Veterinarians at the Murphy Foundation’s Center for Exceptional Longevity Studies are seeking your help in putting Rottweilers to work to solve the puzzle of aging. They have established the first nationwide database of exceptionally old dogs to gather information and then track the oldest dogs living among us to better understand aging and the factors that influence exceptional longevity in dogs and humans. The database currently includes only Rottweilers, but in the near future, long-lived dogs of other breeds will probably be included as well.

So far the catalog includes the lifetime health and medical histories of almost 250 canine "centenarians" — Rottweilers that have lived at least 13 years, which is more than 30 percent longer than breed average and equivalent to humans reaching 100.

In support of this work, David J. Waters, DVM, Director of the Center for Exceptional Longevity Studies, has just completed The Old Grey Muzzle Tour 2013, a cross-country scientific expedition to study 12 of the oldest-living Rottweilers in their homes.

"A notable aspect of highly successful aging is the delay or avoidance of diseases such as cancer," Waters said. "The exceptionally long-lived Rottweilers we are studying have figured out how to side-step cancer, hold it in check. Our autopsy studies have shown that, although few of these dogs die of cancer, more than 90 percent of them are harboring one or more types of cancer at the time of death." Through the detailed examination of tissues and careful identification of markers circulating in the blood, Waters and his team hope to discover how they do it, so pets and people can walk around with cancer as a nuisance instead of a lethal killer.

During each dog visit on the tour, Waters performed detailed physical and neurological exams, collected DNA samples, and recorded body measurements. He also conducted extensive interviews with owners, explored the living environment, and learned the things that owners have done to promote their pets’ exceptional health. After the home visit, urine and blood are collected regularly by the dog's veterinarian and sent to the Center for Exceptional Longevity Studies for analysis and specimen banking. The researchers also follow up regularly with owners regarding the dogs’ activity level, pain, and mental acuity.

If you’d like to help in this research, fill out the initial information sheet so the investigators can determine if your dog qualifies. Subsequently, data regarding your dog’s diet, physical activity, body weight, and medical conditions will be collected and his or her life followed closely. All the information you provide is kept confidential.

Dr. Jennifer Coates

Image: Degtyaryov Andrey / via Shutterstock