A pioneering new drug aimed at improving both the quality and the length of dogs’ lives is being trialled in the USA.

Scientists at the University of Washington’s Healthy Aging and Longevity Research Institute, which is “dedicated to promoting healthy aging in people and their companion animals”, are trialling a drug called rapamycin as part of their ‘Dog Aging Project’.

Rapamycin has been proven to increase the lifespan of mice – and the researchers are hoping it will have the same effect on our canine friends.

“If rapamycin has a similar effect on dogs – and it’s important to keep in mind we don’t know this yet – then a typical large dog could live two to three years longer, and a smaller dog might live four years longer,” explained Dr. Daniel Promislow, one of the scientists leading the project.

“More important than the extra years, however, is the improvement in overall health during aging that we expect rapamycin to provide,” he added.

Researchers are trialling the drug for three to six months on 32 ‘middle-aged’ Golden Retrievers, Labradors and German Shepherd dogs and are studying its effects on the animals’ heart and immune functions, activity, body weight and cognitive ability.

“To be clear, our goal is to extend the period of life in which dogs are healthy, not prolong the already difficult older years,” write the researchers on the Dog Aging Project website.

“Imagine what you could do with an additional two to five years with your beloved pet in the prime of his or her life. This is within our reach today.”

What do you think? Should we help our pets to live longer? Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.