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Purdue taking part in life-long study of dogs health and aging

Dogs of all age ranges, breeds and sizes can be part of a life-long study of aging that could help humans enjoy better health later in life.
(Shutterstock/Taisya Korchak)

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WTHR) — Researchers are looking for America's oldest dog.

They don't want to teach him new tricks, but they are hoping he could teach them a few things.

And your dog could be part of their life-long scientific study that's looking to learn from pets nationwide.

More than 40 scientists and researchers from across the United States – including one from Purdue University – are looking for dogs to participate the national study of the general health and wellness of dogs.

The Dog Aging Project will be looking at dogs of all breeds and mixes from across the nation. This is the first major longitudinal study involving dogs, and it's scheduled to last at least 10 years.

“We are going to look at a lot of different aspects of dog’s lives that affect their health and longevity,” says Audrey Ruple, a veterinary epidemiologist at Purdue.

“Dogs are good models for humans,” she says. “They have similar genetics, share our environment, and they also have similar diseases and health issues. We will be asking, ‘How do dogs age healthfully?’ in order to help better understand how we can age healthfully, too.”

Dogs of all age ranges, breeds and sizes are eligible to participate in the study. Owners go online to register their dogs, then create a personal profile to track health, home life, diet, environment and lifestyle.

Dogs will need to make regular veterinarian visits every year. If a dog is assigned to a specific group, the owners may get a kit for their veterinarian to collect blood, urine or other samples during the annual visit.

Participation is voluntary and there is no cost to participate.

“It’s important to get dogs from all parts of the U.S. because of the different environmental factors present,” Ruple said. “And we’re trying to find the oldest dog in America, as well.”

All dogs registered will be eligible to participate in various studies. The group conducted a soft launch with 4,500 dogs registered earlier this fall. Recently, the researchers reached 75,000 dogs for the study.

“Our study population just keeps growing and growing and growing,” Ruple said.

Researchers hope to find out more details on how genetics, demographics and environmental factors such as chemical exposures and noise pollution impact health and longevity.

Ruple says one goal of the study is to not just improve the health and longevity of dogs, but also extend those findings to improve human health. “By studying aging in dogs, we hope to learn how to better match human health span to life span so that we can all live longer, healthier lives,” Ruple said.

Funding for the Dog Aging Project comes from the National Institute of Aging, a part of the National Institutes of Health, as well as from private donations.