3 steps + 5 years = 25-year-old pets


Veterinarians are on the threshold of achieving longer, healthier lives for their patients. Here’s how they can cross it.

Content submitted by basepaws, a dvm360® Strategic Alliance Partner

What is a reasonable life expectancy for dogs and cats? Twenty-five years seems reasonable, considering the number of dogs that have lived 25 to 29 years and cats that have reached their 30s.1-4 But living longer is only half the story. Life extension is about preventing illness and reversing aging so that pets can enjoy a vital, disease-free existence. The quest for human longevity is considered a serious, worthwhile endeavor. And during the past century, our life expectancy has doubled. Our healthspan (years without disease or debilitation) also continues to increase, thanks to antibiotics, vaccines, and progress in nutrition, public health, and technology. Even with these impressive gains, billions of dollars are spent each year on research to further extend life expectancy and enhance quality of life.

When it comes to pets, however, the topic is barely discussed, and those who raise it are often dismissed by colleagues. Although critics reject the pursuit of pet life extension, a growing number of pet parents are trying to increase the lives of their pets, often resorting to untested and unproven interventions. If nothing else, clinicians owe it to patients to investigate the safety and efficacy of those modalities.

Scientific inquiries in veterinary medicine focus on treatment, not prevention. We have a few vaccines and diagnostic tests—plus nutrition—in our armamentarium, but nothing to extend the life of animals. It’s time for that to change. Over the next 5 years, the industry must:

  1. establish a national pet mortality database
  2. improve predictive analytics and diagnostics
  3. develop additional therapies and interventional strategies

A national pet mortality database should contain anonymized information on species, breed, sex, geographical area, body condition score, diagnoses, and cause of death. Large veterinary corporations could aggregate, analyze, and share their data, and individual clinics and pet owners could file online reports and supporting medical records. Such a database would help us to better understand the healthspan of pets and identify areas in which intervention would bear fruit.

Next, we need better diagnostics and predictive analytics. Pet genetic testing is experiencing a renaissance in terms of sequencing capabilities and disease catalogs. During the past decade, DNA tests have gone from revealing a pet’s breed to predicting the diseases it is most at risk for. By combining blood/urine tests and artificial intelligence, laboratories can identify CKD long before it manifests itself.5 Biomarkers can uncover hidden cancers before they have a chance to grow.6 Microbiome analysis7 has revealed a world of organisms in the gut, skin, and mouth that play a key role in host well-being. Certain molecules can turn physiological pathways on and off to potentially extend life expectancy and reduce the ravages of environmental damage.8-9 The revolution has only just begun; we must embrace and encourage it.

Finally, veterinarians need proven interventions if their patients are to reach their 25th birthday. Research has already identified a wide range of approaches that can extend a pet’s life, from investigational mTOR inhibitors like rapamycin10 to health-promoting habits like maintaining a lean body mass.11-12 But lifespan and healthspan extension in themselves are rarely discussed, much less embraced, by influential veterinary researchers.

It’s time to join in the quest for the 25-year-old pet. Even if we fail, the pursuit is a noble one. The potential benefits to beloved pets around the world outweigh the ridicule and scorn clinicians may face. I believe that pet parents will have healthy, vibrant 25-year-old dogs and cats sometime in the next 10 years. The first step to ensure that future is to change our mindset about pet longevity. Their life depends on it.


  1. World's 'oldest dog' dies at 30 in Australia after going to sleep in her basket. BBC News. April 19, 2016. Accessed January 6, 2022. https://www.bbc.com/news/newsbeat-36080853
  2. Oldest cat ever. Guinness World Records. Accessed January 6, 2022. https://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/oldest-cat-ever
  3. Oldest dog ever. Guinness World Records. Accessed January 6, 2022. https://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/oldest-dog
  4. World's oldest animals: cats, dogs, deep sea creatures and more. Guinness World Records. Accessed January 6, 2022. https://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/news/2021/10/worlds-oldest-animals-cats-dogs-deep-sea-creatures-and-more-678003
  5. Introducing RenalTech. Antech Diagnostics, Inc. Accessed January 6, 2022. https://www.antechdiagnostics.com/laboratory-diagnostics/predictive-diagnostics/renaltech
  6. Nu.Q Vet Cancer Screening Test. Texas A&M University Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. Accessed January 6, 2022. https://vetmed.tamu.edu/gilab/service/assays/nu-q-vet-cancer-screening-test/
  7. Wernimont SM, Radosevich J, Jackson MI, et al. The Effects of Nutrition on the Gastrointestinal Microbiome of Cats and Dogs: Impact on Health and Disease. Front Microbiol. 2020;11:1266. Published 2020 Jun 25. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2020.01266
  8. Discovery of life-extension pathway in worms demonstrates new way to study aging. ScienceDaily. Accessed January 7, 2022. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/03/190326105530.htm
  9. Mallikarjun V, Swift J. Therapeutic Manipulation of Ageing: Repurposing Old Dogs and Discovering New Tricks. EBioMedicine. 2016;14:24-31. doi:10.1016/j.ebiom.2016.11.020
  10. Urfer SR, Kaeberlein TL, Mailheau S, et al. A randomized controlled trial to establish effects of short-term rapamycin treatment in 24 middle-aged companion dogs. Geroscience. 2017;39(2):117-127. doi:10.1007/s11357-017-9972-z
  11. Kealy RD, Lawler DF, Ballam JM, et al. Effects of diet restriction on life span and age-related changes in dogs. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2002;220(9):1315-1320. doi:10.2460/javma.2002.220.1315
  12. Lean Body Mass & Protein. Purina Institute. Accessed January 6, 2022. https://www.purinainstitute.com/science-of-nutrition/extending-healthy-life/lean-body-mass-and-protein
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