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Medicine Science

Scientists Working To Extend Lifespan of Pets (sciencemag.org) 209

sciencehabit writes: Scientists have explored the mysteries of aging in humans for hundreds of years, but now they're beginning to turn their attention to our pets. Why do cats live longer than dogs? Why do small dogs live longer than big ones? The answers could help us prolong the lifespans of our favorite companion animals, as well as shed light on the mysteries of aging in humans.

"The same things that allow us to live longer also apply to our pets," says João Pedro de Magalhães, a biogerontologist at the University of Liverpool in the United Kingdom who maintains AnAge, the world's largest database of animal life spans. "I don't think there's a set max. longevity for any species," he says. "The real question is, 'How far can we go?' Maybe a thousand years from now you could have a dog that lives 300 years."

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Scientists Working To Extend Lifespan of Pets

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  • by UnknowingFool ( 672806 ) on Friday December 04, 2015 @11:06AM (#51057115)
    Every dog person knows it's because cats steal the souls of their owners. I kid! I kid!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 04, 2015 @11:14AM (#51057191)

    When pets die it is like a practice run for the children in the family to learn to cope with death. If a child has been through the process of grieving for a pet they will have that experience to help them get through the much more traumatic effects of the death of human family member.

    • by pushing-robot ( 1037830 ) on Friday December 04, 2015 @11:30AM (#51057359)

      True, but it's rather macabre to wish death on an animal so your children can experience grief.

      As TFS points out, "The same things that allow us to live longer also apply to our pets"; hopefully your human family members will live longer along with your pets.

    • Didn't pay thousands of dollars and invest countless hours so children could have death experience.

    • by Eloking ( 877834 )

      When pets die it is like a practice run for the children in the family to learn to cope with death. If a child has been through the process of grieving for a pet they will have that experience to help them get through the much more traumatic effects of the death of human family member.

      I had to rub my eyes and read again to be sure I didn't read that wrong.

      So your point is that pet should die so it can be a good "life lesson" for our kid. Really?

      • by PvtVoid ( 1252388 ) on Friday December 04, 2015 @12:02PM (#51057619)

        I had to rub my eyes and read again to be sure I didn't read that wrong.

        So your point is that pet should die so it can be a good "life lesson" for our kid. Really?

        That's not why you buy a pet. But it is part of owning a pet, just as death is a natural part of life. Owning a pet teaches a child about compassion, responsibility, and the cycle of life, including death and grieving. All of these things are valuable lessons for a kid, including the last part. What's a terrible lesson for a kid is to teach them that they can buy their way out of anything unpleasant that might ever happen to them.

        • by Eloking ( 877834 )

          That's not why you buy a pet. But it is part of owning a pet, just as death is a natural part of life. Owning a pet teaches a child about compassion, responsibility, and the cycle of life, including death and grieving. All of these things are valuable lessons for a kid, including the last part. What's a terrible lesson for a kid is to teach them that they can buy their way out of anything unpleasant that might ever happen to them.

          That's a way oversimplified way to analyse this. It's like saying that the death of animal is necessary in a kid education and that buying a life extension pills for a pet will turn the kid delinquent or something.

          Any kid could have a good childhood without all those "important" lesson and forcing the dog to die to teach grieving is nothing less than cruel. If that's the reason you buy a pet why don't you go buy a pet pig to your kid, wait that he likes it, shoot it before him and each bacon for diner while

          • forcing the dog to die to teach grieving is nothing less than cruel

            Getting a dog that you know is going to die in ten years, give or take, is part of having a dog. What's really cruel is to force extraordinary medical procedures to extend life for a a sentient creature that is incapable of understanding an communicating consent. Dogs understand when it's time for them to die. People frequently don't. When my last dog died, he let me know that it was time by going outside in the middle of the night in five-degree Fahrenheit temperatures, going behind the shed, and refusing

          • That's a way oversimplified way to analyse this. It's like saying that the death of animal is necessary in a kid education and that buying a life extension pills for a pet will turn the kid delinquent or something.

            Any kid could have a good childhood without all those "important" lesson and forcing the dog to die to teach grieving is nothing less than cruel. If that's the reason you buy a pet why don't you go buy a pet pig to your kid, wait that he likes it, shoot it before him and each bacon for diner while you're at it? But hey! It's life lesson and good bacon!

            Here's a desimplified hypothetical. What happens if we find out that dog's lives can be lengthened to a thousand years, but our's only 300? Should we do do it?

            And your own suggestion is exactly what happens to many farm kids. When they are young and in organizations like FFA, they raise pigs and sheep and calves from birth, then compete with them. Then the "winners" are bought up by local eateries, and it's all over for little petunia or bossy.

