Critter Corner: Do Dogs Hold the Key to Successful Aging in Humans?

Dear Baxter,

My labrador retriever, Jessie, lived until she was 17 years old, making her a centenarian in human years. I heard of another lab that lived until 18, or 109 in human years. Have any studies ever been done on how our oldest canine companions can give us clues to how we can age successfully?


Doug E. Lifespann


Dear Doug,

Thanks for your question. I hope to stick around for that long myself!

Yes, there has been research on this fascinating topic. In fact, a leading veterinary gerontologist, Professor David Waters, from Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine in Indiana is well known for his work on the subject of extending human health span.

He has studied highly successful aging in domestic dogs, particularly in the Rottweiler breed, with the ultimate goal of fully understanding the process of highly successful aging, including cancer resistance, in both domestic dogs and people. Details about his research and some of his findings have been captured in a 13-minute talk by Professor Waters on YouTube, that you can see here.

Another scientist (a veterinary epidemiologist) named Vicki Adams was recently invited to be part of a team to evaluate the results of 10+ years observation of a group of 39 Labrador retrievers. Nearly one-third (28%) of these Labradors achieved an exceptional age, reaching or exceeding 15.6 years. This study, published this week in Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica, produced some exciting results about why some Labradors live to 16 or 17 and others only reached their expected average age of 12 or even below.

A common theme was that the longest lived Labradors had a significantly slower rate of body fat mass accumulation over their first 13 years of life compared to Labradors that lived only to their expected average age of 12 or less, and they also had a significantly slower loss of lean body mass compared to those with the shortest lifespan.

Do dogs hold the key to human longevity? Maybe. According to Adams, researchers are now interested in further evaluating the changes in body fat and lean body mass in canines, and how they apply to humans.  Hopefully, these studies will aid in the development of strategies to improve our chance of healthy aging and living longer.

Hope you take good care of yourself to live a long healthy life!


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About Renee Eder

Renee Eder is the Director of Public Relations for the Farr Law Firm, and gives the voice to the Critters of Critter Corner. Renee’s poodle, Penny, is an official comfort dog who she and her children bring to visit with seniors who are in the early stages of dementia at a local senior home once a month.

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