The death of a dog can be as devastating as the loss of a family member, causing grief, grief, and an incalculable sense of loss.
But there is hope for owners who fear loss. Dogs may not be able to match the nine lives of cats, but advances in pharmacology could add several years to their lifespans.
Researchers in the US believe a drug called rapamycin can increase the average lifespan by up to a third.
Previous experiments with smaller animals like mice have shown that rapamycin can increase maximum lifespan by nine to 30 percent.
Now, a unique study at the University of Washington will test rapamycin in a long-running, double-blind clinical trial in dogs.
Can see the lifespan
“We don’t know if these effects will be similar in dogs to an absolute or relative extent, but I think it’s possible,” Matt Kaeberlein, a professor of pathology involved in the project, told the Telegraph.
“Our study is designed to detect an increase in lifespan of nine percent or more.”
Smaller dogs live longer than older dogs, with Great Danes living less than 10 years on average. However, Miniature Poodles and Chihuahuas typically live longer than 15 years.
The project, called Triad (testing rapamycin in aging dogs), is part of the larger Dog Aging Project (DAP), which will examine all the nuances and peculiarities of dog lifespans.
Prof Daniel Promislow, principal investigator and co-director of the DAP, said the study is focusing on middle-aged large breed dogs and is aiming to recruit 500 pets. Suitable dogs are similar in size to a Labrador and are seven to ten years old.
“These dogs could have a life expectancy of 10 to 12 years,” he said.
“If it succeeds, I would say that adding a year or two more to the life of a dog of this size would really make sense for both the dog and the owner.”
The project could also throw a bone at people. While Triad will study lifespan extension, DAP is investigating what aspects affect health, aging and lifespan in dogs and how this translates to humans.
“Dogs age just like us, they have many of the same age-related diseases, and they have a sophisticated healthcare system just like us, with general practitioner clinics and specialist doctors,” Prof Promislow said.
“But one of the specialties that doesn’t exist in veterinary medicine is geriatrics; There is no such thing as a science of canine gerontology and we want to create that knowledge.”
Enthusiasm for walkies
And because dogs and humans are not only biologically the same, but live in similar conditions – although we might do well to learn from their enthusiasm for walking – we can benefit greatly from studying the life expectancy of dogs.
“Because they die so much faster and live so much shorter lives than we do, we can learn about these risk factors much more quickly than if we studied humans,” Prof Promislow said.
Prof Kaeberlein added: “DAP allows us to study aging outside of the laboratory, recognizing the importance of genetic and environmental diversity similar to that of humans.
“It’s something that just isn’t possible in other animals right now. Dogs age very similarly to humans, but they do so at an accelerated rate. So we expect that much of what we learn about aging from dogs will also apply to humans.
“Of course, this is about more than just human aging. People love their dog and most people consider their pets part of their family.
“While we’re only succeeding in ultimately increasing the lifespan and health of service dogs, it’s of tremendous importance to the people who love their dogs.”
And last but not least, the concept of a “dog’s life” could finally become worth striving for.