            This pisses me off so damn much - it is cruelty to the chi

    • by mjr167 ( 2477430 )

      If you want to teach your kids about the cycle of life get fish.

      We have Platies and my 5 year old watches the babies get born, most get then eaten by their mom, and the fast ones live. Then they get old, die, and flushed. Lots of great life lessons going on in the fish tank.

    • Get your kid a tuatara. It'll probably outlive the kid.

    • by arth1 ( 260657 )

      If a child has been through the process of grieving for a pet they will have that experience to help them get through the much more traumatic effects of the death of human family member

      Much more traumatic? I have always cried more over pets than family members.

      In part because with family members, barring accidents, you usually have time to prepare yourself. With pets, it can be much quicker.
      in part because family members tend to drift apart, and you only end up seeing them a few times a year, while a pet is with you all its life.
      But also in part because the pets never said a mean thing to me, which I can't say for any family member.

    • by Falos ( 2905315 )
      Interesting. This post ALSO happens to include a secondary, incidental purpose. While it had a primary function (to express an observation) it too offers useful, supplemental insight when given a bit of thoughtful reflection - by examining the responses.

      >1037830: wish death on an animal
      >0143899: get a pet just for the death experience
      >0877834: you think pets should die?
      >2477430: if the life cycle is the point of a pet

      The hypersensitive terminally-offended really came out in full force
    • When pets die it is like a practice run for the children in the family to learn to cope with death.

      That is not the purpose of having a pet. That might happen but that isn't why you get one. You have a pet for the job they bring you while they are alive. Not so that your children can learn to cope with their loss.

      • You have a pet for the job they bring you while they are alive.

        Pah. I loved my dog to bits but the little guy never got me any work.

    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      Many years ago a friend of mine had a dog that was hit by a car and had it's leg crushed. He put it in a box and took it to the local animal hospital in the super-wealthy town he lived in, accompanied by his son and his son's best friend. That was a mistake. He was expecting the dog to be put down, but the vet instead told him -- with the kids right there -- that the leg could be saved with an experimental microsurgical procedure. Well, that was that; it was either fork over the equivalent of $20,000 in

  • by chispito ( 1870390 ) on Friday December 04, 2015 @11:18AM (#51057229)
    Stop selectively breeding them. Look at bulldogs. They've basically been bred to have the most pronounced defects possible, and suffer comparatively short lives as a consequence.
    • by jsrjsr ( 658966 )
      Selective breeding isn't bad in itself, it's all in what you select for. That and being willing to cull the failures.
    • Stop selectively breeding them.

      There is no problem with selective breeding per se it just depends on what you selectively breed for. If all you care about is looks i.e. a particular pattern of hair colour and a particular shape of body and you do not care about health and longevity then guess what you will end up with those particular features but reduced health because you did not breed for that characteristic.

      However if we selectively bred dogs for a good temperament and robust health and longevity then we might get dogs which are

    • I wouldn't say selective breeding but inbreeding has been more of the issue. Also I would say that appearances and looks are the major traits that pure-bred owners are selecting today which is different from the past. Many dogs were selected for work traits instead. For example, terriers were bred to be small as they were used to hunt small vermin. They were not meant to be lap dogs which is how most terriers are used today.
    • by pubwvj ( 1045960 )

      "Stop selectively breeding them."

      Wrong answer.

      Instead selectively breed for the right things.

  • I'd be shocked if a 300 year lifespan for dogs (barring accident) weren't possible within 50-100 years or even shorter. 1000 years we should have physiological immortality figured out.

    • by fropenn ( 1116699 ) on Friday December 04, 2015 @11:27AM (#51057333)
      Not to mention the fact that in 50-100 years we would only know that a dog could have a lifespan of 50-100 years. It would take at least 300 years before we would know a dog could have a 300 year lifespan.
    • I'd be happy if we could easily deal with old/bad joints, failing eyesight, cancer, etc. Unless we can first properly deal with all the issues that go hand in hand with old age, why would you want you or your pet to live longer? I'd be happier with the assurance of good health for 85 years than assurance of life for 1000.

      • This are all old age diseases. We would assume that such a therapy would negate them.

        • This are all old age diseases. We would assume that such a therapy would negate them.

          No. I can assure you that young people can have joint issues too. I developed osteoarthritis in my mid 20's after a sports injury. I have a friend who was set to play professional football until a surgeon botched a knee repair and he's had joint issues since his early 20's. Unless they can repair my joint injury and restore it like new, I may not even want to make it past my 70's.

