Old Dogs Teach Us New Tricks



Old dogs teach us new tricks
12th March 2018

By Karen Pickwick
New research suggests the connection between man and his proverbial best friend is actually even closer than had previously been thought.
The study, by a team at the Royal Veterinary College and the University of Washington, has yielded ground-breaking new data to support the value of using clinical records from dogs to learn about human health.
Companion dogs and their owners live closely entwined lives and the research shows that both suffer from age-related health issues such as obesity, arthritis and diabetes, with very similar occurrence patterns (for example, at what point in their lives conditions develop).
With the ever-growing life expectancy for humans, it is becoming more common for us to spend several years suffering from multiple chronic diseases in later life. But the long delay in humans from exposure to risk factors in youth such as geographical location, diet or exercise to eventual disease in older age means that research studies in humans can take decades to complete, and this limits our ability to develop ways to prevent and effectively treat these conditions.
However, because dogs naturally have a much shorter life span, and experience similar health issues, canine lifetime studies can be completed in roughly a seventh of the time in dogs compared with humans. These studies can help researchers to understand complex diseases and provide valuable information that can be used to enhance the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of these health issues in both humans and dogs.   
Dr Dan O’Neill, of the Royal Veterinary College, said: “These findings are hugely exciting! By sharing clinical records on their pets with VetCompass, UK owners and vets have already helped the UK to lead the world in population-based animal research. But now potentially millions of older humans may also see the benefits from the exploration of canine health records.”