companion dogs. In an interventional study, subjects are randomly assigned either to receive or not to receive a particular treatment. Then, the two groups are followed to compare their health outcomes. If there are differences, it is likely that the treatment caused those effects. In this case, we will test a highly promising drug called rapamycin for the possibility that it can improve health during aging and also extend lifespan.
It sounds like the goals of the project are right in line with what most of us pet owners want for our dogs.
Absolutely! We’re bringing together dogs, owners, veterinarians, researchers, and volunteers to carry out the most ambitious canine science project in the world. As a veterinarian and as a pet owner myself, I couldn’t be more thrilled.
If you and your companion dog would like to be part of the Dog Aging Project, click here to enroll.