Latest Studies Find That Aging in Dogs Can Mirror Aging in Humans

Angela Vuckovic
by Angela Vuckovic - Yuri A/Shutterstock

In the United States alone, pet owners spend around $1,500 a year on  veterinary care. To be precise, people tend to spend more on dogs than on any other pets – up to 41% of Americans spend $2,000 per year caring about their cherished canine friends. Of course, this is all in the hopes that their pet reaches their senior age with minimal issues and that they get to spend as many years enjoying their company. While providing veterinary care is an important factor that contributes to a pet’s longevity, it’s not always easy to determine when a certain procedure or treatment will help prolong your pet’s life and not their suffering. By comparing the concept they labeled “frailty” in humans and in dogs, a team of researchers hopes that they can help owners make better decisions about their pet’s care.

Scientists behind the “ Dog Aging Project” are studying how they could improve your dog’s quality of life for many years to come. The team from the University of Washington is conducting extensive research, based on dogs of all ages, in their attempts to determine how their quality of life is impacted as they age. 

Dr. Anya Gambino, one of the chief veterinarians working on the project, says: “There's a quantity of life. It's amazing to have a long life, but you always want to have quality of life." The team’s UW Biologist and the Co-Director of the Project, Daniel Promislow, quickly drew a parallel with humans. "Dogs get the same kinds of diseases that humans get. They also show the same kinds of frailty that we see in humans," he said.

The so-called “frailty” of dogs, which is the object of the study, is already studied in humans. Dr. Promislow firmly believes that through this study, researchers can gain a much better understanding of life expectancies in dogs and potential disease risks as well. "We hope we'll be able to figure out the relationship between frailty and the disease," Promislow says. 

But what exactly is this “frailty”? Researchers describe it as "a complex syndrome associated with aging. Because it considers physical, mental and emotional changes associated with aging, it is a better indicator of the body’s condition and overall health than age alone."

"If we can do that, we can help vets treat dogs earlier before those diseases are apparent and can also help dogs enjoy their later years to the best degree possible," said Promislow.

The study is on a very grand scale and already enrolls over 46,000 dogs across the United States. What is best, researchers believe that humans can also benefit from this extensive study. 

"The other thing about aging in dogs is that aging in dogs looks a lot like aging in people," said Promislow. "What we learn about aging in dogs is going to help us learn about aging in people, as well."

Hopefully, this would mean that many more dogs would get a chance to enjoy their golden years, right by their owner's side. "They provide us with so much unconditional love, joy, and humor," said Dr. Gambino. "We can do something for them that gives them the best chance for living a very happy life with us."

Angela Vuckovic
Angela Vuckovic

A proud mama to seven dogs and ten cats, Angela spends her days writing for her fellow pet parents and pampering her furballs, all of whom are rescues. When she's not gushing over her adorable cats or playing with her dogs, she can be found curled up with a good fantasy book.

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