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New drug may help dogs live longer

Dog playing outside
Posted at 10:29 AM, Mar 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-04 12:31:09-05

The death of a dog can feel just as devastating as losing a family member. Now researchers think they’ve found a drug that could add years to the life of a canine companion.

Researchers at the University of Washington studying the drug rapamycin say early tests in rats, mice, and dogs show the drug slows the aging process.

“You can take an old heart or an old immune system, treat a mouse with rapamycin for eight weeks, and see that function improve. I know it sounds a little bit like science fiction, but when you actually look at the data, it's quite remarkable," says Dr. Matt Kaeberlein of the Dog Aging Project. Dr. Kaeberlein a dog owner himself, is now leading a large study involving nearly 600 dogs around the country.

Researchers say this study could have implications for human lifespan as well. Dogs actually age like people, experiencing many of the same age-related diseases.

The FDA has already approved rapamycin for humans. It's used as an anti-rejection drug for people receiving organ transplants. "It hasn't been tested in the context of lower doses in otherwise healthy people. There really are very, very little in the way of side effects, and potentially pretty significant benefits for age-related functional declines and diseases," Dr. Kaeberlein says.

Stormy the chocolate Labrador retriever will be part of the new study that could extend her life for up to three years. She is in love with the hunt and her human, Kevin Medved, is in love with her. “We love our dogs so much and we appreciate everything that they’ve done for us," he says.

Medved doesn't know if Stormy will get the placebo or the actual drug. “I mean, another three or four years would be great, and anything beyond that would be gravy," he says.

It's with hope that every dog owner may get a little more time with their best friend.