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Man's Best Friend For Life: Long-Term Study Seeks to Increase Dog's Life Span

Aug 31, 2016 09:10 AM EDT
American Kennel Club Presents The Nation's Most Popular Breeds Of 2015
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 22: A Labrador Retriever attends the American Kennel Club Presents The Nation's Most Popular Breeds Of 2015 at AKC Headquarters on February 22, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)
(Photo : Jamie McCarthy / Staff)

It's one of the tragic realities that beloved pets live much shorter lives than their humans. A new long-term project seeks not just to understand but to solve this distressing problem.

According to a report from the Smithsonian, biologist Daniel Promislow finds the canine's aging process puzzling. In the context of the animal kingdom, bigger animals usually enjoy longer life spans. For dogs, the opposite is true.

The anomaly led Primslow to ask more and more questions about the genetics and aging of dogs, which eventually morphed into the Dog Aging Project. A project at Primslow's University of Washington, its goal is to undertake research that's geared towards finding out more about aging of dogs and eventually lengthen the life span with medication.

Currently, the team is under evaluation for a grant that will allow them to conduct a massive study involving around 10,000 dogs from all over America. They're now in the process of recruiting dogs of sizes, ages, breeds, states and socioeconomic backgrounds.

"Dogs are the most phenotypically variable species in the world," Promislow said. "You just go to the dog park, and you see that variability in terms of size, shape, color, coat and behavior. They vary not only in those things we can see, but also in their life span."

He pointed out that the canine study could also present new information about human health saying, "Because dogs live in our environment, there's potential for them to be sentinels for environmental risk factors-air quality, water quality, things about the home. These are immediately candidates for risk factors that might be affecting life span in people."

The Dog Aging Project is also testing Rapamycin, a compound that protects canine's cardiovascular health and helps them age better.

It's a project that Promislow believes isn't just close to his heart but also to the entire country's.

"People are really close with these animals, and it's very hard to watch them aging," he explained. "Seventy percent of pet owners consider the dog a member of the family. That's partly what excites people about this project."

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