The most ambitious canine health study in the world is seeking help fromveterinary practitioners across the country. The ultimate goal of the DogAging Project is to “understand how genes, lifestyle and environmentinfluence aging.” And while nearly 80,000 dogs have already been nominated toparticipate, researchers say there is no limit to the number of dogs it willenroll.

To that end, veterinarians are encouraged to invite their clients to “join thepack.” Any dog is eligible to participate, regardless of age, breed or health.

Study dogs will be followed for at least 10 years with the goal of identifying“the biological and environmental factors that maximize healthy longevity.”Participating owners will become citizen scientists, filling out surveys abouttheir dog’s health and life experience, taking saliva samples for genetictesting and potentially completing special activities with their dog andreporting on performance.

“We know from previous work done with dog owners that they are motivated tohelp their dogs live longer, healthier lives, but the response [to the study]has been positively overwhelming,” said Audrey Ruple, DVM, MS, PhD, DACVPM,MRCVS, assistant professor of One Health Epidemiology in the Department ofPublic Health at the Purdue University College of Health and Human Sciences inan article about the project on the Purdue website. Dr. Ruple is one of morethan 40 researchers participating in the study.

Study dogs must receive regular veterinary exams, and veterinarians may beasked to provide blood, urine or other samples from their patients.

Some participating dogs may be selected for further clinical study, such as anexploration of whether the drug rapamycin can help improve health span.

But the project goes beyond canine health and longevity.

“Dogs are good models for humans,” Dr. Ruple said. “They have similargenetics, share our environment, and they also have similar diseases andhealth issues.”

So, while the Dog Aging Project will attempt to discover some secrets tocanine health and longevity, they will also be learning how humans can agemore healthily—a One Health approach focused on accelerating medicalbreakthroughs for both species.

“By studying aging in dogs, we hope to learn how to better match human healthspan to lifespan so that we can all live longer, healthier lives,” Dr. Ruplesaid.

Image: Audrey Ruple, a veterinary epidemiologist and assistant professor ofOne Health Epidemiology in the College of Health and Human Sciences’Department of Public Health, with Bitzer, a Great Dane. (Image courtesy ofPurdue University/Rebecca McElhoe)

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