          • Young people can get cancer too but it is extremely rare- not talking about edge cases here.
            • That makes no sense. Sure a young person could get cancer but it'll either kill you, or you'll go into remission and it doesn't matter if you live to be 1000. I can tell you right now that if you have severe joint damage you can live a long time but you may not want to at all. You may be in so much pain that you wished you were not alive. So yes, if you want people to have a quality life for 1000 years then you need to be able to repair damage to their bodies and not assume that whatever treatment that
    • Sure we may have dogs with estimated 300 year lifespan in 45 years, but if we have an apocalyptic war or event that sends us into the dark age we will be only stuck inventing paper or some new crazy religion at 1000 years from now!!!!
  • by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Friday December 04, 2015 @11:22AM (#51057279) Homepage

    Wow, and I thought cockatoos were bad. My wife's parents had a couple of cockatoos. One died young due to illness, but the other is going strong at around 20. The life expectancy is 60+ years so we might wind up inheriting the bird (if it doesn't go to my wife's brother) and could even wind up passing it down to my kids.

    A 300 year old dog? Fido was my great-great-great-granddad's dog, passed down from generation to generation. Someday he'll be my kid's dog also.

    • We can't find homes for a ton of cats and dogs already, so what happens to all these super long lived animals over their lives?

      I know it is horrible, but part of me is looking forward to not having any more dogs in a few years. I love our dog, but it costs a lot for vet visits, boarding, and generally makes it hard to just go do stuff when we have to make sure he gets bathroom breaks, walks, food, etc. I am sure those with teenagers have a bit of the same perspective, you love your kid but can't wait to g

    • And, of course, just how batshit crazy and screwed up is your dog going to be after 300 years?

      All those little psycho dogs which have been ruined by their overly anxious 'parents' and the dog is now a neurotic little ball of hate? Someone is going to need to take that dog out long before 300 years.

      So damned many pets exhibit behavior only their owners can possibly tolerate or find cute.

      Assuming we also have longer life spans, you still have to deal with the issue you describe in case someone dies.

      I guess t

  • by Ogive17 ( 691899 ) on Friday December 04, 2015 @11:23AM (#51057285)
    Just like humans, the size is a determining factor. The bigger an animal (or human) is, the more stress it puts on key organs such as the heart. Of course there are other factors.

    We have 2 cats.. and I bet they will live to be 20 since they both annoy the shit outta me. One chews wires and the other only wants food and can't cover her shit in the litter box which stinks up half the house.
    • by jabuzz ( 182671 ) on Friday December 04, 2015 @11:27AM (#51057325) Homepage

      Want to explain why mice or gerbils or hamsters don't live to be 100 then?

      • by Terwin ( 412356 )

        Want to explain why mice or gerbils or hamsters don't live to be 100 then?

        Metabolism.
        Smaller critters often have a very high metabolism and that wears out the heart and other organs quite fast.

        A normal cat's heart rate is between 140 and 220 bpm Lifespan ~15 years
        Dog: 60-140 beats/min Lifespan: 13y
        Gerbil: 260-600 beats/min Lifespan: 2-3y
        Mouse: 310-840 beats/min Lifespan: 12-36m
        Hamster: 310-480 beats/min Lifespan: 18-36m
        Sources:
        google(cat, dog),
        http://www.peteducation.com/ar... [peteducation.com] (rodents)

        You get a small critter with a slow metabolism and it should live for a very long time as i

        • by arth1 ( 260657 )

          That doesn't explain how big parrots and cockatoos live longer than humans. Their heart rate and metabolism is much higher than most of your examples.

          The answer is that depending on your ecological niche, it is not beneficial for the species and thus survival of your genes to live forever. Relocating birds can get away with it much more than animals stuck in a limited habitat.

      • by Eloking ( 877834 )

        Want to explain why mice or gerbils or hamsters don't live to be 100 then?

        I think it's a question of metabolism. The smaller the animal, the faster the metabolism. But if you get two animal with the same metabolism but of greatly different size, the smaller one will live longer.

        But I may be completely wrong and I, afaik, Chihuahua seems to have a metabolism way more faster than a big lazy dog.

    • I thought I heard something about how larger animals (or humans) have more cells, so therefore have a greater risk of developing cancer.

      I could never quite work out if it made sense or not...

  • by cplusplus ( 782679 ) on Friday December 04, 2015 @11:35AM (#51057391) Journal
    I have a 13 year old larger dog now, and it's hard to see her aging because she's starting to have the typical old age ailments that will eventually get us all. Lots of exercise all her life has helped stave off the aches and pains until recently. I would have paid quite a bit to delay the aging process for her and keep her health. Obligatory Oatmeal reference... [theoatmeal.com]
    • My (larger) dogs both lived to an old age and I miss them tremendously. I don't miss the vet bills though. If they manage to make a dog live to 100 all the vets will be billionaires.
      • by arth1 ( 260657 )

        My (larger) dogs both lived to an old age and I miss them tremendously. I don't miss the vet bills though. If they manage to make a dog live to 100 all the vets will be billionaires.

