Dog taking longevity drug is hugged by owner

You and Your Dog Could Soon Take the Same Drug For Longevity

Rapamycin is already FDA approved for humans. Now, clinical trials seek to prove its efficacy for your furry friend.


reakthroughs in longevity research have created the exciting possibility of extending human lifespan, but wouldn’t those years be extra special if we could bring our furry family members along with us? Piggybacking off of human trials, new studies on dog longevity drugs show promise in increasing their lifespan, too. 

One of the leaders in this space is the Dog Aging Project, an initiative that studies key factors influencing human aging (think: genetic, lifestyle, and environmental factors) in dogs. Most recently, the organization found that regular physical activity and close companionship are both associated with better health outcomes in aging canines—just like in humans (1, 2). These findings suggest that we have more in common with dogs than we previously may have thought.

“Dogs are an excellent model for human health because, as different as we are, we share more than our homes with them,” says Paola Cuevas, MVZ, preventative medicine specialist and veterinarian.

Think about it: Even though dogs age faster than humans, we share similar age-related diseases, like cancer, arthritis, and cognitive decline (3, 4). Not to mention, our pets also share similar lifestyle habits (going on walks together and eating meals a few times a day, for example) and quite literally the same living environment as us (household toxins are a thing). 

Scientists at the Dog Aging Project suspect we may share even more similarities with canines, which is the inspiration behind their next endeavor: Testing rapamycin—a promising human longevity drug—on pooches. The goal? To improve the health of dogs and, in part, lengthen their lifespan. 

And, because canines inherently have a shorter lifespan than their bipedal counterparts, this enables researchers to collect valuable data on rapamycin’s impact on aging throughout the entirety of their lives. Why is this important? It means scientists could unveil key findings about longevity at a faster rate than studying humans who outlive dogs by, say, 50 years or more.

About the Expert:

Dr. Paola Cuevas, MVZ, is a veterinarian, animal behaviorist, and consultant at Dogster, an expert-backed dog care guide. She specializes in preventative medicine, nutrition, microscopy, clinical pathology, diagnostic imaging, and endoscopy.

Rapamycin As A Dog Longevity Drug

Rapamycin is approved by the FDA for humans to use as a way to prevent organ rejection for transplant recipients and to treat certain types of cancer (5). But otherwise healthy individuals looking to increase their lifespan—like David Sinclair, Ph.D., and Peter Attia, M.D.—have been taking it off-label as part of their longevity protocol.

Rapamycin inhibits a protein kinase (a type of enzyme that regulates cell function) called mTOR (6). The protein kinase generates signals to cells that help promote growth, metabolism, and autophagy (the process in which your body gets rid of old or damaged cells and waste). While mTOR is essential for keeping things running smoothly, overactive mTOR signals can cause abnormal cell growth and inflammation—which can put you at risk for longevity-axing diseases like cancer (6). 

The Dog Aging Project is currently enrolling dogs for a double-blind, placebo-controlled study on rapamycin, with hopes that the medication will help to extend dog lifespan, in the way it’s believed to lengthen human’s (7).

A small-scale 2017 study in middle aged dogs found that rapamycin supplementation for 10-weeks improved age-related measures of heart health (like blood flow and ventricle function) in 24 healthy canines (8). The best part? No clinical side effects were observed in the dogs who were given rapamycin, which sparked The Dog Aging Project’s interest in a larger clinical trial. 

On top of improved cardiovascular health, rapamycin’s anti-tumor properties could have major benefits for aging canines (9). And, the statistics on the prevalence of cancer in canines is pretty grim, says Cuevas. ““Almost 50 percent of dogs over the age of 10 develop cancer,” she says. 

So, when can we start our pooches on a longevity protocol? 

“It is hard to anticipate the exact time, but the rapamycin study will take at least three years and they are still enrolling dogs,” Cuevas says. “This means it would take at least another four years from now before they start doing the evaluation and analysis of their data.”

And it’s still too soon to predict just how long dogs who take longevity drugs will live—but hopes are high—according to Cuevas.

“We know there was a dog out there that lived more than 31.3 years naturally,” Cuevas says. “So it would be amazing for the average dog to extend their lifespan by 2 to 4 times what they live now.”