It's probably no secret that we are proud Texas A&M alumni, maybe it's the fact that 90% of my wardrobe is maroon or that we are obsessed college football fans. So whenever we see an announcement from the university, we tend to take notice. Not long after we rescued our youngest pup, Winston, we received a newsletter about the Dog Aging Project. The Dog Aging Project is comprised of expert scientists and research veterinarians from over 20 research institutions and veterinary teaching hospitals. Their core leadership is based at the University of Washington and Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

From the project website:

The Dog Aging Project is an innovative research initiative that brings together a community of dogs, owners, veterinarians, researchers, and volunteers to carry out the most ambitious canine health study in the world. The Dog Aging Project team will follow tens of thousands of companion dogs for ten years or more in order to identify the biological, lifestyle, and environmental factors that maximize healthy longevity. We expect to gain insights that will increase our ability to prevent, diagnose, and treat age-related diseases, thereby helping our dogs, and by extension, ourselves, live longer, healthier lives.

Sign Us Up!

Needless to say, we were intrigued. As a lifelong pet guardian and someone who photographs animals for a living, the shortness of their lives is something that I am reminded of daily. Having looked at their requirements to join the project, we felt that it was important to help the research of dog aging and potentially be part of new treatments that can help prolong the lives of Man's Best Friend. Winston was the perfect age to start in the project and we signed him up!

Why are they only doing dogs?

Even though they age more rapidly than humans, dogs get many of the same age-related diseases. They also have a rich genetic make-up, and share our same environment. By studying aging in dogs, the project hopes to expand knowledge of the aging process not just in dogs but also in humans. They have a great blog post on this topic here.

Winston at his recent project exam.

So, what's involved?

It's actually very easy. There are some surveys to fill out (ok, actually a lot of surveys 🙂), submitting a saliva sample for a genomic report and then a yearly exam at my regular veterinarian. During that office visit, my veterinarian takes samples of Winston's blood, hair, urine and poop and do some measurements. Our veterinary clinic is so excited to participate they don't even charge us for the visit!

The genomic report, is similar to a DNA test. What's really interesting is that by just using the dogs saliva they are able to determine body characteristics of the dog. For example, they were able to tell that Winston had a long straight tail, what his ear shape is and whether he had white markings on his coat - all without submitting a photo and just using a saliva sample! So cool!

Other things we do during the year are cognitive tests. These are super easy to set up and take 15-20 minutes to perform. We do them once a year and then the scientists measure the results over time.

Want to Learn More?

Head on over to their website and see what awesome things they are learning from this project. They are regularly publishing research papers based on the results from all the project members. If you have any questions, or want to learn more about our personal experience being part of the project, feel free to reach out!