        Doubtful. I am amazed at how little I pay at the vet compared to what doctors treating humans charged.
        My dog can get a health exam, pills and complimentary pedicure for $80 in total. Add X-rays, and it might be $80 more.
        What's insane is how much humans are charged, especially here in the US. Simply because we can't afford to say no.

    • My only advice is to euthanize before she gets miserable, while she is still happy. It is better for all if the last days are good ones rather than wait until both she and your family are miserable.

      We waited too long with a Labrador when I was growing up, to the point he was out of it and had to be taken into the vet's office on a stretcher. It sucked, and I vowed that my own pets would never go through that. More recently out Lab/Malemute mutt got bone cancer and we did not wait. We got enough good pai

    • by arth1 ( 260657 )

      What's interesting, but sad, is that the lifespan of dogs has gone down over the last century.
      My 14 year old big lab still has a lot of puppy in her, and still chases squirrels. But she doesn't jump anymore and is turning gray -- both just like her humans. That she's doing so well, I attribute to not giving her dog food. A former dog lived to 21.
      My dogs basically eat what I eat, but more protein, less salt and starch, and no onions or unprocessed dairy. But if I'm not willing to eat it out of their bow

      • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 )

        That she's doing so well, I attribute to not giving her dog food. A former dog lived to 21. My dogs basically eat what I eat, but more protein, less salt and starch, and no onions or unprocessed dairy. But if I'm not willing to eat it out of their bowl, they don't get it either. That dogs can't handle dietary change and must be fed the same every day is a myth. Fish one day, roast the next - no problems whatsoever.

        Growing up I had a chow-lab mix. After about 2 years old she never ate dog food (she would eat dog treats though). She lived off table scraps, hot dogs, chicken, ground beef, and Wendy's doublestacks with cheese plain. She also got at least a little bit of chocolate almost every night. We had to put her down at 16. She had arthritis and possibly a torn acl in one leg, but one weekend it's like her mind just snapped. She just laid there for 2 days straight constantly doing a small little yip. Wouldn't

  • But I have to admit it's worth it. Love my dog :)
  • Put aside the enormous cost that will surely be involved in extending animal lifespans, but think of the animals themselves: no animal should outlive its owner.

    • by Eloking ( 877834 )

      Put aside the enormous cost that will surely be involved in extending animal lifespans, but think of the animals themselves: no animal should outlive its owner.

      Ok, I'll go ask dog.

      "Dog, do you mind that grandpa died?"
      "Woof!"
      "I think he doesn't mind".

      More seriously thought, we just received the dog of my now deceased grand-father and his mourning was quite faster than ours and I seriously have hard time getting the pertinence of your point. I'm quite sure a dog will live happily and long that he got a good owner and good food. Furthermore, researching life extension on pet is actually a quite good idea to help the research of human life extension so in my books it'

      • by swv3752 ( 187722 )

        http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/th... [yahoo.com]

        Some dogs never get over the death of a beloved owner.

        • by Eloking ( 877834 )

          http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/th... [yahoo.com]

          Some dogs never get over the death of a beloved owner.

          Haaa yahoo news, (one of) my favourite source of integrity news. Any of those "dog stay at owner grave for years" news smell fishy and weird but it's my opinion.

          Anyway, being true or not, I don't think a few story like this count as a good argument to prove that "no pet should outlive it's master because it's too cruel". Max here (granpa's dog) look quite happy with us.

  • Age extension is torture without corresponding lifting of physical and mental limitations. If I live long enough, I will eventually stagnate and not have any really new experiences which make living worthwhile. Eventually I will lose most memories from all but (say) most recent 50 years and earlier versions of me will still effectively die, except without a clear closure or joy of discovery available to a young person.

    Give me ability to grow mentally and emotionally beyond my current capacity or let me feel

    • by Eloking ( 877834 )

      Age extension is torture without corresponding lifting of physical and mental limitations. If I live long enough, I will eventually stagnate and not have any really new experiences which make living worthwhile. Eventually I will lose most memories from all but (say) most recent 50 years and earlier versions of me will still effectively die, except without a clear closure or joy of discovery available to a young person.

      Give me ability to grow mentally and emotionally beyond my current capacity or let me feel well until around 70-80 and then I am ready to check out. Any self respecting dog would understand.

