If you want your dog to live longer, you might soon get your wish.
Researchers at the University of Washington are studying whether a drug used to treat kidney-transplant patients could help dogs live two to five years longer than their average lifespan.
The scientists have begun trials to learn if the anti-inflammatory effects of the drug rapamycin, which is used to prevent a transplant recipient’s body from rejecting a new organ, can improve the overall health and longevity of pet dogs, according to The Telegraph. A previous study found that it increased the lifespan of mice by 25 percent.
The findings so far were published in a December edition of Science. “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,” geneticist Daniel Promislow said.
Researchers are currently in the second phase of the project, called The Dog Aging Project, which involves testing the drug on several dozen pet dogs, including Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, and German Shepherd Dogs. The drug is given to the dogs in their food for a three-to-six month period. The dogs will be observed for improved heart function, immune function, activity level, healthy body weight, and cognitive measures. The full study will take about three years to complete.
"It is impossible to predict with any certainty when rapamycin could be widely utilized as a preventative measure for age-related disorders in dogs,” The Dog Aging Project's website explains.
“If the short-term study indicates that rapamycin is effective at improving cardiac function in dogs at doses without significant side effects, then some veterinarians may feel comfortable making rapamycin available to their patients.
Listen to a podcast with The Dog Aging Project founder Dr. Matt Kaeberlein by the AKC Canine Health Foundation.