Podcast Episode 019 – Listen Below
Dog Aging Project
with Dr. Silvan Urfer
In This Podcast…
I’ve been following the work of a team of scientists at the University of Washington studying aging in dogs. They call their research the Dog Aging Project. The goal of the Dog Aging Project is not just merely to extend the lifespan of dogs, but rather to extend the “healthspan” of dogs. As Dr. Silvan Urfer suggested in the podcast interview: what is the point of a longer life for our dogs if they are not healthy and don’t feel well?
I reached out to the Dog Aging project and Dr. Urfer graciously responded, providing me with detailed information over email and even more extensive information in this podcast episode. You’ll absolutely love meeting him in this podcast.
The Dog Aging Project is currently conducting two simultaneous studies in dogs living in the “real world” as pets with their families.
1. The Longitudinal Study – There are no interventions with this study. Instead, dogs of all ages, sizes and health conditions are followed in order to gain a better understanding of the inherent or environmental factors that lead to dog aging and disease.
2. Rapamycin Intervention Trial – Rapamycin is used in human medicine in large doses to prevent human transplant rejection. However, the same drug in low doses has extended the healthspan of mice. The scientists believe that it is possible that Rapamycin might do the same thing in dogs. It is important to note that there is nothing in this podcast or on this website that is encouraging you to take any action in regards to Rapamycin and your dog. The hypothesis that Rapamycin might extend the healthy lifespan of dogs, though promising, is preliminary and, most importantly, as yet unproven. Instead, the purpose of presenting this information here is to make you aware of research that is currently being conducted. If you follow the Dog Aging Project, you’ll be among the first to know of their discoveries.
The study of aging in dogs has far-reaching implications. If scientists can understand and slow down aging, presumably they will be better able to understand and possibly prevent or delay the onset of disease. As Dr. Urfer mentioned, aging is the one major risk factor that many seemingly unrelated diseases and disabilities have in common. Their work has important ramifications not only for dogs, but for other species, including humans.
We covered other topics in this podcast including caloric restriction, optimal dog weight and the definition of aging. However, Dr. Urfer said that we should absolutely not be “starving” our dogs or ourselves. Instead, Dr. Urfer encouraged us all to make sure that we keep our dogs at a healthy weight – not too skinny and not too fat. He told us that we should search online for a “Dog Body Conditioning Score Chart.” I found one for us that I think you’ll like. It comes from the University of Liverpool. I like it because rather than provide just a general chart for all dogs, it includes specific charts for different-sized dogs. Specifically, it includes charts for toy, small, medium, large and giant breeds of dogs. I found this particularly helpful. Of course, if you think that your dog is either underweight or overweight, don’t just make an assumption based on a chart online. Take that information to your veterinarian who can make a real professional assessment and advise you accordingly.
I have to confess that this is likely one of my favorite podcast interviews ever. Will Rapamycin prove useful in helping dogs to live healthier and longer lives? No one knows for certain, but I know that I will be following the research closely. Whether it is Rapamycin or discoveries that will be made through the Longitudinal Study, I am heartened to learn that there are a group of scientists and a network of veterinarians and dog owners who care so very deeply about our beloved dogs. I’m hopeful that, one day, dogs will be able to be with us just a little while longer in our life’s journey. I also find it very ironic that we may very well make discoveries for ourselves, our lifespan and our health through the research these scientists are doing with dogs. I have no idea what, if anything, we as humans did to deserve these beautiful beings we call dogs. I am just so thankful they are with us.
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“The book of happy memories that you and your dog will write together.”
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