Most dog owners have dealt with the sadness of watching their beloved companion age at what seems like an unreasonable pace. The Labrador who’s so energetic and puppy-like at four is slow and gray at nine, and dead at 11.
To biologist Daniel Promislow, the dog aging process is not only distressing, it also doesn’t seem to make sense. In most of the animal kingdom, larger animals live longer than smaller ones.
Humans outlive chimpanzees. Tigers outlive house cats. Orcas outlive dolphins.
But within the dog species, the opposite effect is true. A five-pound Chihuahua can live up to 18 years. A 150-pound Newfoundland lives about 10.
Promislow, who has worked on the biology of aging for most of his career, began to wonder about just how aging worked in dogs.
What were the biological and environmental factors that effected life span? Could lifespan be modified?
His questioning has turned into the Dog Aging Project at the University of Washington, where he works. The project is currently engaged in research on understanding dog aging and using medications to potentially enhance life span. The team is also currently being reviewed for a grant that would allow them to conduct an enormous longitudinal study on dog aging involving some 10,000 dogs from across America.