      Well just don't take the pills, but don't try to force your morality on us.

      I'm a profound atheist and one of the big consequence is the belief of eternal oblivion after death. I don't know for you, but for me it's the worst possible outcome and I'll do anything to avoid it as long as I can. Even if it mean forgetting all my "important" memory or who I am since, after all, what's the use of memory in oblivion?

      • by iamacat ( 583406 )

        You are not much of an atheist if you view oblivion as terrifying rather than neutral (worse than being happy, better than being unhappy) or if you believe you have a soul that can survive loss of memories.

        • by Eloking ( 877834 )

          You are not much of an atheist if you view oblivion as terrifying rather than neutral (worse than being happy, better than being unhappy) or if you believe you have a soul that can survive loss of memories.

          Well I'm quite interested to hear what's your definition of an atheist.

          If you take oblivion as "neutral", it's your choice and it's also your point of view. You see the life as a balance of good and bad so if your life is more bad than good you rather end your life and that's fine.

          My point of view is that any happy moment is a treasure that worth it and I want to get most of them as possible. In consequence, it mean that if I have to life 100 years of sadness to get one more moment of happiness then I'll tr

      • I'm a profound atheist and one of the big consequence is the belief of eternal oblivion after death. I don't know for you, but for me it's the worst possible outcome and I'll do anything to avoid it as long as I can.

        Funny point of view for an atheist. You had eternal oblivion before you were born, and somehow that doesn't seem to bother you at all.

        • by Eloking ( 877834 )

          I'm a profound atheist and one of the big consequence is the belief of eternal oblivion after death. I don't know for you, but for me it's the worst possible outcome and I'll do anything to avoid it as long as I can.

          Funny point of view for an atheist. You had eternal oblivion before you were born, and somehow that doesn't seem to bother you at all.

          I don't get what you mean. What does eternal oblivion before birth have to do with this? I was in oblivion before birth so I should embrace it?

          • I don't get what you mean. What does eternal oblivion before birth have to do with this? I was in oblivion before birth so I should embrace it?

            Well, it wasn't so bad the last time around, was it?

  • A lot of the veterinary care we give them is predicated on living ~15 years. If you anticipate that they would live a lot longer expect to treat them like a humans- such as going to the dentist every 6 months, regular checkups etc.

  • by AndyKron ( 937105 ) on Friday December 04, 2015 @12:14PM (#51057701)
    I guess all the world's problems have been solved now. Let's turn our attention to our pets.
    • by Eloking ( 877834 )

      I guess all the world's problems have been solved now. Let's turn our attention to our pets.

      I get your point but let put this story in another perspective.

      Life extension in pet could be more easily morally accepted by society and a lot of new research funding could become available. And life expansion of pets shouldn't be too different of human life expansion so the two science could be beneficial to each others. And since age is the most common cause of mortality in the world, I'd say it's a good shoot.

    • I would argue just the opposite- life extension in pets would help us to better understand the ethical implications of life extension without having to commit to them. Maybe they would get some disease that has never been observed before, or there is some part of them that would consistently fail. If their quality of life was poor they could be euthanized without triggering an ethical dilemma, as most pet owners already do this for their pets.
  • If you can extend the pet ages out to 300 years I'm pretty sure we could do the same with humans. 300 years of feeding, watering, walking and having to take the dog everywhere with you. Does that sound good to you? It doesn't to me.
  • Maybe a thousand years from now you could have a dog that lives 300 years.

    I think my dog in Hack [wikipedia.org] is still alive. The game killed me and I haven't checked in on him in *quite* a few years though. Maybe I should; he might be hungry...

  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Friday December 04, 2015 @01:20PM (#51058181) Journal

    There are millions of unwanted pets sitting in shelters. Before you worry about making your poodle live for 300 years, maybe go down there and adopt a couple.

    • There are millions of unwanted pets sitting in shelters. Before you worry about making your poodle live for 300 years, maybe go down there and adopt a couple.

      Meh. It's just a way to do animal testing for human medicine without raising too many red flags. The first generation of poodle to live to a century or two will be owned by some research lab and probably not allowed to breed much.

  • I can just imagine how often a 300 year old dog is going to piss on the carpet. Look, maybe dogs and cats have a 20 year lifespan for a reason?

    Also, I've said it before and I'll say it again: With modern medical science, it is obvious that there has never been a better time than today to be a mouse! Other species, you need to wait in line; mice get it first!
  • It would be a lot easier to just clone Fifi over and over, and replace the annoying little bitch with a perfect replica puppy every ten years...

There's no sense in being precise when you don't even know what you're talking about. -- John von Neumann

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