The average life span of dogs is about 11 years, with some variation based on size and breed. It would appear that there is now a drug that can extend the length and quality of some dogs’ lives. Rapamycin is a compound that has been found to have a number of important medical uses, including as an anti-fungal agent, an immunosuppressive drug that prevents rejection in organ tranplant recipients, and an anti-cancer drug. It’s already been found to improve cardiac function in dogs – and now it’s being investigated for its ability to extend an animal’s normal lifespan.
Use of Rapamycin in Dogs
Many parts of a dog’s body decline as they age. They lose lean muscle mass, have decreases in heart and immune system function, and can experience cognitive dysfunction. Their risk of developing cancer increases. These changes also happen in mice (and humans!).
Low-dose rapamycin therapy was found to reduce the incidence of cancer in mice. Improvements in both cognitive and muscle function were observed. Declines in heart and immune function were reversed. Low-dose rapamycin therapy also improved the state of several age-related conditions in mice. Recent studies have shown that administering low doses of rapamycin to mice extends their lifespan by 25%.
A study published in 2017 found that low-dose rapamycin therapy improved cardiac function in dogs. Owners of the dogs involved in the study also noted positive behavioral changes, but this requires more study to determine if these effects were due to rapamycin. If the drug works in dogs in a similar fashion as it does in mice – and the indications so far suggest that it will – rapamycin may turn out to be the next big drug
We live in an exciting age of medical research and advancements. While the fountain of youth may be mythical, rapamycin has some exciting prospects in the field of anti-aging. And the benefits may exist for both us and our dogs!
You Can Participate in Dog Aging Studies
Researchers with the Dog Aging Project are examining how a dog’s genetics, environment, and lifestyle influence how dogs age. They are currently recruiting dogs from all over the United States to participate in a community science studies – some of which can be done from the comfort of your own home.
Further, dogs who are enrolled in the Dog Aging Project may be eligible to participate in the Dog Aging Project’s Trial of Rapamycin in Aging Dogs (TRIAD) study. The Washington State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital (WSUVTH) is a participating partner in this study, which is being designed to determine whether rapamycin increases the lifespan of companion dogs. A secondary purpose is to determine whether rapamycin improves various measures of health in aging dogs.
If they pass the screening exam, dogs will then be randomly assigned to receive either rapamycin or a placebo for one year. Enrolled dogs will need to return to the WSUVTH in Pullman, Washington, every six months for a three-year period. At each return visit, physical exam, blood pressure, sample collection, ECG, and echocardiogram will be repeated. After that, owners must be willing to take their dogs to their primary care veterinarian once per year for an additional two years of study follow-up.
We will be looking forward with great interest to the results of these studies. Rapamycin seems to have many benefits to offer our dogs – and any increase of our time with them would be extremely welcome.
One of my dogs has been in the Dog Aging Project since it began. I was all set to see if I could get him into the rapamycin study till I saw it would require a 17-hour trip to Pullman, Washington, every six months. So near, yet so far! If only I were a few years younger!