Mars Petcare UK has announced the publication of a new study showing that dogs’ immune systems change as they age meaning they will have a reduced ability to respond to infections or stress.

The study, Understanding How Dogs Age: Longitudinal Analysis of Markers of Inflammation, Immune Function, and Oxidative Stress, was published this week in the Journal of Gerontology: Biological Sciences1. It followed 80 dogs for over 10 years, from adulthood till end of life, measuring a number of parameters to track their aging process.  

Findings included: 

  • 51% increase in DNA damage. The study showed a 51% increase in 8-Hydroxydeoxyguanosine (80HDG) levels. 80HDG is a specific marker of oxidative damage to DNA.
  • 30% increase in C-reactive protein (CRP). CRP levels will rise in response to inflammation, showing that aging dogs can suffer from increased levels of inflammation.
  • 86% decrease in Heat Shock Proteins (HSP70). HSP70 measure ability to respond to cellular damage, and this study shows a significant decrease in this ability as dogs age. 

Mars says it is the largest prospective study to investigate aging in dogs and offers new insight into the ways in which we may be able to support dogs in their old age.

Janet Alexander, Senior Research Scientist at the Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition and lead author of the study said: "We now know that dogs suffer from low level inflammation and cellular damage as they get older, similar to humans. The study identified multiple targets for potential therapeutic intervention to defend against or delay the impact of aging and the new insights can help us to provide more effective life stage support."

Mars has also released the results of its Aging Pets Ownership Survey2, conducted last month, which found that:

  • Around 1 in 5 dog owners currently own a senior dog.
  • Over half of senior dog owners surveyed in the UK would value more information on how to look after their pet.
  • While senior dog owners do not find caring for their pets much harder than the owners of younger dogs (29% vs 25%), 65% would value more information from their vet on how to look after their senior dog. 
  • Nearly half of UK dog owners surveyed say that they find senior dogs are better behaved than younger dogs. According to new research, they may just need a little more support in their old age. 
  • Most dog owners change the way they look after their dogs as they get older (76%) either by changing their food (58%) or taking them for shorter walks (54%).  
  • 65% of dog owners surveyed would value more information from their vet on how to look after their senior dog. Information on nutrition (68%) and amount of exercise (57%) are the areas where they would value the most help.

References

  1. Understanding How Dogs Age: Longitudinal Analysis of Markers of Inflammation, Immune Function, and Oxidative Stress, Janet E Alexander, PhD, Alison Colyer, MSc, Richard M Haydock, PhD, Michael G Hayek, PhD, JeanSoon Park, PhD;  The Journals of Gerontology: Series A, glx182, https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/glx182. Accessed online 8/11/2017.
  2. The Mars Petcare Aging Pets Ownership survey ran from 4th-12th October 2017, surveying 6,298 adults aged 18+ who owned at least one dog in their household. Respondents came from the following countries: 1,046 from the UK; 1,103 from the USA; 1,049 from Australia; 1,049 from France; 1,050 from Japan and 1,001 from Argentina. In each country, dog-owning respondents were surveyed online and drawn from a nationally representative sample of the adult population.