In a world where dogs are our loyal companions, the harsh reality is that their time with us is far too short. The average lifespan of our furry friends is between 10 and 13 years.
The Dog Aging Project, a research initiative, is hoping to change that statistic — or at least improve the quality of dogs' lives — through collecting data on biological, lifestyle and environmental factors.
“Oh man, there's not much I wouldn't do to spend more time with my [dog],” naturalist and author Sy Montgomery said Wednesday on Boston Public Radio. “So I'm real eager to find out any way that we can to get them to live longer.”
However, the group's funding is predicted to run out by June 2024. The National Institute on Aging, which is part of the National Institutes of Health, will not be renewing their grant funding.
Co-founders Daniel Promislow and Matt Kaeberlein plan to resubmit a grant, hoping to be back to full funding in 2025.
“I'm thinking the Dog Aging Project should get its money right away,” said Montgomery. “And I instantly signed the petition to get NIH … to give them another $50 million.”
More than 13,000 dog lovers are rallying behind this cause and have already signed the petition.
As of June, the Dog Aging Project was following over 45,000 dogs. Owners interested in adding their furry friend to that tally can visit the project's website to get involved, and there is no cost to participate.
“I love the fact that here's all of these dog volunteers ... who are part of this project, who have volunteered to do this,” Montgomery said.
In addition to collecting data on those volunteer dogs to build a base of research, the Dog Aging Project has a drug in trial.
Rapamycin is already approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in humans as a cancer treatment and to prevent organ rejection. The project says the drug has shown other benefits. In their trial, the Dog Aging Project found that most of the owners, who either received rapamycin or the placebo, reported their dogs were more playful, and showed fewer signs of joint pain.
“They had more energy. They just seemed better,” said Montgomery.
But the Dog Aging Project is not the only group trying to achieve this future of longer-living canines.
“It turns out that there's no fewer than three new drugs being tested right now that might help dogs not just live longer, but live healthier lives,” Montgomery said.
The drugs are not approved for the public.