Do we really understand how our dogs age? Scientists are looking for 10,000 pups to help them find out for sure.

Generally accepted logic among most dog lovers is that for every 12 months of a dog’s life, they biologically age by a factor of seven. So a two-year-old puppy is the biological equivalent of a teenager while a 9-year-old dog becomes a biological senior citizen.

Despite the fact that this is conventional wisdom, held by canine fans for generations, a current group of scientists is looking to find out if this aging is complicated by other environmental factors. As one of the first steps in this research, researchers have developed an effort called the Dog Aging Project and put out a public call for more than 10,000 volunteer pups to help them with their research.

Research goals of the Dog Aging Project

Scientists want to develop as large a pool of research subjects as possible so that they can study a host of environmental factors that the dogs experience.

As stated on the project’s website, the goals of the project are to develop information that will help dogs develop the longest and most comfortable lives possible. They want to develop as large a pool of research subjects as possible so that they can study a host of environmental factors that the dogs experience. Once the data is compiled, researchers can study it to determine which may have helped increase the quality and duration of a dog’s life and which had the opposite effect.

Requirements to participate in the program

With the ambitious goal of garnering 10,000 subject participants, there are lots of people who may be considering participating in the project. These participants are lovingly called “citizen scientists” by the project team. They’re required to live in the United States and canine participation is limited to one dog per family. There isn’t a cost to participate in the study other than the regular cost for annual veterinary check-ups that a dog owner would naturally incur.

As potential participants register for the project, they’ll be asked to describe some things about how their pup lives. Naturally, scientists will want to know about their dog’s age, but they’ll also want to know about where in the house their dog sleeps, and their breed. If selected, researchers will also want a DNA swap of their dog, a blood kit sample, and samples of other bodily functions. It is also likely that scientists will want to know about a dog’s eating and exercise habits and any other medications that the dog is on.

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More about the Dog Aging Project

The project is the result of a collaboration by scientists at two major U.S. universities – the University of Washington and Texas A&M University. It is designed to mirror the same types of aging studies that are routinely conducted with humans. With its five-figure pool of subjects, it is considered to be the largest study of its kind in the world. A project with this level of scale isn’t inexpensive. Luckily, the project has plenty of supporters and fans that are helping to cover some of its costs. The $24 million price tag is scheduled to be covered by a federal grant by the National Institute on aging.

Upon its announcement, it received media attention in a host of national and international outlets including CNN, The Today Show, and People. It’s also been covered in a vast number of regional publications and the Facebook page for the program has attracted nearly 5,000 regular followers.

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