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New Research Shows that Dogs Subject to Increased Cellular Damage, Inflammation as they Age


November 8, 2017

Mars Petcare announced the publication of a recently published study showing that dogs’ immune systems change as they age meaning they will have a reduced ability to respond to infections or stress. The study is published in the “Journal of Gerontology: Biological Sciences.”

This is the largest prospective study to investigate aging in dogs and offers new insight into the ways in which we may be able to support dogs in their old age.

“We now know that dogs suffer from low level inflammation and cellular damage as they get older, similar to humans,” said Janet Alexander, senior research scientist at the Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition and lead author of the study. “The study identified multiple targets for potential therapeutic intervention to defend against or delay the impact of aging and the new insights can help us to provide more effective life stage support.”

A Mars Petcare survey exploring how dog owners around the world and in the U.S. care for their senior pets found that:

  • Around one in five dog owners currently own a senior dog.
  • Most dog owners change the way they look after their dogs as they get older (76 percent) either by changing their food (58 percent) or taking them for shorter walks (54 percent).
  • While senior dog owners do not find caring for their pets much harder than the owners of younger dogs (29 percent vs 25 percent), 65 percent would value more information from their vet on how to look after their senior dog.
  • Information on nutrition (68 percent) and amount of exercise (57 percent) are the areas where they would value knowing more.
  • Two-thirds of dog owners in the U.S. said they would be likely to adopt a senior dog as they believe they’re already trained and better behaved.

About the Aging Dogs Study

The study followed 80 dogs for over 10 years and measured a number of parameters to track their aging process. The study started when the dogs were adults and continued until the end of life.  Some additional findings include:

  • 51 percent increase in DNA damage. The study showed a 51 percent increase in 8-Hydroxydeoxyguanosine (80HDG) levels. 80HDG is a specific marker of oxidative damage to DNA.
  • 30 percent increase in C-reactive protein (CRP). CRP levels will rise in response to inflammation, showing that aging dogs can suffer from increased levels of inflammation.
  • 86 percent decrease in Heat Shock Proteins (HSP70). HSP70 measure ability to respond to cellular damage, and this study shows a significant decrease in this ability as dogs age.
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