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10,000 Dogs Wanted: Study Will Look at Canine Aging

It’s called the Dog Aging Project.

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(PRESS RELEASE) Everyone who loves a dog wants the animal, whether pet or work companion, to enjoy as many years as possible. Learning the whys behind the length and strength of dogs’ lifespans has become the impetus for the largest research data-gathering program of its kind, the Dog Aging Project.

The initiative is jointly operated by the University of Washington School of Medicine and the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. It will create a national community of dogs, owners, veterinarians, researchers and volunteers, all working together to advance knowledge about how genes, habits and the environment influence dog aging.

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Although the project has been in its preliminary stages for a while, its full-throttle launch was announced Nov. 14 at the annual Gerontological Society of America meeting in Austin, TX. After that date, owners can nominate their canine as a candidate on the Dog Aging Project website.

Nomination involves creating a secure user portal and providing comprehensive health and lifestyle information about the dog through questionnaires and the sharing of veterinary medical records.

Dogs of every age, from puppy to senior; all sizes, from miniature to huge; male and female; neutered or not; and living in all types of locations are invited to be nominated. Healthy dogs and those with chronic illness will be considered.

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“All owners who complete the nomination process will become Dog Aging Project citizen scientists and their dogs will become members of the Dog Aging Project ‘pack.’ Their information will allow us to begin carrying out important research on aging in dogs,” said one of the project’s trio of directors, biology of aging expert Daniel Promislow, professor of pathology at the University of Washington School of Medicine and a UW professor of biology.

Also leading the multi-institutional project are veterinarian Dr. Kate Creevy, associate professor of veterinary internal medicine at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, and longevity and healthspan researcher Matt Kaeberlein, a professor of pathology at the University of Washington School of Medicine. More than 40 other researchers from a variety of fields and institutions will join them in this endeavor.

“Aging is the major cause of the most common diseases, like cancer and heart problems. Dogs age more rapidly than people do and get many of our same diseases of aging, including cognitive decline,” said Kaeberlein. “They also share our living environment and have a diverse genetic makeup. This project will contribute broadly to knowledge about aging in dogs and in people.”

Over the 10-year project, scientists will gather information on the 10,000 enrolled dogs in a collaborative, open-data platform. This means that, like the Framingham Heart Study and the All of Us research program, the massive amount of data can be analyzed by scientists around the world in a variety of ways. For this study, the largest of its kind ever undertaken, the dogs will be followed throughout their lifetimes.

“We are excited to work with companion dogs in this research program. As a veterinarian, it is important to me that our work benefits dogs directly. But our work with dogs has the added value of shedding light on the human aging experience as well,” Creevy said.

The researchers emphasized that their goal is not merely to increase life expectancy; their target is not lifespan, but healthspan, which refers to the period of life spent free from disease. Improved quality of life in advanced age is a goal many people have for their dogs and for themselves.

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The Dog Aging Project will have four key endeavors:

  1. New metrics of canine aging: The research team will develop tests to measure each dog’s changes in physical function as it gets older. There are such tests in older human adults, like moving from seated to standing, grip devices, or age-specific normal ranges on blood chemistry values. For dogs, however, aside from owner observations, there are few standardized assessments.
  2. Genetics of aging: Genome sequencing data from all 10,000 dogs will be integrated with health measurements and behavioral traits in comprehensive genome-wide association studies.
  3. Systems biology of aging: Scientists will look for molecular predictors of disease, decline or longevity.
  4. Medication intervention study: About 500 middle-aged dogs will be part of a trial to assess the effects of rapamycin on cognition, heart function, healthspan, and lifespan.

The project is supported by a federal grant from the National Institute on Aging at the National Institute of Health (UI19AG057337) and private donations.

The participating institutions are:

Core Research Leads

Purdue University

Princeton University

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Texas A&M University

Arizona State University

Cornell University

University of Massachusetts Medical School

Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard

University of Washington College of Arts & Sciences

University of Washington School of Medicine

University of Washington School of Public Health

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

Seattle Children’s Hospital

Veterinary Schools

Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine

University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine

North Carolina State College of Veterinary Medicine

Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine

Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences

Oregon State University Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine

Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine

Credit: UW Medicine

Since launching in 2017, PETS+ has won 16 major international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact PETS+'s editors at editor@petsplusmag.com.

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Video: Brave Housecat Fends Off 3 Coyotes

This feline showed moxie.

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A cat in the Highland Park neighborhood could have been in serious trouble when three coyotes came along.

But Max, who belongs to Maya Gurrin, showed amazing courage, CBS Los Angeles reports.

Max was surrounded, and the coyotes were nipping at him. But Max showed no fear. He even caused one of the coyotes to back away and jump onto a nearby wall.

“He’s always been crazy,” Gurrin said. “Like, if this were to happen with any cat, it would be him.”

The entire scene was captured on security camera.

As tough as Max may be, his owners have nonetheless decided not to let him roam outdoors anymore.

Watch the video:

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Dogs May Be More Perceptive Than We Ever Realized, Study Finds

Even untrained strays can read human gestures.

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Dogs seem to be able to interpret human gestures even when they’ve had no training, a new study has found.

As any dog owner knows, pet canines understand commands and gestures with ease. A group of researchers set out to determine whether these capabilities are innate or require training, according to a report from Frontiers Science News.

The researchers looked specifically at pointing, with Dr. Anindita Bhadra of the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Kolkata, India, and colleagues studing stray dogs in several Indian cities.

“The researchers approached solitary stray dogs and placed two covered bowls on the ground near them,” Frontieers Science News reports. “A researcher then pointed to one of the two bowls, either momentarily or repeatedly, and recorded whether the dog approached the indicated bowl.”

About 80 percent of participating dogs successfully followed pointing gestures.

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“We thought it was quite amazing that the dogs could follow a gesture as abstract as momentary pointing,” Bhadra was quoted saying. “This means that they closely observe the human, whom they are meeting for the first time, and they use their understanding of humans to make a decision. This shows their intelligence and adaptability.”

The research was published in Frontiers in Psychology.

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State Considers Banning ‘No Pets’ Rental Listings

Some landlords are not happy about the proposed legislation.

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New Hampshire legislators are considering a ban on “no pets” notices in property listings.

Proposed legislation would forbid landlords and home sellers from barring pet owners, the Concord Monitor reports.

They could make rules related to pet deposits, noise control, sanitation and safety, according to the newspaper. But they could set make rules based on size, breed or appearance.

The legislation was proposed by state Rep. Ellen Read, a Democrat from Newmarket. It has drawn opposition from some landords who say it could lead to unsanitary conditions as well as allergy problems for some residents.

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But Julia Seeley, New Hampshire state director for the Humane Society, said her organization supports the bill.

We just strongly believe that a family should not be torn apart simply over housing,” she said.

Read more at the Concord Monitor

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