Study: Dogs’ Immune Systems Leave Them Vulnerable As They Age

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A new study published in the Journal of Gerontology: Biological Sciences shows that similar to a human’s immune system, the immune system of a dog has reduced ability to fight infection or stress as it ages.

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Senior Research Scientist at the Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition Janet Alexander is the lead author of the study. She said that this is the largest study investigating how dogs’ aging affects their ability to fight infection. They found that dogs suffer from cellular damage and love level inflammation as they age, just as humans do, and this is important to help protect our pets as they age.

More, Alexander says that they were able to identify various targets for intervention that could help support dogs in later years.

They study showed that as dogs aged, most dog owners changed the way they took care of their dogs, either changing their food or shortening their exercise levels. The study also showed that 2/3rds of dog owners in the United States said that they believe senior dogs are better behaved and trained, and would adopt senior dogs because of that.

Eighty dogs were studied for 10 years as researchers looked at their aging processes and found that 51% of the dogs showed DNA damage as they aged. Thirty percent of the dogs showed increases in their C-Reactive Protein )CRP) levels. These levels typically rise as a response to inflammation and that means that older dogs are more susceptible to inflammatory responses.

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Additionally, 86% of aging dogs showed a decrease in their Heat Shock Proteins, which means that the dogs’ ability to respond to cellular damage is reduced as dogs age. This leaves them subject to less ability in fighting off infection or dealing with the stress that aging dogs may face.

Veterinarians believe the study shows a need for protecting our dogs as they age, with nutrition, supplements and healthy exercise regimens.